The Volcom Pro at Cloudbreak is another of the annual stops on the ASP tour. This wave was my primary reason for wanting to visit Fiji.
The surf here can sometimes be massive too, as this entrant from the Billabong XXL competition can testify to. As a consequence I know I am going to have to be at the top of my game to surf well here.
The rights to surf the waves here used to be owned exclusively by the nearby heart-shaped private island resort of Tavarua. It kept crowds down in the water but inevitably meant that far too many waves went unridden.
However a recent change in the law by the Fijian government has opened up the waves to anybody who can get out to them. Even enthusiastic amateurs like myself.
The waves at Cloudbreak are absolutely cranking upon our arrival with guys dropping into waves that are well overhead, and the standard of surfing is set by two guys landing 360 airs on consecutive waves whilst we secure the boat to an anchor bouy.
On this day I have already surfed twice so take a moment to read the action of the break before getting in. Whilst waiting I am not over the moon to see another one of the sea snakes that had caused so much havoc at Waidroka swimming through the water between me and the line up. I decide to add a rash vest for protection from it and the sun before leaping over the side of the boat, but sadly it was no help at all with all the sea lice that seemed to be stinging me for fun as I paddled through a patch of water they were hanging out in.
Once past the lice ridden water I decided the only way to go at this break was to paddle straight into the line up and go for it. However when I dug deep for the first wave coming my way, I got to my feet but could not get the board down the face of it. Instead I bobbled along the top of the crest trying to stamp on the nose to get it to drop in.
It didn’t work though and turning round to paddle back out my heart sinks when I see it was the first wave of a monster set and I am about to get a flogging. I am completely caught inside and any efforts at paddling towards the unbroken section will just result in a collision with guys charging the subsequent waves, as you see here. I have no choice but to just take getting hit on the head by the whole set.
The first wave rips the board out of my arms and drags me bodily backwards towards the reef. The second will only do the same thing so I leave the board trailing behind me and try to dive under the white water.
As this picture demonstrates I am immediately clear on how close to the reef I am when I try to do this. The crystal clear space between the reef and the bottom of the white water is little more than a foot deep so I adopt a Superman pose and try to swim through the available keyhole! I actually manage the manoeuvre quite effectively, and am unharmed despite overhead Cloudbreak washing over me with my face inches from the reef. The success is short lived though because after three waves the surfboard leash is ripped right off my leg by the power of the wave pulling on the board, sending it careering over the reef behind me with the camera still attached to the nose.
I know I am very unlikely to see either the board or the camera in the same state again but have bigger concerns at the moment because I now have to swim my own way out of trouble and back to the boat, acutely aware that my route will take me back through the last known spot where the Banded Sea Krait was seen. I didn’t panic though and cutting out sideways to the direction the waves are breaking I am quickly through the worst of it. Thankfully one of the Aussies in the water paddles over to allow me a breather hanging off the front of his board and I am soon back on the Fijian Surf boat.
Now we have to take the big boat around the back of the reef and the observation tower on top of it, to try and collect my board which appears to have been washed off the back. All aboard are spread out to minimise the draft of the boat and this video should give you some idea of how little water we had to work with! Amazingly after an hour of manually dragging the boat across the reef we get the board back and there is not a scratch on it or the camera and even more importantly, me! The time to collect the board did cost me the rest of my opportunity to surf here though.
I had really wanted to surf well here, so despite all of the above decide straight away to go back for a second bite at the break the next day.
After all the fun I had with the reef the day before I opted for wearing my helmet and boots for the second session which is admittedly a tad smaller than the day before.
As you can see I did much better, but the wave itself is unbelievably fast. I dropped into a hand full of waves but couldn’t keep up with the breaking shoulder. Charging it on an 8 foot fun board was a unique experience I’m sure!
Cloudbreak is sometimes known as Crowd-break because it can be so busy, but there was little more than a dozen people in the water for this session, and making sure I chose my waves carefully I picked off a few screamers.
However everyone wants a great wave here and somebody couldn’t resist one of the waves I was riding, dropping in right in front of me. I tried to turn up the face and punch through the lip, but only succeeded in falling off when the board was above my head and already going over the falls, soon to be followed by my good self getting rolled over the top. This resulted in the leash getting wrapped around my throat and then being pulled tight as the board got dragged in towards the reef. Getting garrotted by your own surfboard is not an experience I would recommend!
The result of this was getting caught inside once again and the rest of the set clobbering me in turn. After my previous experience here there was no way I was going to let go of my surfboard today. As a result I had to put up with each wave washing me further across the reef, with me trying to skip across the top of it in my booties.
The Aussies who had earlier christened me ‘The Reef Whisperer’ felt that a new name was in order as a consequence, so for the rest of the session I was known as ‘The Reef Dancer’. You can see my fancy footwork here.
After one major flogging I decided to quit while I was ahead. I figured having surfed overhead cloudbreak on a 8 foot board without snapping it, or putting a scratch on myself I had done well enough to be satisfied with the sessions I had enjoyed.
Despite all the issues listed above I can’t believe I have bagged Cloudbreak on my travels. I was so chuffed about it as you can see.