Next stop Fiji

31 May 2012 0 Share

Bruce Irons, enjoying oversized perfection during last year's epic paddle session at Cloudbreak. While Bruce missed out on a wildcard into the event this year, the solid groundswell lining up Cloudbreak could well deliver similarly groomed, if slightly smaller, surf for the start of the event on Sunday.

Bruce Irons, enjoying oversized perfection during last year's epic paddle session at Cloudbreak. While Bruce missed out on a wildcard into the event this year, the solid groundswell lining up Cloudbreak could well deliver similarly groomed, if slightly smaller, surf for the start of the event on Sunday.

Words by Sean Doherty

Can you hear the sound being carried on the trades? Can you hear the sound of drums?

The collective will of surfers, surf fans, and the Fijians themselves is working upon the South Pacific as we speak. Weather systems, conjured from deep and subconscious latitudes, are presently bowling swell up the Tasman Alley. The Volcom Fiji Pro starts on Sunday and the gin-clear tubes of Cloudbreak promise to wash pro surfing clean. Dividing more than uniting in recent years, common rallying points have been thin on the ground for pro surfing. This contest, however, is one. Everyone wants to see this thing work… and the drums are telling us they might just get their wish.

It was only four years ago professional surfing was last in the Fijian islands, but it feels like a lifetime. They were carefree days. Back in 2008 the contest had wrapped up a week early, and the surfers had all fled paradise with the exception of Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson, who figured 10 days with Cloudbreak to themselves was an offering too good to pass up even for guys as surf-spoiled as they. For both, the world title was already gone that year – Kelly had just won at Cloudbreak and was running away with it in a canter – and the pair was suitably relaxed. I recall them rolling around on the bottom of a local fishing boat late one afternoon, covered in fish blood and fighting over who was going to pull in the tuna on the end of the line. They’d surfed all morning, had a Bloody Mary lunch, and were laughing maniacally, drunk on their good fortune. “It was the best event on tour when it used to run,” says Joel when asked about what made the Fiji contest the surfers’ favourite. “It was surfing; just pure surfing. It was hard to describe what it felt like being there. It didn’t feel like you were at an event when you were there. You just got lost in it and felt you were on a surf trip.”

But change was just over the horizon. The GFC asteroid was about to bring the golden era of the surf companies to an end, and as share prices fell through the floor costly exercises like a Fijian contest became hard for anyone to justify. As marketing budgets were squeezed so too was The Dream Tour. Mundaka and eventually even J-Bay would fall. Events began chasing low hanging urban fruit. Meanwhile, change was also brewing on a local front. Tavarua, which had held exclusive sway over the reefs Cloudbreak and Restaurants since the early eighties was about to see them opened up to all comers. The one constant in this ever-changing tiny universe was the world champ back then remains the world champ today. When the ASP announced last year that Volcom had taken up the dormant Fijian event license, the news was seen as a restoration of faith in the paradigm that the best surfers in the world needed to be showcased in the best waves. It would surely be the most anticipated event of the 2012 season.

Heading into the Volcom Fiji event the ratings are deliciously poised. You could throw a blanket over the top 10 right now, and amongst them are not only the Joels, Micks and Tajs, but also guys like John John and Kerrsy who’ve transfused the tour not only with beachbreak wizardry but also in waves of consequence. But in their midst the shadow of Kelly looms tall. This is set up perfectly for Tavarua’s favourite son. We hark back to last year when he shined the contest at two-foot J-Bay to surf a 15-foot bluebird day at Cloudbreak. The juxtaposition was stark. The tour was about to head off chasing crowds in New York, Rio and San Francisco while Kelly made it clear he was first and foremost going to chase swell. He used that Cloudbreak swell as a line in the sand, won the next event in Tahiti, and soon enough was world champion once again. You get the feeling Kelly is ready to swoop on this event. He was a no show in Brazil, citing a cut to his foot that seemingly had little effect on his performance at six foot Burleigh the same day the news was confirmed. He’s been on Tavarua pretty well ever since, taking advantage of what’s been a great month of swell.

The wave sits there waiting. “For me Cloudbreak is the best left in the world,” says Parko. “Six-to-eight foot Cloudbreak when it’s on The Ledge and proper, it’s a better barrel… it’s not as perfect as Deserts or not as thick as Teahupoo, but you get the deepest, fastest tubes. You feel like you make barrels you never should and that’s what makes it special.” And the forecast? The opening volleys of the contest may be fired in waves similar to Parko’s dream day above. Stay tuned. 

Check out the forecast here on... [ Coastalwatch Plus | Coastalwatch ]

Tags: travel , fiji , sean , doherty , competition , volcom (create Alert from these tags)

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