The boats go out to Cloudbreak four times a day, at 6 AM, 9:30 AM, 1 PM and 3:30 PM. We have had an awful lot of trade winds during out trip, so I find it’s best to be on the 6 AM boat. This morning I set my alarm for 5:45 AM, which after a night of Hinano beers was a wee-bit early. I brushed the sleep from my eyes, put on my bikini, grabbed my board and, literally, ran to the boat. They are gnarly about only one thing on this island and that is that the boats go out on time and don’t wait for anyone! Lono, the boat boy from Hawaii, is on the early shift, so he motored us out to the break. The winds are down and the waves are about head high. I toss my board over the side of the boat–I’ve been riding a 7’10” board, which is a bit long for Cloudbreak, but has served me well as the conditions haven’t been too hectic. The morning starts out great. The sun is just coming up so the water is still cool when I dive in. I put on my leash and paddle out to the break. The break starts out pretty hollow but then can open up for days. You do need to be careful on the inside, as the reef is pretty sharp. Oh, and depending on the tide, it’s only about a foot underwater. I have caught about three rides (each day, my wave quota has gone up exponentially–which is great except that I caught only one wave on the first day). On my fourth ride, I get caught on the inside and the whitewater pulls my board away from me and breaks my leash. So there I am, caught in the inside at Cloudbreak with no board. Great. (Now would be the time to mention that Cloudbreak is miles away from any shoreline.) I wave my arms franticly, the universal sign for trouble, and then start to swim towards my board. I have visions of my board heading out to sea while I am stuck over the sharp reef. Luckily, one of the Fijians on the boats, who normally looks suspiciously asleep, has seen my distress signal and is motoring the boat towards me. As well, another surfer in our group is paddling my way. As luck would have it, the board stays in place and I am able to swim to it. Safely back on my board, but with a broken leash, I reasonably decide it’s time to get back on the boat. I watch the other surfers catch some more great rides, then we all head back for breakfast.
The island itself is amazing. It’s private, you actually need an invitation to visit (la te da), and it holds around 34 guests. The whole island is only 29 acres (less if the tide is high) and you can walk all the way around and end up where you started in 10 minutes. We stay in burres, which sound rustic, but are totally luxurious, as long as you don’t mind geckos and mosquitoes. Ours even has air conditioning. Rick and Jamie, the managers who are here during our stay, are the sweetest, most generous people and have the most beautiful children. The food rocks. Healthy and hearty portions of breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served when the conch shell is blown. And almost nightly, we’ve enjoyed fresh Ahi sashimi caught that day by other intrepid visitors. I did have one fishing adventure myself. Let me just say that being in a tiny boat in 8 foot swell is not my idea of a good time, even if Eddie, the calmest, most confident Fijian fisherman is with you. Needless to say, I have sworn off fishing for life. I’ll catch my fish on a plate, thank you very much.
But, by far, the best thing about being here is the people. The Fijians on the island are warm, fun loving, and their laughter can be heard around the island. They mingle with the guests and we all got to know each other during our week stay. We even attended a local rugby match on the main island and cheered on the Tavarua team.
You know how people come back from a vacation spot and they describe it as magical? Well, this felt like that. It was definitely a great surf spot but the people of the island made it feel really magical.
Wish you were here,
(Please note: If you find yourself on Tavarua, keep in mind that Cloudbreak is an intermediate to advanced surf break.)