Kolohe Andino, P-Pass. Photo: Swilly
by Sean Doherty
Covering an area of ocean the size of one Australia (or 50 Britains), this archipelago of green diamonds strewn across the North Pacific has only just started being mined for surf. In many ways it could be the last great surf frontier, as who knows how many other P-Passes lay buried deep in the chain. And there’s a reason these waves have remained hidden: Micronesia is the original coconut milk run. Getting anywhere in this chain ain’t easy, it ain’t cheap, and it ain’t fast, but if you’ve got a yacht and a spare 20 years you’ve got all sorts of surf potential to explore.
Surf consistency: 6 Wave variety: 3
Climate: 9 Radness: 9 Budget: 2
To date however the only real surfer magnet in Micronesia has been Palikir – “P-Pass” as it’s been christened – a righthand reef pass on the main island of Pohnpei that breaks as well at two foot as it does at 10. The wave shanghais you into it before it races, roars and kinks down the length of the coral reef. It works on the same North Pacific lows that push swell at Hawaii, and often guys on Oahu’s North Shore will pass up a good Pipe day and instead jump a steel bird across to Pohnpei, Micronesia’s biggest island. Getting the wave on however is a far more fickle proposition than scoring in Hawaii. Palikir gets the swell earlier and as such rarely hits 10 feet on swells that hit Hawaii at 30. The wind is the other factor, for as with the whole chain, the reef pass at Palikir sits way offshore and is open to any wind; good, bad and ugly.
The whole group – the Marshalls, Carolines, Palau and Chuuk – look and feel different to the South Pacific with its jagged volcanic peaks. Most of the islands in Micronesia feel like lifeboats. Most are atolls, everything is low lying and the wind blows straight across them and is rarely your friend. If you come here looking for surf you’ve really got to want it. Aside from the aforementioned tyranny of distance and the fact most of the waves exist on Google Earth and not Google itself, you’re leaving behind every notion of Western surf charter comfort. The nearest nightclub is in Japan, the nearest sex that doesn’t involve marrying the girl you’re having it with is in Manilla, and the nearest McDeath burger is in Honolulu. Out here you’re pretty much off the grid, and if that’s your thing there are fewer places left on Earth with as much untapped surf potential as here. If Martin Daly – the guy who opened up the Mentawai Islands to surf charters over 20 years ago – has moved here and set up a surf camp in the Marshalls it’s probably telling you something.