Held in the early winter of the southern hemisphere, just when the roaring 40s have woken from their summer slumber, the Fiji Pro has become one of professional surfing’s most important competitions.
It is also one of the most enjoyed by competitors and spectators alike. And what’s not to enjoy? The contest is based on the small island of Tavarua, which is about as close to heavenly paradise as you can get while still being mortal.
Paradise extends to the island’s three surf breaks, which are located between one and two miles offshore. The promise of perfect mid-size waves gets surfers from around the world frothing for this stop on the Tour. While long turquoise tubes and are the norm, the waves get heavy and the reefs are always extremely shallow.
The men’s contest kicks off June 5 and the holding period lasts until the 17th. While the main contest site is the famed Cloudbreak on Tavarua’s south side, depending on conditions and swell direction it is also held at Restaurants on the north side. The deep-water beast of Cloudbreak breaks about two miles from the island and serves up long racing barrels, as well as open faces for big turns.
“The great thing about Cloudbreak is it’s a perfect barrel but it’s also a high performance wave. You could do the best turn of your life or get the best barrel of your life. And you could theoretically do them on the same wave,”
Explained Slater during a recent helicopter survey over the break.
The 2016 Fiji Pro is the fifth holding of the event since its resurrection in 2012. The event has seen some major highs but also a few lows. Cloudbreak has seen three perfect heats – Slater claimed a 20-point total at the 2013 event and Owen Wright earned two perfect heats at last year’s contest. For all it’s beauty and perfection, the Fijian wave is not to be taken lightly.
During an early round in 2013, pro Glenn Hall was air-lifted off the island after going over the falls and breaking his back. Other such injuries and serious rescues are not unheard of at Cloudbreak. After three years of the event being dominated by Aussies, US competitors regained control, with Americans winning the next six events. The 2014 contest was one of the three wins that led Gabriel Medina to clinch his historic World Title for Brazil.
Competitors and spectators alike stay at the one and only resort on the small, heart shaped island. The Tavarua Island resort has been up and running for 27 years and is staffed by friendly Fijians, known for their impeccable hospitality and endless smiles. Just say “bula” and you’ll soon be part of the family!
The so-called “mother of all surf resorts” (Waterways) offers 14 private, ensuite bures (Fijian for thatch roof hut). Each is beautifully appointed with Fijian art, surf photos, air conditioning and has two queen beds, a day bed, louvered windows, ceiling fans, mini-bar, and a large beach side veranda for relaxing, watching the sunset or just taking in the islands lush flora and fauna.
For larger families or groups traveling together, Tavarua has two air-conditioned Sunrise bures that have two bedrooms and can accommodate four adults. The restaurant offers up creative menus carefully designed and using fresh local ingredients. The restaurant and bars offer magnificent South Pacific views just steps from the ocean. And if that’s not enough water for you or your family, there’s a swimming pool and heated spa to soak those surfed out muscles.
Along with surfing the 3 Tavarua breaks, kite and wind surfing are other aquatic options, as well as fishing, diving and SUPing (stand up paddling). For the more terrestrial island hoppers, there’s tennis, volleyball, a fitness hut and even a skate ramp (designed by Tony Hawk). Massage and day spa treatments are also on offer. Didn’t I tell you it this place was as close to heaven as you can get while still being alive?
How much does paradise cost, you’re probably wondering at this point. Tavarua resort offers a variety of package rates that depend on the season, ages of guests, and whether land and air transfers are built in. To have an idea, a couple visiting the island for a week between October 29, 2016 and February 25, 2017 will go for $7,105 with the land and air package, or $4,405 if just the land package. The rates from February 27 to October are somewhat cheaper, so it will pay to do some homework. A good place to start would be Tavarua.
Staying on the nearby Namotu island resort is another great option. The island is in close striking distance of all of Tavarua’s breaks, and has a number of epic waves of its own.
Being in the middle of the ocean and all, getting to either island is an adventure in itself. For Nadi, Fiji’s capital, you’ll need to hire a bus or shuttle to get to the harbor and then hop on a water taxi. Either resort can help you arrange this beforehand and if you’re keen to check out the Fiji’s main island and capital city, Nadi.
Once you’ve made it there, you’re in island paradise. Fiji is a flawless destination that offers everything from epic surf and incredible diving and fishing expeditions to a laid-back waterfront for a blissful R&R.
Joe Turpel is a Sportscaster from Hawaii and commentator for the World Surf League (WSL). Rad Season Founder Oli Russell-Cowan chats to him about his favorite spots on tour, the World Surf League in 2020 and the new WCT format for 2021.Last updated on Jun 29, 2020
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