Sigatoka Sand Dunes
The Sigatoka Sand Dunes on Viti Levu that are the largest in the South Pacific. They are special both as historical and archeological sites but according to Ian Muller, are also home to some great sand bottom waves. The shape of the waves are dependent on the silt brought down by rainfall from the Sigatoka River to form sand bars. Muller says sand bottom waves can be more fickle here because large swells and currents can shift the sand bars so that the wave changes regularly. Many surfers prefer reefs which never change their shape but Sigatoka Sand Dunes are one of the most consistent surf areas in Fiji. Best times to surf are at low tide so this gives a great alternative to surf the low tides on the coast when the reefs are dry. Unfortunately the regular trade winds often blow this area out but on the northerly winds can make it an extremely fun wave. To find the turnoff for the east bank of the river mouth drive 5 minutes east of Sigatoka town. Look for a small shop on the side of the road with a Benson and Hedges sign. Turn down this gravel road and follow it for a kilometer straight to the river mouth. The only downside—sharks seem to like river mouths. (Photo of Sigatoka River Mouth break courtesy of Global Surfers).
Natadola beach (which unfortunately is rapidly going being developed) is perhaps the most beautiful beach in Fiji and has always been a favorite hangout for locals. There are several waves that break here, outside for the experienced and inside the bay for the novice. Outside can be surfed at low or high tide and is a heavy left that can have a heavy backdoor section onto shallow inside reef with the offshore trade winds offering spectacular tube sections. Inside, is only a high tide left or right wave that is playful and fun when there is a large South to West swell running.
Tavarua and Namotu
More popularly known are the Islands of Tavarua and Namotu who have within that stretch of reef some of the best short and long board waves in the world. Both islands have accommodations with high standards and are considered some of the best surf resorts in the world. The waves of Tavarua include Beach Scene at Namotu Cloudbreak : a separate reef that has a world class long left hander that offers ideal waves from 4 - 12 feet that suits full powered and radical wave face surfing together with long tube sections.
Restaurants : which breaks on the Island and is a super-fast, perfect barreling left hander that breaks onto very shallow live reef. Restaurants comes into play when Cloudbreak is big or has a more west angle in the swell. Both waves are offshore with the S/E trades. Tavarua Rights : a fun right that can be challenging on bigger days but is onshore with trades. Namotu Waves include : Namotu Left - which is a fun, slower carving wave type left hander that can get heavy on bigger days. Swimming Pools - is the absolute all-around fun, cruising right hander that is perfect for longboarding. Onshore with trades but offshore in North wind conditions. Wilkes is a right hander opposite Namotu Island that can be shifty but long and rip-able with good barrel sections.Staying at Namotu or Tavarua?
Staying at Namotu or Tavarua?
Tavarua and Namotu are clearly the best suited for hardcore surfers. The advantages staying here are that the surf is consistent and world class. The disadvantage is that you are isolated—far from anywhere else of interest. If you want to experience Fijian culture, as opposed to surf culture, you’ll have to get off these islands, which are minuscule. Another disadvantage, is that if you are an impoverished wave rider, these islands, while not overpriced, are not cheap surf camps.
Because of the consistency of the waves these resorts are booked out year around. The resorts have retained exclusivity of reefs surrounding their respective Islands and in order for a visiting surfer to be able to surf these areas, they request that visitors ask permission. There is a small window when outsiders can surf in relatively larger numbers and that is on Saturdays when guests check out and the new check in leaving 3 - 4 hours available. Despite this window, Saturdays are still tight so it is best to make a booking early on.
Naviti (named after the nearby hotel) is located a 10 minute drive east of Hideaway. A close-in reef break, it’s a 5-10 minute paddle from shore. It’s a long right hand barrel, usually 2-4 feet, and is only surfable at high tide. It works best on a south to southwest swell.
Hideaways (also named for the nearby hotel) is offshore from a resort of the same name, 1 O hours drive east of Nadi. As mentioned above, it’s the best break on the Coral Coast. A gnarly right hander, it’s a hollow wave (similar to Backdoor on Oahu’s North Shore). Like Naviti it’s also a shallow reef break quite close to shore. With waves generally of 2-4 feet, it’s only surfable at high tide and works on a west to southwest swell. During the larger swells it can get to 5 or 6’ and very gnarly. At this size the small entrance threatens to close out and the huge volume of water rushing out the tiny passage creats whirl pools that are very intimidating. A half dozen or so tourists from Hideaway have perished there since the hotel opened so be careful.
Further West from Tavarua and Namotu in Mamanuca chain is a new surf destination called Mana Surf which services a variety of mid to upmarket properties such as Mana , Castaway, Matamanoa and others for backpackers. Run by Ian Muller, Surf Shuttle picks up surfers daily from the resorts and transports them up to four breaks that are on the outer barrier reefs from 5-15 minutes away. There are lefts/rights that are more like the Namotu style waves which can accommodate beginners to cruiser type surfers. They are more consistent than the Namotu area, being further West allowing the reefs to pick up a more consistent Southeast swell which Namotu does not receive to much of. They are close to Nadi airport which makes it a convenient stopoff. Not too many people have surfed this area and it has great potential, even when the swell becomes gigantic there are inside reefs that pick up and are offshore with trades. There are waves for beginner to advanced level in all types of conditions. A surf school is also based on the Island. Surfers can arrange packages at Mana Island Lodge and go surfing with everything included ( boat trip to surf, meals and accommodation) for F$110 per day. Contact Ian Muller firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
On the southern tip of Kadavu is another surf resort named Nagigia that has a couple of great waves that can be very powerful. Kadavu has great world-class wave potential but unfortunately it can get the regular trade winds that blow on-shore in most surf areas. Therefore early morning and late afternoon surf sessions are the call. On Northerly winds, primarily in our Summer time Kadavu is sure to light up with offshore winds giving you a great experience.
Further to the South East are a group of Islands called the Lau group. They are known as the Forbidden Isles for which no one is to venture into these Islands without proper permissions. These Islands have a rich resource of wave potential but mainly for the experienced surfers who know their limitations. Most reefs can only be surfed at high tide and are exposed to many extreme weather patterns that can offer a very challenging experience.
Vanua Levu's North Shore
The newest and perhaps least explored areas when it comes to surfing, is the North Shore of Vanua Levu, near the sugar cane town of Labasa. This area is just beginning to be explored by Fiji's surfing community. How consistent the swells are is not really well known but there are some cool breaks to be surfed and a few intrepid surfers are on the vanguard. Stay tuned.
Surfing in Fiji during recent times, is still a very young sport amongst the locals even though history states differently. It has been documented by early sailors that came down from Hawaii, that they experienced surfing being practiced by our ancestors in Vuna, Taveuni and Koro way back in the late 1800's and early 1900's. They wrote that the Fijian surfers were more graceful than the Hawaiians and that there were more women that surfed which back then was known as 'Vakavodo Ua'. This sport was unfortunately lost when the British came and colonized Fiji, ruling out any such lifestyle that was not conducive to the values of Europan involvement at the time. Today, Fijian Surfing is making a strong revival with the formation of its own Fiji Surfing Association run by locals aspiring to bring back surfing as its national sport. Continuing where our ancestors left off.
As for the niche market of sport Tourism, surfing is a thriving business in Fiji. It has brought in many surfers from around the globe to experience the powerful Fijian juice that our waves are renowned for. Fiji has been host to a number of international competitions in previous years, namely the Quiksliver Fiji Pro - currently the Globe Fiji, Roxy Fiji Pro, Red Bull events, Kelly Slater Invitational, windsurf events etc.
All photos courtesy of Stu Johnson, fijisurfco.com