Published on March 8th, 2013 | by curlmag0
FIJI by Paige Hareb
I’ve been surfing since I was 6 years old, that’s 16 years so far. I’ve been travelling internationally for several years, been to about 30 different countries but until a few months ago, I hadn’t been to Fiji (apart from when I was 2) to surf. With two of the most famous surf breaks in the world and only a stone’s throw away from New Zealand (as close as Australia) I had never managed to find the time to get there even though it has been on my bucket list and one of my dream waves forever.
When I got the phone call from Steve, I didn’t even think before I said yes. Who doesn’t want to go to Fiji for a week of perfect waves, weather and food? To add to the paradise I got to go with NZ’s best male surfers, Maz Quinn, Bobby Hansen, big wave charger Mike Phillips and grom man-child Johnny Hicks. Also my favourite big wave charger, Keala (KK) Kennally (Haw) and one of my favourite free surfers Claire ‘Bevo’ Bevilacqua (Aus).
I’ve been so lucky to travel so much that it makes it even more exciting when I go somewhere new (or I can’t remember), so right from getting on the plane I was nervous, anxious and excited. I hadn’t been on a trip with guys for a while so to be able to surf with them and watch how they do it was such a good opportunity for me. The first day was a perfect start of 3-4ft glassy clean blue waves rolling through (pity about the crowd) but we all enjoyed just being in the water and sussing the break out.
The next few days was the big swell building until it peaked at a messy 10ft. I remember the morning when KK woke me up ready to go in her inflatable wetsuit and helmet only to chuck me a life paddle vest and say “come on grom”. I couldn’t help it but I instantly thought of KK’s wipeout at Teahupoo in Tahiti where she completely smashed her face (don’t worry it’s healed up well now). Because the Women’s tour hasn’t had any competitions in Hawaii for a few years now, I’ve got so used to surfing 1-4ft slop that I hadn’t surfed a board over 6’0 in so long so of course I was silently shitting myself.
However, once you actually get out there, your mind changes. There’s no time to think about it. You have to make split decisions and do what you have to do. Unfortunately my first wave I paddled into it too slow and went over the falls but luckily managed to get back out the back again without another one on the head. Next wave I had to straighten out because again, I was too slow. I ended up having to go right over the reef and paddle down 200m over the reef of 1ft deep water only to time my way back out and paddle another 200m right round and out the back again. I managed to get a quick ride on a semi-solid one only to get back out the back for a random 10ft wave to break just before me, forcing me to bail and dive deep. It snapped my leg rope taking my board in over the reef into the lagoon and left me stranded out the back to dive under the next few big waves and then to swim back to the boat. I think it was at about this stage that I thought to myself, “The ocean will always be stronger than you, never under estimate it.” But for some reason, even after all that flogging, I still really enjoyed my first big surf at the famous Cloudbreak. I appreciated the men surfing there even more.
The famous Tavarua Island was a lot smaller than I had imagined. You could walk around it in about half an hour. The whole resort was pretty nice and we spent our downtime watching Bevo on the skate ramp, playing table tennis, tennis, pool, celebrity heads, SUPing and of course relaxing in the pool and spa looking out to the famous break Restaurants right in front of us. A week there definitely wasn’t enough. I hope to get back soon!