Cyclone reduces Cloudbreak tower to splinters
"We want to show the world Fiji has come back stronger," says Ian 'Kini' Muller, longtime Cloudbreak local, via email.
Attached to the email were photos of a Fijian flag raised above a timber wreck. An explanation was in order.
Fijians, like the rest of the world, went into enforced lockdown back in early April. A few days afterwards, Tropical Cyclone Harold, the strongest South Pacific cyclone in two years, swept in from the northwest after killing one person in the Solomon Islands and reducing buildings in Luganville, Vanuatu's second biggest city, to rubble.
Harold tracked just south of Fiji as a Category 3 cyclone with winds gusting to 160km/h across the Mamanuca Islands. It was these winds that blew the Cloudbreak tower fair off its foundations.
Built in 1999 for the inaugural Fiji Pro, then sponsored by Quiksilver who split the bill with the ASP to use it as a judging tower. It's since been used for each succesive contest at Cloudbreak up until the WSL and OuterKnown walked away one year into a three year deal. That was in 2017, with the tower falling into disrepair ever since.
Photographer Peter 'Joli' Wilson last saw the tower in February and said poles on the southeast corner had rotted all the way through.
After taking a battering from the combined effects of cyclone Harold and COVID-19, Kini recently raised a Fijian flag on the ruins of the Cloudbreak tower. The gesture a symbolic show of defiance. "We might be down but we're not out," says Kini.
"Fiji is now COVID free with no deaths thanks to the government, health workers, law enforcements, and our dedicated citizens. We stand with the world in solidarity. We will get through this together."
"Fiji is strong!"
According to Kini, there have been no plans to rebuild the tower yet.
As for surfing, Fiji is urging Australia and New Zealand to include them in the trans-Tasman 'tourist bubble'. Yet even if that were to happen, travel couldn't resume till September at the earliest meaning the bulk of the season has passed.