One of the biggest transformations I've seen over the last several decades is the transformation of surfing in Fiji from a local curiosity to a World Wide phenomenon. Fiji hosts some of the best surfers in the world in regular competition and what's also noteworthy is that nowadays indigenous Fijians are getting their surfing chops down. Fijians are competing with the best.
Surfing is not only a big deal in Fiji. It's become a big business.
No one that I can think of has been more involved with this metamorphosis than Ian (aka Kini) Muller whom I've known for many years. Ian was an advocate for surfing before the Fiji Visitors Bureau thought it was cool, and opened one of the first surf shops on Viti Levu.
We had the opportunity to talk to him at length about the genesis of surfing in Fiji, his own business and the "deregulation of the waves", in which he was instrumental.
This is the second in a three part series of interviews with Ian that I think you'll find engaging and provocative.
Tell me what’s new with Fiji Surf Co?
What would be the latest for us is setting up the Fijian Surfboard Company as I answered earlier. We have 6 Surfboard Models: Ika Vuka (Flying Fish), Totoka ( Performance ), Wai kama ( Guns ), Kailoma ( Hybrids), Marau (Fun boards), Ka Levu ( longboards). Models have been designed for all surfing abilities as well the variety of waves we have in Fiji esp out near Tavarrua and Namotu where our Factory will be 25 minute boat ride from.
Therefore if surfers break their boards out in the waves, surfers can take their boat onto our beach near Sonaisali resort close to Nadi, walk up the beach and buy a brand new Fijian Made surfboard. Pretty unorthodox but cool way of buying a board in this modern day of surfing … We at Fijisurfco take you back to the roots of surfing!
Fijian Surfboard Co will have all our boards branded in traditional Fijian graphic artwork. The Fijian Made surfboards will be significantly cheaper than buying boards in NZ, Aust or USA. Clients can preorder a board in advance before their trip to Fiji where they can pick it up to surf. Another advantage is that all the models will be rented out so if you are not too sure of the board you want you can come out on our surf trip to test a board then decide to buy it or not. We will also be wholesaling all surfboard blanks in block form or preshaped with all raw materials to make a surfboards – this will open up those who wish to make their own surfboards or set up other surfboard factories in Fiji and around the Pacific region.
New venture: SAD – Surfers Against Destruction is the charitable non-profit arm of Fijian Surf Company / Fiji Surf Co. SAD's main objective is to protect, preserve and sustain some of the worlds best and most prestine waves, Islands, reefs and oceans in Fiji. Our efforts will be focused on continuing the efforts of the Surf Decree by the Bainimarama Govt in July 2010 – the worlds only law to protect surfers and our fragile environment. SAD's mission will also be to find the balance between sustainable surfing, protection /preservation of our reefs and the ecosystems while trying to maintaining economic viability.
Fiji is fortunate to have developed at a later stage in relation to other great surfing nations such as Indonesia, Hawaii, USA and Australia. We can now learn from the mistakes of others and ensure destruction is minimised in Fiji. Tavarua / Namotu Islands, reefs and surrounding oceans will be SAD's first assignment to set up a Marine Reserve and be recognized by local / international stakeholders and Government Bodies.
Currently this area is a Marine Protected Area for which SAD has registered 9 boat moorings with Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji ( MSAF). These boat moorings are being installed around the reefs where the popular waves break. Next step is to get the Government and MSAF's endorsement for a Marine Reserve from Cloudbreak wave (Navula Reef) down to Desperation wave (Roro reef ). The final stage will be to get the endorsement at the highest level in Ocean/Reef Protection which is to be recognized by the IMO to endorse this area as PSSA – Particular Sea Sensitive Area.
The Model SAD feels most suitable to set up in tthis area is to have a system where the Reserve is self sustaining. Therefore any commercial operators from diving – surfing will be charged a user pay fee from the Reserve. Funding will go back towards the operational expenses of the reserve from looking after moorings to having lifeguard/security as well good will back to villagers for schools, housing, medical expenses etc in the surrounding areas who have the jurisdiction to this area.
The reserve will dictate codes of etiquette and best practices for all operators and any other personnel to adhere to. Lifeguards and security paid for by the Reserve will be the wardens of the area to ensure the Codes and practices are adhered to. SAD envisions that through a Marine Reserve this will be a Tourist Attraction which will help administer the Reserve through monetary gains as well establish other operations such as coral planting and fish farming.
All in all SAD will always be striving towards cleaning our beaches and oceans in whatever capacity in pursuit of a cleaner planet. We would like to collaborate with other like minded organizations around the world to mutually help each others causes. Please contact us if you would like to donate, partner up or support our cause. We welcome all those that believe that this world will be a SAD place if destroyed before our future generations get a chance to enjoy it.
Photos courtesy of Ian Muller and Stu Johnson
Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series.