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Surf Fiji Islands

A tubing wave at Cloudbreak, near Tavarua Island in Fiji.

Josh Aggars of flipflopscity.com shares his experience trying to surf the big waves of the Fiji Islands.

Flying into Fiji was a step into the unknown. After two months of surfing my way around New Zealand with my crew I was now heading out alone to confront waters that I had heard little about beyond the books. Usually I know of at least one friend who has surfed a given spot but on this occasion I was fresh out and feeling a little unnerved but excited at the prospect.

Arriving to Fiji to Surf

surf spots in fiji
Peering out the window of the plane I would catch glimpses of small island chains beneath the occasional breaking cloud as we rocked and jolted our way through a heavy seasonal storm. Would the local lineups be welcoming? Would I manage to communicate my way to the best breaks? And would this bucket of rust make it through the next lightening flash? I gripped my seat belt ever tighter and waited to find out.

Am I in India?

surf spots in fiji
After arriving into Nadi on the main island of Viti Levu I did the usually unthinkable for a semi-reserved Englishman and kissed the ground. Swiping the gravel and dust off my lips and chin I forsook to never fly again and made my way through passport control and out into Fiji real.

No sooner was I out on the curbside hailing a taxi than a rather unusual thought struck me, “Am I in India?” This wasn’t some kind of racial slur but an observation that I had yet to see what rugby World Cup coverage had always taught me Fijians would look like.

I’d been in India only months before and I was pretty much certain that I was in fact back via some strange Bermuda triangle like feedback loop. My poshest Queen and country inner monologue voice told me this was, “Odd, most odd indeed.”

Having hailed a cab and began my journey into town I dug out my dog eared copy of lonely planet to find an answer to my question. As it turns out a large number of Indians travelled over to Fiji during colonial times to work the sugar cane fields. At the end of direct rule from England all the workers were given the option to repatriate but the majority chose to stay. As I was to soon find out that choice was made fairly easy by this most beautiful of island states.

Where to Surf in Fiji

surf spots in fiji
Having spent a night getting acclimatized in Nadi I was keen to get back in the water and so headed for Tavarua, home to two of the best known breaks in the country, Restaurants and Cloudbreak. Getting there was no easy matter. I had to pay an over the odds $65 for passage on a charter boat to gain access to the waves for the island itself is a private resort for which I didn’t have the means. In fact, the waves here had only just opened up to non-residents of the island after a government decree, so myself and the couple of Ozzies on my boat were feeling pretty good until we got there.

Surfing at Restaurants, Fiji

surf spots in fiji
Upon arrival at Restaurants we were greeted by what I like to term, “a ruddy nightmare.” There was no swell, nada, zip. It was like the Gods had spotted where I was on the map, had a quick chat with the swell captain and laid the sea flat. “He had enough surf in New Zealand and he never thanked us for it so forget him,” they all muttered.

This was not good. A hamster couldn’t surf these waves in any contentment. We only had a few hours before the boat would head back so we turned our attentions to the epic Cloudbreak.

Surfing at Cloudbreak, Fiji

This reef break, whilst better, was not serving up the sets of lore I had been expecting. I can’t tell you how disappointing this was. To see pictures and read stories of the epic 30 foot waves in the book in my hands and then gaze tearfully at the half empty specter that greeted us was enough to make us question whether to throw el Capitan over the side given his sales pitch about today’s good swell back at the quay.

We got in the water and did the best we could pulling off some sweet snaps and floaters and enjoying what we had. The reef was pretty shallow so I was glad not to be trying this in waves of any real power, but still I couldn’t help but feel a bit cheated having travelled so far and being so meager of budget.

Nadi, Fiji

surf spots in fiji
I returned to my backpacker’s hostel in downtown Nadi somewhat downbeat after my less than life changing experience and decided to go find some fun for the night. I met some fellow surfers over from the States on the porch of the hostel and we started compare stories. They had been out for the past few days and had a similar experience which lifted my spirits a little and we decided the only right thing to do would be to get some beers and sit on the beach.

Over a campfire, drinks and songs with some locals the surf was quickly forgotten and all attention turned to what an incredibly beautiful people and place this was. The harmonies the Fijian lads produced were hypnotic as were some of the guitar melodies. One of them, George, explained to me how he had left the family island a while back to work in the resorts and had to send money back to his brother who was compelled to stay by tradition on the family island being the eldest son.

To the Mamanuca Islands… Fast!

surf spots in fiji
I decided to use the majority of my remaining budget to visit the Mamanuca Islands rather than risk more on the charter boat and so took the ferry out the next morning. Upon arrival I ventured into the local village with a couple of other backpackers and were welcomed with a Cava drinking ceremony and dance. That’s my kind of welcome!

Everyone was incredibly friendly and fun leaving me in no doubt I’d spent my money wisely with this expedition. We were shown around the village by the minister of the church who explained the subsistence lifestyle of the people. Most of the men were off fishing which seemed to be a pretty great way to spend a day in this environment.
surf spots in fiji

Before leaving we were given a parting dance and more Cava. It was all so relaxing I almost felt like debunking and staying. Alas I had plans 1,000 miles away and a date I had to keep so made my excuses, more to myself than any of the locals (what did they care afterall?) and headed back to Nadi.

Two days later I was flying out and leaving behind two of the best waves I have yet to surf properly, a stunning island chain and incredibly warm and hospitable people. I can’t help but feel I’m meant to go back before long. Now, if only I could find more change down the back of this couch.
surf spots in fiji

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Federico says:

I hear you. I was in Hawaii 3 weeks ago and made my way to the north shore…flat. Pipeline, sunset…nothing there. Had to longboard waikiki instead…

Liv says:

Fiji and learning to surf are both on my wishlist! Hope to get around to them soon!

Chris says:

Fiji looks awesome! And not to be negative, but you may want to look into upgrading your hosting package or cutting down on the Hi-Def images. Your loading times are pretty slow; not only does Google penalize you for this, but you can lose reader’s attention. If the article wasn’t about surfing I would’ve bounced off the page it took so long. Just a tip! Happy travels!

oliver says:

amazing photos specially the first one…

Josh Aggars says:

Thanks Oliver much appreciated… although the 1st one is the only one I can’t take credit for. All the rest I shot.

Dorian Zuleta says:

Great article and pictures. Fiji is on my do to list along with surfing, I might as well kill to birds with one stone. I was planning on hitting up a few other places up like Tonga and Samoa while I was out..lol

Josh Aggars says:

For sure Dorian. I intend to head back to Tonga and Samoa when I go to tackle the mighty Teahupo’o in Tahiti. That is on my ‘once in a lifetime’ to do surf trip list.

Had always heard about the beauty of Fiji and your photos certainly portray that very well. Enjoyed reading about the local hospitality and regret the waves were not there for an unforgettable “Fijian surfing.” Thank you for sharing your experiences, great tips for anyone visiting Fiji.

Josh Aggars says:

Much appreciated. I’m glad I was able to be of service. As I say I’ll be back to surf those waves. The wave gods haven’t seen me off just yet!

Nancie says:

Great wave shot!

Mmmmmm. Kava. I could use some right now. :)

Josh Aggars says:

Where abouts in the World are you Matt? I have a carrier pigeon ready and waiting with a bag of Kava attached to its wee claw. Just be sure to water and feed him before the return journey.

Randy says:

Great post! Bummer about the waves, though. Dare I say, “You should have been here yesterday.” :)

Josh Aggars says:

No you dare not! lol. Please don’t say that. Were the conditions good? I must have been monumentally unlucky by all reports.

Hope you have a great day. Are you heading into the water?

What an awesome trip! It makes me really want to go to Fiji too. Even though I was born and raised in Hawaii, I can’t surf. On my second attempt at it I stepped on a poisonous sea urchin and that sort of scared me off from it.

Josh Aggars says:

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the words ‘I’m from Hawaii’ and ‘I can’t surf’ used in the same sentence before. That is some feat!

Yes sea urchins can be off putting (try having one in your face after a wipeout) but it’s never too late to get back on the board. I don’t know what I’d do without it.

Where are you headed next on your travels? Do include Fiji on your to do list if you get the chance as its beautiful.

I hear you. I was in Hawaii 3 weeks ago and made my way to the north shore…flat. Pipeline, sunset…nothing there. Had to longboard waikiki instead…

ah…what you remind me now…. i have been there 3 years before… with a person played central role in my life… great holidays unforgettable feelings…. now hi has gone

Nick i miss you…

Josh Aggars says:

I am sorry to hear of your loss. I hope the memories remain good. Hopefully it does not cloud your view of the country. I spent a long time once not liking a place because of good but painful memories. In time that faded and I’m now back to being able to enjoy the place. I hope you will be able to as well.

Best
Josh

Great post and beautiful photos. Too bad about the surf when you were there, but that just means you will have to get back. A friend of mine in Chile was telling me about the surf in Fiji and I can see why it’s such a beautiful place. One day I will make it there.

Josh Aggars says:

Thanks Pete, much appreciated. Yeah I was pretty gutted about the conditions but determined to go back. It truly is beautiful as are the people. I’ve never heard such dynamic harmonies as sung by some of the guys over there and this coming from a guy who used to be in all sorts of bands.

Speaking of Chile that’s on my to do list! Can’t wait for that one.

All the best
Josh

I’m sad that I didn’t surf when I was there, but it just gives me a reason to go back. Looks amazing!!!

Josh Aggars says:

Hi Andi,

Yes indeed, since I’ve been back its made me even more determined to go back and catch cludbreak when it’s going off. Has to be done! I hope you make it there soon.

Cheers
Josh

Dorian Zuleta says:

Andi,

You gave me a great idea. When traveling, I am not going to do things on purpose….. That Way I have to go back and do them..

-dafunny1-

Josh Aggars says:

Thanks Roy. It was an amazing trip and definitely on my return ‘to do’ list as I have to surf cloudbreak in proper conditions before my time.

Have you ever been?

Great shots of Fiji. Looks wonderful!

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