WISPY - FIJI

A rooster call at the crack of dawn woke me a little earlier than preferred, however, the unfamiliar sound reminded me that I was somewhere new and exciting. Quickly I was out of bed and walking through a wondrous, abundant and colorful slice of land lined with rolling hills and stunning views. I’d found myself in a superlative paradise amongst the pacific Island chain of Fiji.

I was there for a wedding but ended up having one of the greatest surf trips of my life, days of pumping surf at one of the best waves in the world. My friends Teh and Foy Chung had invited Stefan Jose and I to their farm on the main island of Fiji just near the village of Momi and only 2 miles from Cloud Break.

I can’t thank the boys enough for their hospitality, being on the farm made the trip, it was so nice to be away from the resort style living of your standard Fiji holiday and experience it from a local perspective. The whole experience has put this island paradise on my go to list of surf spots. The stunning landscapes, crystal clear water, perfect waves, and friendly people create a radiant vibe that is uniquely Fijian and highly addictive.

The following is a mixture of diary entries and stories paired up with the stunning photography of Mr. Stefan Jose.

Wispy

The Chung family farm sits on 72 acres of pristine waterfront property

Breakfast at the main farmhouse, egg fried rice and coffee, standard fuel for the day’s surf sessions.

Foy shredding coconuts to make coconut milk for curry. I swear that smile is permanently attached to Foys face, always happy, telling a good story and having a laugh. Staying on the farm meant eating off the land, vegies from the garden, eggs from the chooks, with only a few supplies picked up from the local store.

Teh is a true legend, always up for a good time, always having a good time. Here he is with Alice the youngest of 5 ridge backs that live on the farm.

In a family of five brothers, Teh and Foy are half Chinese, half Kiwi but grew up and went to school in Fiji. With both parents working for the United Nations the family lived and traveled all over the world before they secured this slice of paradise in the early 90’s and called it home. The boys still spend most of their time overseas, both captaining super yachts to other exotic destinations.

Cecilia Oliver, One of only two Fijian female surfers. Cecee now resides in Malibu and only stayed with us a few days. She was surfing really well at Cloud Break, an intimidating waves for anyone, her local knowledge showed in the solid conditions making her a standout amongst the ladies and a lot of the guys. The surf community in Fiji is so small, everyone knows each other, the Fijian Surfing Association has just 60 members making the scene really tight nit yet super friendly

We packed up the gear and began the journey out to the boat, a 150m walk through mangroves and over coral to where the boat is moored at low tide just outside the reef , in Foys words, “not a long walk - its a long talk” - a refreshing thought to get you through the daily ritual.

A moment to take in the beauty that was around me, the boat speeding over the clear, silky smooth water, the sun shining down on the crew of fabulous friends, rolling hills and endless horizons. On arrival, my grommet instincts kicked in and I was off the side of the boat in minutes wearing an extremely large froth beard.

Solid Cloudbreak. This was my first and probably best wave of this session. I struggled to get waves that day, the 6’1” shorty and lack of experience resulted in only the odd good one. Although I get to see some amazing waves ridden, big open tubes, absolutely stunning perfection, diminishing fear, it’s hard to be scared of something so beautiful.

We pulled up in the channel at around 8 am, just in time for the morning wobble to clear up. It was solid, consistent 6 – 8 footers with bigger 10ft clean up sets that would occasionally turn into gaping tubes on the inside reef. I saw Ryan Burch weave his way perfectly through a solid tube and get spat into the channel, then a huge set wash him down to the bottom of the reef, there was bombs and beatings to be had out there. Scanning the faces in the line up I saw a couple of mates from the wedding, out there to scratch into a couple before the celebrations. That was it - I was off the side of the boat and paddled over to my friends. They were sitting wide, “ Had any good ones??” “A couple, its definitely solid out here,” I paddled a little deeper to the top of the reef. It was a huge playing field with people sitting on various sections waiting for waves, some wide, some deep, some under the ledge, some way out. I soon found out what the guys out the back were waiting for, a huge set loomed, it had the whole line up scratching for the horizon and as it got closer I knew it was going to mow me down. I duck-dived and held on tight, the thing got me good rolling me over and pushing me back towards the inside. The second and third hit with just as much push, I was way down the reef by this stage, almost at the end shish cabob section. I looked over and inside me was Reef Macintosh in the same predicament, he looked at me and started laughing, what more could I do but join in? The uneasy feeling of being caught inside at huge Cloudbreak started to slip away as we copped a few more solid white washy closeouts on the head before making a break for the channel. Reef was making his way back to the line up while I caught my breath, “well, that’s probably as bad as it will get” I thought sucking in that sweet O2 “back out there”

Although a little smaller than the day before there was still some 10ft cappers cleaning out the line up on day 2 of the swell. I could see that this session was going to be more manageable for me and the equipment I had, I also had the confidence to push myself further and deeper. Unsure of my one and only leggie that had stretched out another meter and now the thickness of a comp cord, I had to keep my board in my hands, there was no more ditch and dive method when the sets came

This one wave made my whole trip. That’s John Roseman on the red board looking in, the owner of Tavarua. He knows this line up better than anyone, if you see John paddling hard for one, you know its going to be a bomb!

Lining up the shish cabob section at the end of the reef at Cloudbreak. This is where Cloudbreak gets shallow, I could see this thing growing and lining up, just this perfect section. I stood tall at full speed all the way through shish cabobs, it was so round and hollow. There was one guy looking in at my from the shoulder, front and center for the show, he told me later it was one of the best waves he’s ever seen in his life. It was definitely one of the best I’ve had!

A daily Momi farm ritual, sunset beers on the gun tower. The gun tower is part of many WWII structures on the farm and surrounding land. At the top of the hill behind the property sit two huge 9” guns, put there during the war to deter any Japanese ships from entering the reef pass to the main island of Fiji. The Guns were only fired twice as a test, and then decommissioned after the war.

It was on this gun town we were introduced to the Fijian way of drinking they call Taki. Influenced by the kava ceremony, one cup is shared buy all involved and is filled only by the Taki master, handing out slightly fuller cups or doubling up on the unsuspecting, ultimately deciding the fate of the gang. The boys tell stories of going out to bars and never having your own glass, just tables of Taki happening everywhere. Taki was to become a standard routine for the trip, at any time the Taki master would call a few rounds, not necessarily to get drunk but to keep the bond, Fiji style.

Once again we taki’d away the afternoon on the gun tower, chatting, laughing, as we watched with squinted eyes the huge golden orb sink into the sea slow and precise, the shadow of the Cloud Break tower slightly visible and the Island of Tavarua floating just off to the right. Another perfect end to another perfect day

The squaretail Tweeze and the Emma Pin. The 5’8” Tweeze had a little more foam than my regular shortboard, (around 28l compared to 24l) for some extra paddle in the more powerful surf. The Tweeze is an everyday shorty with a little more width up front to get you through those junkier sections, although there aren’t many of those in Fiji I still found the board surfed really well in the pacific perfection.

The Emma Pin was slightly adjusted to work as a step up. The wider nose template was pulled in and length stretched out to 6’1” to give it a more gunny feel. It went great on the bigger days, but when the waves got into the 10ft range I defiantly needed more board, everyone else was on 6’6”s and over, next time I’ll be better armed!