[This photo feature, where we break down our ever-shifting definition of the perfect wave through the last six decades, originally appeared in our April 2017 Issue, “Evolution,” on newsstands and available for download now.]
Surfers in the '60s and '70s who were keen on exploring exotic locales in search of perfect, empty lineups had to do so the hard way. Those adventurous enough trekked through jungles, slept in tents, and followed blind leads to breaks they hoped would match their world-class ideals. Surfers dirt-bagged their way to tropical perfection. But when people caught wind of a "surf resort" located on a tiny heart-shaped island in the South Pacific with a reeling left-hander just a mile offshore, the idea of traveling like a vagabond to scratch the itch for perfect, exotic waves suddenly seemed outdated. Cloudbreak was a surfer's fantasy—a picture-perfect barreling wave without all the hassle that normally comes with surfing on a tropical island. Visitors could sleep in rooms with ceiling fans, be served smoothies in the morning and fresh fish at night, and still surf an idyllic wave with hardly a soul in sight. If there's anyone who felt what a game-changer this was, it'd be Kevin Naughton, half of surfing's most famed vagabond journalist team. "After all the off-the-beaten-track adventures that Craig [Peterson] and I endured in our search for the perfect wave, suddenly we were introducing a new spot that would come to embody everything you could ask for in a surf trip," says Naughton, seen here during his first visit to Cloudbreak, in 1984. "Now anyone had the ability to buy a ticket to Tavarua and get a first-class, as opposed to a feral, surf experience. Every surfer who saw that wave wanted to surf it, and so many have it would be impossible to count the numbers."
[Check back on Friday to see our selection for the perfect wave of the 1990s]