The Perfect Day: Tavarua, Fiji

From SURFER’s Annual Big Issue – in stores now

DATE: APRIL 11, 2006 LOCATION: TAVARUA, FIJI

In the world of unbridled perfection that is Tavarua, where every day seems like the best of your life, truly memorable requires more than just an everyday ground swell. “In 20 years I’ve been lucky enough to see some pretty amazing moments,” says longtime SURFER lensman Tom Servais, “but from beginning to end, top to bottom, this was the best three-day combo I’ve ever witnessed.” On hand were Shane Dorian, Reef McIntosh, Danny Fuller, and self-professed “Tavi junkies” Jeff Booth, Bobby Lockhart, Brandon Lillard and Dr. Dave Oats, making the most of this once-in-a-surfing-life opportunity. “It’s like I was telling Shane,” says McIntosh. “This is the kind of thing you dream about in high school or every time you come to Tavarua and see the photo behind the bar, and you’re like, ‘Wow, I wonder what it would be like to get it like that.’” Booth, Dorian, McIntosh and Servais tell us.

SHANE DORIAN: I was a boatman over here for two months last year. I came over in July or August. I did it with Saxon Boucher and Brandon Lillard. They’re really good friends and they had worked for Jon Roseman before. And we planned with Roseman to come back this year for pretty much all of April and May. And I had just gotten here about a week before that swell.

JEFF BOOTH: We’d all looked at the maps and were like, ‘F—, how big is it going to be?’ And everybody’s saying, ‘It’s going to be giant!’ We all got there on Saturday and everybody got really, really drunk, just to celebrate. It was the buildup to the swell, the full anxiety. Everybody was waking up at like 3 in the morning going, ‘Oh my God, when’s it gonna hit?’

REEF MCINTOSH: After two days of nothing and people looking on the Internet, I was like, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.’ You don’t want to get hyped up for nothing.
BOOTH: Sure enough, come Sunday night we saw it. Monday was 6 to 8 feet, just off its head out at the Ledge. It kept slowly rising all day.

DORIAN: I remember when it started coming up, Cloudbreak was as good as I’ve ever seen it. Six to 8 feet and oiled glass. Perfect. We had a really good session with Reef and Fuller and Boothy and Bobby Lockhart and those guys. It was just insane. The best I’ve ever seen it. It was dry low tide, perfect direction, perfect size.

MCINTOSH: It’s cool, down there the swells take their time coming up. In Hawaii it comes up like, ‘Bam!’ Every hour is bigger and the sets start to piggyback on top of each other, but here there was maybe a capper or two every two hours and it came up slow. At that point I was like, ‘I wonder if this is the swell?’ It didn’t get too much bigger before dark.

BOOTH: Then Tuesday, it was just enormous, absolutely gigantic. You could tell, OK, it’s big, and it’s getting bigger, but how big is it going to get? Bigger boards, bigger boats, get the Jet Skis fired up, you know. Reef and Dorian and Fuller—everyone knew it was game on. You could see it in their eyes. You could see they were ready for something f—ing heavy.

MCINTOSH: We get up and walk to the tower, Shane’s up there with his binoculars and says, ‘It’s looking like it’s 10 feet out there.’ I asked, ‘What do you think?’ He says, ‘Ah, I’m going to take my 7′ 3″ and my 6′ 9″.’ So I’m thinking, ‘Shit, I’ve only got my 6′ 10″s.’ I go back and get Fuller. We were staying in the family bungalow with the AC, so hard to get out of bed in the morning. But I told him, ‘OK, it’s on! Bust out your biggest fins, plug ’em into your board.’

BOOTH: I think the boat left at like 7 in the morning, and we were ready: ‘Shit, let’s get out there before it gets too big.’ It was already top-to-bottom at Cloudbreak. Usually when it’s big you pull up at the boat moorings and you look at it from there, maybe see some foamies out the back. Well, the moorings were the end of the wave. It was breaking another 400 yards out as far as you could see, and then finally ending at the moorings. The inside Shish Kabob reef was like a mutant beachbreak with current and foam and gobbledygook. When we were driving out there was this foam line, like the
whole reef was just flushing and going out in the channel. It was like a war scene or something.

MCINTOSH: We get out there and everybody says, ‘Go on, get out there, Reef, test the water.’ The other day I jumped off the boat and cartwheeled on my first wave. No, this time, I’m like, ‘I ain’t going in until I see a set, see what’s really goin’ on out here.’ We see a set and it was breaking way at the top of the reef, but peeling all the way down. After that we jumped in and while we were paddling out we were thinking that if you can get into the wave and pull in, basically you’re going to make it. If you just stay inside, you’ll be all right. Basically, get in the barrel, and if you need to you can kick through.