The Wi-Fi has crashed and the world has stopped dead. Grown men wander Namotu Island waving their phones at the sky, sweeping the air for a crumb of signal, the anxiety that Instagram feeds are scrolling by unchecked gnawing away at their very being. There are no interrupting Skype chats. There are no swell forecasts. Two surfers hold a printed synoptic chart and scratch their heads waiting for it to animate. The very idea of Wi-Fi out here is perverse enough in itself, so the past day has been an overdue correction. And the great irony of it all is that Larry Page, the CEO of Google, is anchored in his mega-yacht just off the end of the island.
The clock on the wall has stopped. The ocean is flat. The anniversary of the 2012 swell came and went unnoticed with Cloudbreak a lake. It's day six of the Fiji contest, and not a wave has been surfed in anger. The lack of surf, however, has precipitated the great social experiment that is island life here in Fiji. After the contest was called off on day one and with no swell forecast until late in the week, the surfers marooned on Namotu Island have been forced to entertain themselves…the last 24 hours of which they've been forced to do so without Internet. But who'd have thought that on a resort island surrounded by reefs and ocean there'd actually be so much to do?
For now, everyone is on vacay. It's been relentless…a daily cycle of fishing, spearfishing, sailing, storytelling, darts, backgammon, bocce, beer, and, well, nothing.
I spectated as Dane Reynolds played backgammon with the hulking Jay Davies, who between moves was eating a tiny bowl of Coco Pops with a tiny spoon. For both surfers it's their first time staying out here for the contest, and they're both bravely struggling through the gourmet meals, sunset beers, and Fijian hospitality. Dane took the Hobie Cat out sailing in yesterday's sea breeze and had an absolute hoot. From the island you could just make out the yellow, blue, and red sail flying out to sea, but you could clearly hear downwind Dane giggling like a hyena at full volume. For now, everyone is on vacation. It's been relentless…a daily cycle of fishing, spearfishing, sailing, storytelling, darts, backgammon, bocce, beer, and, well, nothing.
Oh, yeah, and occasionally even some surfing.
Parko however hasn't been sleeping well. It hasn't got anything to do with his season, which hasn't exactly been stellar to this point, but more to do with some bad tropical dreams. They're not, as you might imagine, dreams of being miles out to sea on a fishing boat and being radioed the news that his heat is just about to start. No. He's sleeping in the same room he slept in when he first stayed on the island some years ago, where he awoke in his bed one night unable to move, pinned by some spectral force. He's been having flashbacks. He's not the only who's been sleeping fitfully. Dane's been having zombie dreams, while Taj dreamt last night of turning up for his heat on a crowded city beach having forgotten his shorts.
The downtime, the complete inability to escape each other, and the death of the Wi-Fi router–bless its soul–has sparked some unlikely conversation between unlikely conversationalists. Watching Dane and Micro Hall talking surfboards, and Adriano and Parko talking about God knows what, you're patently aware that these conversations would probably never happen in the real world outside of this little South Pacific biosphere. There's a certain bonhomie that's created by the fact you are staying on an island the size of a football field and you have no choice but to get along and enjoy each other's company. It's been refreshing. There have been conversations about life, lives that have changed direction, and impending life…Taj Burrow is all ears as the fathers of the island gathered around a table and walked him through what to expect when the oldest grommet on Tour has a grommet of his own in October.
"We're going to get so barreled on Monday," cackles Mick Fanning excitedly as he finally gets to check the swell forecast. And he's right.
FANTASY SURFER: Pick Your Team For The Fiji Pro
"Can you imagine what's happening over on Tavvy right now?" Chortles one Namotu surfer rhetorically, beer in hand. "Imagine how much crossfit and serenading is going on over there!" At that very moment there was indeed a furious crossfit session going down on the neighboring island led by Kai Garcia and Dusty Payne, and later that evening some even more furious serenading going down in the Tavarua restaurant, headed by the velvet fog of Joe Turpel with a guest spot from Kelly. The bigger of the two resort islands affords more space to disappear when necessary and factions to form—the fishing guys, the NBA freaks, the trainers, the band. On Namotu it's all in, there's no choice, especially so without Wi-Fi. It finally came back on late yesterday afternoon. Walking back in from a surf Adriano de Souza was told the news the Internet was back on and rejoiced, "Finally, we can stop talking to each other!"
In the absence of surf it's been hard to gauge any sort of surfing form for the event. I do know, however, that Filipe Toledo landed a giant backhand full-rotation air out at Cloudbreak two days ago. I know because he did it over the top of me. Whether he's going to get the chance to do so when it's double overhead next week is yet to be seen. "We're going to get so barreled on Monday," cackles Mick Fanning excitedly as he finally gets to check the swell forecast. And he's right. As listless as the first week of the waiting period has been, the second week is going to pulse, the first signs of which are due to appear Friday at Cloudbreak for the Fiji Pro.