SURF: Depends on whom you talk to
NATURE’S CALL:Your patience will be rewarded
FORECAST: Eighty percent chance of surfHere’s a newsflash for you: even the best surf spots on earth can downright suck, sometimes for days on end. According to Tavarua’s boatmen, able young lads who ferry guests out to the lineup at Cloudbreak and offer guided tours of the legendary lefthander, the job can be heaven or hell, depending on the surf. They spend up to four months on a pile of sand not much bigger than a schoolyard, and the lameness has been known to last for weeks at a time. Can you say claustrophobia? It’s primetime in the South Pacific, as evidenced by last year’s Quiksilver Pro Fiji, which came close to being too big. Round after epic round was held in flawless conditions, but for the final day Cloudbreak was ten feet and washing out, forcing a last-minute relocation to the more manageable six-footers at Restaurants. If only they had the same problem this year.For the fourth day in a row, the 6:30 am judgment came without hesitation. No contest. Director Rod Brooks took the mile-and-a-half boat ride out to the contest site and reported seeing a chest-high set upon arrival, followed by nothing for over ten minutes. Easy decision. For the pros, it was straight to the fishing boats, the tennis courts, the media center, or back to bed. But for your correspondent, duty called. Having only seen Cloudbreak as a tiny white speck on the horizon, it was time to get a closer look, surf or no surf.Well, it was easier said than done. Not wanting to take the Tom Hanks route of building a raft and sailing out to the reef, the only option was to round up a few accomplices and commandeer a boat. “‘You want to do what? Go surfing? Where? Uh, no.”‘ At every turn, the reply was the same. Fortunately, the day was salvaged by an inconspicuous kneeboarder. That’s right, a kneeboarder. Australian videographer Tim Bonython was keen to kneel a few without worrying about being overrun by the boys and said the 9:30 boat was the ticket. Perfect.

Whether it was true Cloudbreak or a meager facsimile, at least it would be empty. Or not. Just as the boat was about the pull away, along came a six-pack of Aussie contenders. So much for the solo session. As it turned out, there were just enough waves to go around, chest-high peelers with the rare bigger set. It stayed that way all day, and after six hours of research, here are a few observations:1.The Australians are not only super talented, but equally hungry. Over the course of the day, more than a dozen of them punched the timeclock in the less than ideal conditions, compared with little to no representation from the other countries.2.Thirty-four-year-old Luke Egan, in his nineteenth year on the ASP tour, fits this place better than anyone, even when it’s small. His extra large frame, which can appear disjointed on occasion, locks into Cloudbreak as if on a track. He won here in 2000, and don’t be surprised if he’s the last man standing this year.3.Two-to-three foot Cloudbreak is still more fun than anything you can do back on the island. Quiksilver’s Kirk Willcox put it best after an afternoon session plagued by devilish sideshore winds and smallish surf that was inconsistent at best. “‘Well, that was a whole lot better than sitting in the media center answering emails,”‘ he declared. “‘Who wants to sit around talking about bandwidth all day?”‘— Jason Borte[For more info, go to]