What you need to know about the Fiji Pro:
2017 marks the 14th running of the World Surf League’s Fiji Pro surfing competition. Debuting as the fifth stop on the World Surfing Tour, the surf at Fiji Pro breaks on the private island of Tavarua. Cloudbreak and Restaurants (the former ranking as one of the 10 Most Challenging Waves in the World) were closed to the general public, but some years back, the Fijian government issued a decree that opened up surfing throughout the island nation.
Since the island nation has opened up surfing, Cloudbreak and Restaurants have attracted surfers and spectators near and far to pay homage to the magical surf. What’s not to enjoy? The contest held on Tavarua is about as close to heavenly paradise as you can get while still being mortal.
There are three different sections at Cloudbreak: the point, the middle, and the section where the reef is quite shallow, which is known as the “Shish Kebabs”. Pro riders avoid this section at all costs to prevent injury. Made up of sharp reef and coral, even boats can’t get to you if you make it to the “Shish Kebabs”; you’ll have to walk yourself and your board out. The pros will tell you that the best waves are anything coming from the south.
The 2017 Outerknown Fiji Women’s Pro awarded pro surfer, Bethany Hamilton, a wild card for this year’s women’s surf competition. You’ll remember Bethany Hamilton from a vicious, 14’ Tiger shark attack she survived along Tunnels Beach, Kauai in 2003. Consequently, the Tiger shark’s movement was so swift that Bethany didn’t initially realize she had been attacked. She clinched 3rd place in the 2016 Fiji Pro women’s surf competition, accomplishing with one arm what many surfers can’t.
On July 19, 2015, Mick Fanning had his own brush with Jaws. While waiting for the next swell in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa, Mick Fanning says he felt a strange presence behind him and, on live television, a great white shark went after Mick and his board. With his mom watching the horrible scene play out on live television from her home, Mick narrowly escaped injury and was back in the water a week later.
Mick Fanning’s Close Encounter with Great White:
Every rose has its thorn, and the same can be said for paradise. Here’s what you need to know about the island of Tavarua and it’s neighbor, Namotu Island:
Take it easy on the local Kava tea. While Kava is revered as a local favorite, it’s claimed to be a highly intoxicating ceremonial tea. With some even claiming it’s a hallucinogenic, Kava tea can cause your face to go numb and induces extreme sleepiness.
Keep an eye out for sea snakes. Found along Fiji’s shores and in lagoons, sea snakes are a venomous creature you need to keep an eye out for. At night, these snakes move to land and can make their way into homes.
One of the most noteworthy moments in the 2016 Fiji Pro was Kelly Slater taking the cake for both best and worst moments. Following a 9.77 warmup, Slater went from scoring a perfect 10 to a nasty pin-drop wipeout, snapping his magic board in half. Consequently, his board went flying and so did some rather colorful language. Can you blame him?
Kelly Slater clutches a perfect 10:
Check out the wipeout here:
William Finnegan, journalist and staff writer at The New York Times, won a Pulitzer Prize in 2016 for his memoir, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life. Finnegan recounts the feeling of nirvana he experienced with the swells, known as Restaurants, off the tiny island of Tavarua. Living alone and surviving off of fresh fruit and canned beans, Finnegan paid daily homage to the Fijian sea, referring to it as “da kine” with a close-knit group of surfers to keep the magical waves a secret. “The walls were dark gray against a pale gray sea. This was it. The lineup had an unearthly symmetry. Breaking waves peeled so evenly that they looked like still photographs. . . . This was it. Staring through the binoculars, I forgot to breathe for entire six-wave sets. This, by God, was it.”
When Surfer magazine featured a photo of the previously undiscovered Restaurants, Finnegan was horrified that the secret was out. American investors have since turned Tavarua into a high-end luxury resort.
Travel plans to the Fiji Pro didn’t quite pan out this year? Not to worry, the women’s surf competition is live streamed here thru June 02. The Outerknown Fiji Pro men’s surf competition will stream on WSL Live from June 04 – June 16.
Gabriel Medina is the defending champion for the men’s surf competition and Frenchwoman Johanne Defay is the reigning champ for the women’s surf competition.
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