Tavarua Strike Mission w/ Nate Zoller

"The prospect of the ride of your life, to meet destiny head on and tackle that set wave off the ledge at Cloudbreak, is very real."

AS THE CLOUDS PART OVER THE SOUTH PACIFIC

After traveling the world for the last fifteen years it is clear to me that there are places meant for surfers. Places that if you were there and didn’t have a surfboard it would feel like a sacrilege. Enter Tavarua; the heart shaped island just a few miles East of Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu. From the moment you step off the panga boat and onto the sand everything else in this world fades away. Maybe because the waves that surround the island are some of the best in the world. Or that the water is so clear it’s like surfing over an aquarium. Surfing’s first resort has always been filled with an allure of endless potential. The prospect of the ride of your life, to meet destiny head on and tackle that set wave off the ledge at Cloudbreak, is very real.

As I watched strong trade winds batter the breaks of the North Shore of Oahu in late February, I figured it was a good time to jump on a flight to Fiji to chase an early season swell. If anything, I’d have a chance to see all my Fijian friends and family on an island that feels more and more like a second home.

2/29/20

"...once I step onto Tavarua Island “Fiji Time” sets in."

The first day in Fiji is always a long one. From the airport to the harbor to the island, the anticipation makes a few hours feel like an eternity. But once I step onto Tavarua Island “Fiji Time” sets in. Everything moves slower and in less of a hurry here. There are no car noises or horns, just the sound of the palm tree’s swaying with the wind. Reconnecting with all the Fijians and local staff makes me appreciate why it’s so special here; the love that the local people show every single guest. There is a light humor and selflessness among the Fijians that is hard to come by back in the states.

That first afternoon I took a boat out to Cloudbreak with the Chief of the island, Aca. We traded off laughs amidst the shoulder high peelers, it was as though nothing had changed in our friendship during the year and a half that I’d been away from the island.

3/01/20

Day two is as hot as Fiji gets. The first part of the day was so still and humid that a giant heat cloud formed over Viti Levu, which then turned into a storm. Thunder roared as the first rain of the summer centered over the island. Myself along with surf pals Parker Coffin and Benji Brand decided to walk around the island in our boardshorts, soaking in the rain and appreciating not being sweaty for the first time of the trip. There are moments here that feel like Cast Away meets Gilligan’s Island, a nostalgia for a slow simple way of life that is impossible to find in the US. Toes up, sipping on a Fiji Bitter beer after a long day surfing in the sun, the simple life is a beautiful thing.

3/02/20

"The structure is three stories tall and is cemented onto the inside of the reef, which is two miles out to sea."

"The structure is three stories tall and is cemented onto the inside of the reef, which is two miles out to sea."

The Cloudbreak tower was constructed years ago in an attempt to not only film the wave from a static angle, but also as a judging tower for the Fiji Pro. The structure is three stories tall and is cemented onto the inside of the reef, which is two miles out to sea. Our surf cinematorapher Cole Yamane was dropped off at the ladder on the base of the tower every morning, most times barely avoiding injury.  

There are two different swells that we came down here for, and the first is beginning to show its face. Although it is a bit inconsistent it feels amazing to get some turns going out at Cloudbreak. On the boat ride over to Tavarua I met a guy that came to the island in 1980. Just him and a buddy getting dropped off with some rations for the week. Now he’s back for the first time in 40 years, and we are surfing Cloudbreak together. The arc of the surf life is often filled with reoccurrences from your past.

THE REST OF DAYS - NO TIME FOR NOTEKEEPING

"Those evenings, coming back to the island on the boat, sunburnt with salty red eyes and reef rash all over, are what being a surfer is all about."

Once the swell hits it seems as though time does not function the same. Seven-hour sessions out at idyllic 6-8 foot Cloudbreak feel more like two-hours. It’s a mix of waiting patiently, picking the right wave and avoiding the fire coral on the inside known as “Shishkabobs.” It’s an adrenaline rush that lasts hours and often leaves you deliriously stoked.

When the waves are pumping, as they somehow always are in the afternoon during swells, we are out there maximizing every last opportunity. Those evenings, coming back to the island on the boat, sunburnt with salty red eyes and reef rash all over, are what being a surfer is all about. A day used up to the fullest. Watching the sunset fire as the boat rounds the corner at the world class break Restaurants on Tavarua, it’s easy to feel lucky and at peace with where I am in the world at this exact moment. A week here is never enough, but I always leave a shade darker with a smile from ear to ear.

PREV ARTICLE

COBRA IS HIS DAD