Fiji In February
It's something you hear all the time as a travelling surfer. Usually in a local watering hole with someone telling you how they either got totally skunked, or conversely, they scored the trip of a lifetime at a place and month that you wouldn't normally bother looking at swell forecasts. But what does an off-season mean? It's not like the waves just stop.
Sure, if you're after eight foot-plus Padang Padang in December you're probably being a little optimistic, but turning your head to the Pacific in February may make a bit more sense.
I was given an incredible opportunity last month to head out to Namotu Island in Fiji - cheers Gibbo! - to have a little peek at what the off-season in Fiji was all about. I told the usual circle of close mates and was instantly met with, ''Mate you're tripping, it's off-season''. Which got me thinking what exactly is off-season? Yeah sure, it's not the premium swell window and the winds are probably going to be a little wrong, but does that mean I'm not going to get fun surf?
Fiji mainly works on south swells that track up between Oz and NZ and make their way north to the perfectly-shaped reefs of southern Fiji. Once there, if they are met with a south-east wind the wave loved the world over should start to do its thing.
I flew into Fiji with low expectations, trying to get in the frame of mind of preparing for the worst but hoping for the best. The first day I arrived Namotu Lefts was head-high, without a breath of wind, and stacked with wave after wave. I grabbed my fish and charged out like someone who had spent the last two years locked in Australia with some crazy pandemic in place...
It wasn't stand up tubes but jeez it was fun...five-turns-to-the-boat kinda stuff. This went on for about a week-and-a-half. As mid-February approached a couple of guests checked in who were keen for Cloudbreak. The first few sessions were just what dreams are made of - for an average surfer like me anyway. Slightly overhead, still challenging, with the odd bigger set now and then, and this went on for another week. Then one night, while sitting at the beach bar watching the sunset, a message came through from my old boy saying: ''Should be fun there tomorrow, get the 6’8” waxed''.
We woke up to a different ocean that morning. It wasn't crazy, life-changing stuff, but there was more energy than I'd seen in my short time on the island. We motored out, and there it was...double-overhead Cloudbreak in all its glory. This for me, as a surfer, and a goofyfooter no less, is what it's all about. There are too many details to go into except to say multiple tubes were had and high-fives thrown.
So, the end of February approached and had me scratching my head asking, ''so this is the off-season?'' I don't know if I got lucky with a dream run or if this is actually how the offseason runs in Fiji. Whatever it was, I’ll take it repeatedly. I think as surfers sometimes we get too caught up in trying to follow what everyone says and for a subculture of so-called individuals we are a bit of a herd that follows a few leaders. I know we all wanna go to Indonesia in July, but how many of us can handle ten foot plus G'Land? I know I can’t, and I know most of the crew that can will be flying in with photographers and to the next zone before the swell ends.
I guess what I'm getting at is this: Don't listen to everyone and just go.
Of course, getting skunked is a part of the chase and it makes scoring that much sweeter!