Guadeloupe is a little piece of France ... with palm trees! Discovered by Columbus in 1493, colonised in 1635 and integrated into France as an overseas department in 1946. Geographically the archipelago is in the middle of the Lesser Antilles, which gives it about nine months of trades a year and a better wave-yield than most Caribbean islands. Easterly windswell and northerly winter groundswell both find their way here just as well as Barbados, even though it seems better exposed. From the air the main island looks like a butterfly: the western half (‘Basse Terre’) is mountainous and thick with rainforest, the eastern half (‘Grande Terre’) is much flatter and covered with sugar cane plantations and bush. Grande Terre is exposed to the trades, so most of the rideable spots are there: a mix of excellent flat-water conditions in sheltered, often shallow lagoons and wave action over the reefs offshore.