Fiji's waves keep drawing crowds
HUGE waves have drawn surfers from across the globe to Fiji where conditions at Cloudbreak are more perfect than could be possibly imagined.
Sets have been consistently in the 12-15 feet range with the occasional 20 footer sneaking through to keep everyone on their toes.
The waves are being fanned by light, dead offshore winds to create some of the roundest barrels ever paddled into.
Big wave hunter Mark Visser, however chose Tasmania and copped an absolute flogging off the south coast, enduring howling winds, hail and wild waves.
Fiji, though, has been the story of the week.
A little more than a year after Caloundra’s David Scard attracted worldwide attention with an amazing paddle-in barrel at Cloudbreak, conditions are even better.
The low pressure system that is generating the swell is being held in place by a high covering most of Australia.
The huge distance between source and the reefs of Fiji has seen the swell clean up into picture perfect lines.
Scard, who runs World Surfaris’ on-call surf missions, is back at Cloudbreak this week shepherding young big wave professionals Ryan Hipwood, Dean Bowen and Nick Vasicek with the assistance of World Surfaris’ guide Adam Yared, also from the Sunshine Coast, who has spent the past 20 surf seasons in Fiji.
Reports are that Scard was finding the slot in the intense swell drawing on his years of experience at Java’s G-Land to negotiate the narrow gap between pleasure and pain.
World Surfaris’ boss Shaun Levings said the crew were holed up at a small secret spot, a 15-minute boat ride from the break.
Scard headed across on Monday, taking with him a new 7’6” Al Byrne channel-bottomed gun ordered in advance in anticipation of the swell.
He returns to Australia today to pick up his family before heading back to stay on Tavarua for another week.
Sunshine Coast Daily surf forecaster Mike Perry says there will still be plenty of surf for him through the weekend.
The wave-generating system is still in place and the huge fetch will mean it will keep on coming for some time.
Fiji has enjoyed a week of waves with more on the way thanks to a massive low pressure system that extends from the tip of Australia to the South Pole.
Perry describes the system as the biggest fetch-high/low combo he’s seen in 35 years of forecasting for surfers and sailors.
But the pair who really scored were McDermott Aviation boss John McDermott and Tinbeerwah board shaper Tony Dragan.
Tony’s back on dry land after three weeks of amazing waves which ended last weekend catching the first of the swell at Tavarua. The pair left Bundaberg, island hopping to Noumea and Vanuatu before arriving in Fiji for the start of the big swell.
Tony said yesterday that the experience had been amazing.
“We got there Friday last week and it was already head high and bigger,” he said.
“Between Vanuatu and Fiji we ran into decent ground swell. It kept building. There was no wind. There was only three out at Cloudbreak when we got there. Restaurants was double overhead and every eight minutes or so massive sets would come through. We had the advantage of the boat and got in early. By the time we were having breakfast at lunch time there were 24 out in the water.
“I surfed Swimming Pools Monday morning. I’m 63 and I was gone but I couldn’t go in. We were dropping into pits with the bottom curving up. There were no cutbacks, it was just barrels all the way through.”
Back on dry land, whipper snipping the front yard yesterday he was still pinching himself at his good fortune.
The swell direction has delivered little to the Queensland coast where Perry said it has had to turn a full 180 degrees to have an effect.
THE best we’ve seen is refracted swell that was at its most discernable on Tuesday when the pulse was in the 12 to 14 second range.
Perry said it had, however, been lazy, inconsistent and ultimately impacted by northerly winds that killed the last of its power.
Sunshine has provided the pick of waves on the Sunshine Coast.
The angle of the beach has caught consistent three-to-four-foot sets with Daily photographer Geoff Potter reporting occasional six foot sneaker sets appearing out of the blue on Tuesday.
Perry, who is in regular contact with the Tavarua Island resort, that is home to one of the world’s best, if not the best left hander, said it was a full house.
“They’re sleeping in the observation tower, on the floor of the bar and finding accommodation at nearby Nomotu,” he said.
Since the end of exclusivity rules for surf breaks across Fiji, others are also boating out to the break each day. Ten times world champion Kelly Slater has amazed everyone with his ability to even paddle into the monster surf on his 5’11” board. The Hawaiian contingent headed by Mark Healey has been riding the more traditional 10’6” big wave guns.
While most big wave hunters chose Fiji’s blue, warm-watered, not-a-drop-out-of-place perfection, Visser grabbed brother Ken and headed to the south coast of Tasmania last weekend.
There, with locals James Hick, Marty Paradisis and Mike Brennan, they endured 13 degree water temperatures, 157km winds and four hail storms that lashed them in the giant waves.
“It was freezing cold and the winds would literally blast the board out of your hands,” Visser said. The surfers were unable to tow in because of the conditions and had to battle into the faces paddling to find position before taking intense drops.
Sometimes you turn right when the best way is straight ahead.