THE PACIFIC ISLANDS
Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji, Western Samoa, Tahiti.
For years we heard there wasn't any surf on places like Fiji, New Caledonia, Tonga and even Tahiti. It's a credit to those surfers, who for years kept these places a secret. But as the surfing populations grew and tourists and locals alike went searching for their waves, many gems were revealed and surfed. The lesson that this teaches is that wherever the ocean meets the shore, shelf or reef there is a chance of waves, and in the case of the islands in the pacific they can meet with so much intensity they barrel top to bottom over some of the clearest, cleanest reefs in the world. The water can be so clear and the fish so plentiful you really feel the essence of being as you watch them go about their lives as you wait for the next set.
Home to many surfers who just pack it in and say adios to their homeland.
The thought of living an island lifestyle is so attractive to so many. They try and recreate what their idea of island paradise is all about, in their homes, the resorts and streetscapes. If like me you have an affinity with island surfing, being surrounded by the oceans, being at the mercy of nature and all its fury and all its beauty there is no better place than an island in the Pacific. Wether it's Fiji, Tonga, French Polynesia, The Marshalls or surfing any of the thousands of dots in the ocean that if combined would only be the size of a small country.
COOK ISLANDS. - Raratonga is a beautiful island with beautiful people, unfortunately it lacks a little quality in the way of surf. However all is not lost as there are some waves to be had. For consistency Avana on the east coast has a channel. Down on the south coast there's Rutaki Passage and failing those if you are staying at or near Club Raro it can get a wave out in front. Club Raro is at the northern end of the island. In Avarua there is a surf shop called Nikki's, so you can get some supplies there. The Cook islands are made up of 15 islands so there are other islands to head to and explore. While you are there make sure you see the dancing, the hura is out of this world.
TONGA.- Ha'atafu Beach on western Tongatapu is where most of the land base action for waves are and there are a few places to stay. Some dearer than others, so do your research. My advice when you arrive in Tonga is either have a rented car waiting for you, or book your accomodation before you arrive, then most likely they will pick you up. A taxi is going to cost you around $20us.to Ha'atafu Beach if that's where you plan to stay it's quite a way from the airport.and your own transport allows you to travel at will into town, where the coffee shops and markets are. The many historical sites of early polynesian kingdoms are fascinating as are the sites of the early mariners, both Tongan and the European. Other sites are the blowholes and the fishing pigs. Tongatapu is a lot bigger than sometimes the tourists brochures tell you. It's flat but the idea of riding a pushbike around is a bit of a mission. Ha'apai is a much better place to do that but unfortunately the surf there breaks straight onto the raised coral beds that face the exposed side of the island. If you decide not to rent a car there is a good bus service on Tongatapu and the school kids give up their seat for you. Makes you feel kinda old, but it's an indication of the friendliness of the people there.
Surfing at Ha'atafu Beach is done around the high tide. The coral shelf becomes exposed at low tide. The breaks are about 100 metres off shore, and you can walk out most of the way, so bring your booties. They are mostly left handed breaks, that are short, fast and hollow and not much room for shoulder hopping. Fishtraps is around the corner, it's a bit of a secret, a good right hander and can be a long ride, but needs a good swell. Being in a horshoe bay and facing away from the dominant swell direction of the roaring forties Ha'atafu misses a lot of swell. You can see it going pass and breaking huge out on the reefs offshore, while it's only 3 feet where you are. There are some good offshore breaks and some of the camps will take you out there in their boats for a fee. Other waves that are to be had are on Eue'iki Island off the north-east coast. As far as drooling over the other island groups such as Ha'apai and Vava'u in the north, if you don't have a boat you'll find it hard to get a surf. Though on Eua there is a left hander that was firing the day i was there, to get to Eua with a surfboard take the boat, the plane offers great views but it wont carry your boards. In the front of the airport on Tongatapu you'll see a lot of waves and i'm not convinced that these aren't surfable, but local knowledge says that there are too many protruding rocks in the lineup.
Only 45 out of its 171 islands are inhabited. Tonga 's population is about 100,000 people, and about two thirds of its people live on the main island of Tongatapu. Nuku'alofa is the capital and that's where their king resides. He's a huge and seemingly pleasant man, and most Tongan people seem to love and respect him. So no bad mouthing the establishment. Tonga is a gem of a place. The people are great sportsman and a rugby game is a good watch. It's a good destination for a relaxing and pleasant stay, there are plenty of things to do, it's great place to take your girlfriend or wife. It has good surf and it's reasonably priced.
Fiji.- there are two ways to do Fiji, first is the maximum surftime way, pay to play , by staying at one of the exclusive island resorts in the Mamanucas or Beqa and Kadavu in the Southern Islands, or a boat charter. The other way is being based on the mainland where the accomodation is cheaper and boating it out to the reefs. Either way you'll get some great waves with few people in the lineup. As you fly into Fiji and if there is a swell running, you'll see so many waves breaking on the reefs it's a wonder that the myth of there's no waves in Fiji lasted for so long. It's a country that is still in its infancy as far as surf discovery goes. Most people take a package deal and stay in the area of their accomodation. Without the aid of a boat it can be hard to find a lot of surf, it may look close from the air but it's a long paddle in most places.There are some exceptions and these are to be found along the Coral Coast of Viti Levu. Sigatoka has some reliable breaks but be careful of the dangerous rips there. At Hideaways there are waves to be had either side of the high tide and there are a few breaks off Suva and Natadola.
But the best surf in Fiji is out on the reefs at Tavarua. Desperations, Swimming Pools, Namotu Left and Cloudbreak . Also further south there is Frigate Passage a left hander, Serua Rights, a hollow right hander, and King Kongs off Kadavu. You'll find that accomodation varies a lot in price. The cheaper resorts are to be found on the main land such as Seashell Cove and Waidroka Bay Resort. Yanuca island is a reasonably priced place to stay as well. All have boat travel to and from the surf. Yanuca also goes out to Frigates. Staying on the mainland isn't a bad option because it allows you to see more of the country and take in the entertainment or bargain at one of the markets and stores, however the Fijiian-Indians who usually run the stores can be a bit rude if you choose not to buy.
It seems that lately the surf charter boat businesses are opening up everywhere there are breaks to be had in and around islands. Following the successes of the Indonesian boat charters, it's no wonder that those that can afford to hop on board, are finding the all catered for cruise, a great way to surf some of the more remote reefs. The spare surfboard is a short paddle or zodiac ride back to the boat, and while you are there grab a bit more sunscreen and a quick snack. It's 1st class travel and if there's a few of you it's a great way to spend maximum time in the water with a group of your mates.
Western Samoa -There are two main islands in Western Samoa, Upolu and Savai'i. Both have unreal waves. Apia is where you'll find the cheaper accomodation and the seedy south sea island type bars of old. There are places to rent where you can self cater, and the markets there are awash with all types of vegetables and fruits.
Summer time is not the most reliable time for surf but don't let that stop you if that's the time you are planning to go. The swells that hit Hawaii at that time, also find there way to Samoa, though smaller cause of distance travelled. Winter time, May to Oct. is when you'll find Boulders at Aganoa at its best. It's a beautiful left hander that can grow in height after take off as it bends around the reef, and can handle 15 foot or more. On the other side of the bay is a right hander. In fact there are waves all along this stretch, and you will also find Coconuts, a right and left gem a little further along. If you choose to stay at one of the surfcamps in the area you'll have access to other waves by boat to Nu'usafe'e Islet.
Satuiatua on southern Savai'i has good waves mostly in winter and for the summer head to the north side of Savai'i at Fagamalo. It's customary to pay a ST$5 a day to surf in front of the villages in Samoa. If you are driving around the islands you'll see many set ups, with waves peeling off. Sometimes the access can be nearly immpossible, or you might be on private land. A lot of times you'll find that you must pay to travel further or you are asked by a huge man wielding a huge knife to state your business. Just be aware of your surrounds at all times. Keep small denomination notes with you to pay and be with a friend.
Inter island flights between Upolu and Savai'i cost about ST$50 one way. There are five flights per day and take around 20 minutes. The Ferries leave Mulifanua Wharf on eastern Upolu five times a day, and are ST$7 one way and take about an hour and a quarter. Two times a day there's a fast ferry. It takes 45 minutes. When on Savaii book a Green Turtle Tour to get around and get off at your accomodation. It's cheaper than the taxi and it's unlimited on and offs. Better still hire a car in apia and take it on the ferry. Then on both islands you have freedom of movement and aren't relying on the resorts and their pricings. Samoa is not cheap and often there is a price for the foreigner and one for the locals. It can be a bit frustrating but that's how it is. There is not the same harmony amongst the people that is found on some of the other Pacific islands, and in some places poverty is evident. But overall it's a good place to visit with an interesting history. Some of the old homes and buildings are amazing if somewhat in disrepair. If you are into reading The Public Library is a must. The staff are very courteous and helpful, and their colonial collections are priceless. Samoa has a rich history and many of the crooks of the sea used to hide out here in the days of the blackbirders.
Tahiti.- French Polynesia has 118 islands spread over 5 archipelagoes among which the Society archipelago which comprises the Windward Islands (Tahiti, Moorea and Tetiaroa. Can anybody mention Tahiti without mentioning Teahupoo. That wave when it's big can only be described as demonic. It's definitely not for the unexperienced or those with a healthy respect for living. Teahupoo is located on the southern tip of Tahiti around an hours drive from Papeete just keep on the road until it ends, you can rent a room or cottage there. However there are a lot more breaks in these islands that produce surf just as powerful. There is a long left wave at the Vairao passage that's compared to Uluwatu. A few kilometers south of Vairao is a small pass called Te Ava Iti. A softer wave with a nice tube given the conditions are right. Pointe Venus a righthander on the north coast. Taapuna on the west coast at kilometer 10. And for big wave surfing try Maraa Droite rights it's located on the southern coast at km 28, and Maraa Gauche, its on the southern coast at km 28, it's a dangerous wave breaking on an almost exposed reef.
There are more waves on Tahiti i haven't mentioned, there are plenty to go around for all levels of surfer. there are a few beachies also. On the nearby islands you'll find good waves on the north coast of Moorea and at Haapiti on the west coast of Moorea . On the East of Moorea is a righthander called Temae, it's not on often but when it is, it's another very long and dangerous ride. Huahine has several consistent breaks off its west coast. With 118 islands to choose from imagine the possibilities that are out there amongst these archipelagoes.