“We ask the almighty to open the gates of Cloudbreak for our guests,” prayed the Fijian minister at the start of the traditional Tavarua kava ceremony. And like that, after two days of dwindling surf, the next morning the island awoke to four to six-foot perfection on the famed reef. There were even a few plus sets thrown in to keep everybody honest. After enjoying fun-size waves for the better part of the week, it was a welcome change of pace.
With less than a dozen people scattered about the lineup, everybody got their fair share of set waves. Part-time Tavi boatman and full-time waterman Aamion Goodwin sat deep up the reef and was rewarded with a few beautiful waves. Dusty Payne, Casey Brown and CJ Kanuha put their Hawaiian upbringing to good use. “Oh, bra, there were some sick ones out there, yeah,” articulated Kanuha later.
Jersey boy Mikey Gleason found his fair share of cover-ups before taking the nose of his board to his calf, which resulted in six stitches when he got back to the infirmary. "I guess I was lucky, it could have been worse," he'd say while getting put back together, "and I guess if it had to happen, at least it happened on the last day."
But the surf was only the start of it. As evening set in things started to get weird – really weird. After a rocking good time the night before at the kava ceremony, the scurvy dogs at Nixon orchestrated the ever-eventful pirate party. It started with a few stick-on mustaches, some fake earrings and plenty of "yarrrrrrs." Then somebody broke out the magic marker to draw an anchor tattoo on their arm or a black beard on their chin—or in the case of Dylan Graves, some chest hair. Throw a bit of booze into the mix and the next thing you know Ricky Whitlock had a massive penis drawn on his chest and the phrase "I love dick in my ass" scribbled on his back. At some point he even figured it would be a good idea to paddle out at Restaurant’s – albeit at night-oh yeah, he was naked too.
For a brief moment things somewhat settled down, at least enough to announce the winners of the various “competitions” held over the course of the week. Ultimate fisherman Tito Ortiz took top honors in the angling category, wrestling in a yellow fin that measured in at 75 pounds—and that's after a shark ate half of it before it could be hauled into the boat. As mention earlier Cheyne Magnusson took the Kiddieland Shoot-Out, but he also came up aces in the spear fishing division and the was crowned the overall surf champion too. For the effort he's returning home with a MacBook, a custom-built spear gun, a new underwater digital camera, and a whole heap of other goodies. And then there was the ping pong tournament. Longtime Tavi boatman and Surfer Magazine ad wizard Adam Warren ended up taking that title. How he beat everybody on the island with an inner tube around his waste is still a bit of a mystery, although the Jack Daniels may have had something to do with it.
Anyway, it’s safe to say that as everybody makes their way to the airport in Nadi and off in their separate directions they won't be forgetting this trip any time soon—or at least the parts that aren't a blurry haze. Great waves, great friends, great times, I'm already looking forward to next year.