[Back when the Parthenon was still freshly buffed marble, Greek mariners shared tales of seductive creatures that lay on the shores of the Mediterranean. They had porcelain skin and hair of silk, but it was their voices that made these Sirens irresistible. When their sweet melody made it beyond the waves, passing sailors were drawn to the shore, wrecking their ships on the rocky coast to be stranded within earshot of the ineluctable sound. Like the ancient Greek sailors, surfers are willing to risk everything once they find what calls to them. Perfect waves are our siren song and many a career, relationship, and bright future have been dashed to pieces on the rocks that front them.]
The love affair with the heart-shaped island of Tavarua began in the early 1980s, when an American yachtsman sailing through the isles of Fiji saw a reef pass lighting up without a soul in sight. The gossip about this tropical beauty spread fast, and in little time, the island had suitors flocking from every corner of the world to sample her offerings. It has since become an exotic nymph for touring surfers, a trophy wave flaunted in mags, brags, films, and contests. The temperamental mistress draws them in, giving worthy beaus the barrel of a lifetime and grilling overzealous expats on the shallow reef at Shish Kebabs.
Jon Roseman first surfed Tavarua in '89, and he fell in love, hard and fast. "I came down for a week back when it was a rustic surf camp," says Roseman, "and I realized very quickly that I didn't want to leave." This warranted a move from Southern California to the Southern Hemisphere, from condos to tree houses, Bud Lights to Fiji Bitters. Roseman is the co-founder and managing director of the Tavarua Island Resort, but he's first and foremost a goofyfooted saltwater addict whose nirvana exists in the hollows of Cloudbreak and Restaurants.
"A lot of people envy my setup, and I imagine that is easy to do looking in from the outside," he says. "In reality, there are good days and bad days—you see a lot of raw life, with the life-threatening injuries, high local-mortality rates, cyclones, tsunami alerts, floods…but it's all part of it, right in there with the sun and great surf."
"After 24 years, it's become home," he says. "It was the easiest call I have ever made. I immediately fell in love with Fiji, the waves, and the people. The staff and villages have completely become my family; they are truly what make Fiji paradise. Of course, the wave is amazing too."
[Featured Image: Photo by Glaser]
[This series originally appeared in our August 2012 Big Issue, “The Distant Shores”]