With the waiting period for the Fiji Pro fast approaching, here’s our breakdown of one of the world’s premier surfing destinations.
You might not know it, but in July of 2010 the surfing world became bigger and better. This was the date that the Fiji’s government’s new “Surfing Decree” allowed anyone to surf anywhere in Fiji waters. Prior to the decree some of Fiji, and the worlds, best waves like Tavarua, Restaurants and Namotu were exclusive only to the guests staying in the respective resorts.
This state had been in play since the mid-80s after American Jeff Clarke had discovered Tavarua and set up a resort, leasing the land off the local villagers. He enforced his exclusivity and the only way to surf two of the best waves in the world was to pay around $US500 a night.
The other resorts were forced to set up similar exclusive zones to compete, meaning the quality of waves you scored ultimately came down to the amount of money you had.
However the new decree has changed all that and in a world where money and exclusivity seem to hold the upper hand, it was a rare win for surfers who usually just want to surf the best waves on the planet, and not have to sell your grandmother’s left leg to do it. Mind you, a granny’s left limb might be a small price to pay for waves of this quality.
Tavarua, or Cloudbreak, is trademarked as one of the best lefts in the world. Breaking from four to 20 feet, it’s a 500-yard freight train ride made up of long barrels interspersed by huge blue walls designed for snowboard like turns. There are three main sections: The Point (sometimes called “The Top”), The Middle, and the inside, also called “Shish Kabobs”. It’s possible for all three sections to link up, but in a solid swell you will probably spend most of your time at Middles, and desperately trying to avoid getting shish kabobbed.
The outer ledge, that starts doubling up when its 15 foot or more, has become one of the “new” big wave paddle spots, with the 2011 and 2012 Volcom Pro swell featuring some of the biggest, bluest and meanest tubes ever paddled into.
Although when it becomes too big for your talents, or there is a bit more west in the swell, there’s always Restaurants, a spiraling left that breaks close to the island. Kelly Slater describes it as “the most perfectly formed waved in the world,” something he has a little experience in. It’s usually half the size of Tavarua, but is so hollow and so perfect it defies description. That these two waves exist so close to each other is one of the geographical miracles of the surfing word.
Close by the island of Namotu offers a range of great waves, although maybe not quite in the incredible quality range of Tavarua. Namotu Left is a fun, slower carving wave that holds big swells, while Swimming Pools is an all-around fun, cruising right hander that is perfect for longboarding. Finally Wilkes is a right hander opposite Namotu Island that while somewhat shifty, throws up rippable walls and good barrel sections.
The southern chain of atolls has also only recently been explored but they offer a huge realm of incredible potential, from both the winter and summer swells.
Prior to July 2010 you had to choose between the waves of Tavarua and Namotu. These days an hour speedboat ride has you surfing whatever wave blows your hair back. Simply choose your budget, pack your boardshorts, suncream, fishing rods and plenty of boards. Then all there is to do is soak up the famous Fijian people’s generosity of spirit and enjoy the surf trip of your life.
When to go: April – October, dry season offers more consistency of swell and offshore SE trade winds.
Airport: Fly into Nadi International Airport (NAN) and let accommodation will deal with transfers.
Boards: Everything from 4’11”s to 11’4”s depending on your commitment levels.
Accommodation: Between Tavarua Resort www.tavarua.com) and Namotu Island Resort (www.namotuislandfiji.com) you’ll find what you need.
Other waves: The Coral Coast offers waves like Hideaway, Sigatoka, Serua, Vunanui, Natadola and Frigates while the Lau Atolls offer untapped potential.
After Dark: The resorts offer thunderous cocktails and shimmering pools, while the healthy backpacker scene keeps Fiji fresh and fruity.