For as long as there has been surf travel, surfers have aspired to put down roots in remote, idyllic, wave-adjacent locales, extending their fleeting swell-chases until, well, indefinitely. The best laid plans, though, as the saying goes.
To say that Australian surfers Woody Jack and Navrin Fox's plans for a surf retreat on Fiji's remote and Cloudbreak-vicinal Mololo Island went awry would be an extreme understatement.
Yesterday, New Zealand-based newspaper Newsroom released the first of a three-part investigative piece recounting Jack and Fox's debacle, which began when the pair returned to the piece of paradise for which they had obtained a 99-year lease from the Fijian government, only to find a rogue Chinese developer was ripping the area to shreds.
"There were two or three excavators in the water, smashing through the reef and digging it out to create a massive channel,” Fox told Newsroom. “There was hydraulic fluid spilling into the water. Another excavator on the land was covering the beautiful little beach on our land with the material from the reef to build a hard zone. It was shocking. We knew they didn't have a foreshore lease and what they were doing was illegal."
It's a riveting piece of journalism, to be sure, including footage of physical confrontations between the surfers and employees of the Chinese developer, Freesoul, over the disputed lands. From Newsroom:
The battle has cost them most of their life savings and last week culminated in Fox being attacked by an employee of Freesoul when he tried to walk on to his own land at Mololo Island.
Accompanied by Newsroom journalist Melanie Reid, Fox was visiting the site to point out the environmental damage when a Chinese employee of Freesoul confronted him.
When Fox went to access his own land through a gate in a fence Freesoul erected across the foreshore, the employee tackled him and got Fijian security guards to help him lock the gate.
Fox reached his own land by going through a bush area but was attacked again by the same man. The local Fijian security guards restrained their Chinese colleague and appeared to tell him Fox was entitled to be there.
Fox said: “It is like living next door to a lawless monster. I am devastated for the Fijians, how can a company just come in and do this? They have no respect for anything else except money – greed governs."
The story does have a positive resolution, as Fox's and Jack's efforts, with the help of an attorney, led to the Fijian government stepping in to put an end to what was an environmental disaster in the making. Click here to read the full piece.