South Pacific ocean swells unload their power on the coral fringed Fijian islands. Volcanic peaks rise steeply out of the crystal clear water, with waves peeling onto in-shore passes and isolated reefs miles out to sea. Conditions can be demanding so visiting surfers need to be competent and confident in their surfing skills.
Fiji has a marine tropical climate with year round surf and two distinct surf seasons.
In the winter season, April to October, low pressure systems in the Southern Hemisphere produce consistent ground swells which can get up to 15’ faces. The SE trade winds are predominant and they blow offshore at Pipes and Frigates for up to a week at a time. There is usually a few days of calm winds between the weather patterns so surfing the other local breaks is possible if the swell is small enough.
The summer season from December to April has shorter duration swells of one to three days. During this time the conditions could be called ‘tropical’ as it is glassy or light winds all day and hot with afternoon showers. This is the time when the local breaks can really begin to fire up.
Off the west coast of Fiji’s main island, an arc of coral islets, coral reefs and passes catch the South Pacific swells. Two of these islands, Namotu and Tavarua, are right in the middle of the surf zone – the perfect location for surf resorts. Surfers at these resorts now have unrestricted access to all the breaks in the area, giving a great choice of waves a short boat ride away.
Namotu Left is to Namotu what Restaurants is to Tavarua – a world-class reef break that’s more forgiving than its fearsome, more famous neighbor Cloudbreak. From six to 15 feet, Namotu Left can be the thrill of a lifetime, but from two to six foot a short board, fish, longboarder or SUPper’s paradise. When the wind is going strong side shore, Namotu Left is as legendary in the sailboard and kite surf world as Cloudbreak is in the surfing world.
Swimming Pools is a reef-breaking right which has just enough of the power of a tropical wave coming up out of the deep ocean. Popular with both short boarders and long boarders. Very similar to Tavarua Rights, Swimming Pools breaks in a crystal blue water and is great for beginners when small. Located off Namotu, Swimming Pools works in glassy conditions or with a westerly wind.
Wilkes Pass, about a mile northwest of Namotu Island, across the channel, is a powerful right barrel that breaks on the southern tip of a long barrier reef. Wilkes Pass is best in a medium to high tide and the strong current is always something to be aware of. Ideal conditions are glassy or North West Winds.
Desperations Farther northwest up the barrier reef from Wilkes Pass, Desperations is a right and left peak that breaks off a point. Desperations is the go-to spot when the ocean is having an off day, but it’s better than 90% of the waves most surfers leave behind at home.
Cloudbreak is about three miles straight south of Namotu, as the frigate bird flies, and 1.5 miles off Tavarua. A world famous serious left reef pass, with a lot of power that is regularly voted one of the 10 Best/Most Challenging waves in the world.
Restaurants is a long fast breaking left-hander, along a reef directly in front of the restaurant on Tavarua Resort. Restaurants is not as exposed to swell as Cloudbreak, but sometimes that is a blessing. The near shore spot named after its proximity to the resort’s kitchen and dining area, funnels around the western edge of the island; it breaks in extremely shallow water over sharp-edged coral heads with waves usually half the size of those at Cloudbreak. During a smaller swell and at higher tides, Restaurants can be any surfer’s fantasy having often been called a “skate park” in the water.
Tavarua Rights When the wind and swell aren’t perfect for Namotu Left or Cloudbreak, they can be perfect for Tavarua Rights – a fun wave on the southeast side of Tavarua island. Tavarua Rights has been described as “playful” and “user-friendly” but can become serious with size. It breaks best during mid to high tides, which diminishes the challenges posed by sharp reef. Great for long and short boards alike, the wave is best from November to March, but can present itself during any season when the prevailing southeast wind lies down and conditions at Tavarua Right are either glassy or offshore.
J’s is a hollow, fast wave that breaks from 2’ to 6’. It’s best around the high tide with winds from NE to W. It needs some west in the swell to run down the reef.
Shifties has a deep water take off making the break a ‘not too threatening’ ride. This outside point of the Barrier Reef picks up all the swell and can be double the size of J’s and Vunaniu. It is powerful and thick. When everywhere else is flat you can almost guarantee a 4’ wave at Shifties. Also it can be surfed at all tides. Again a wind of the north quadrant is needed.
Vunaniu is a short wedging right, which has a bowl section at the end, usually smaller than other breaks. Good option for kids down on the inside at high tide. It does get good.
Fiji Pipe is a hollow and sometimes heavy left hand reef break that breaks really good on 2’-6’ swells. The SE trade winds blow offshore all day here during winter and can create some epic barrel rides
Frigates is definitely a world class left that can rival Cloudbreak for power, size and consistency. Because of the gradual tapering of the reef it can handle all swell sizes. The SE trade winds are offshore, so when the inside waves near Matanivusi are blown out there is always the consistent Frigates. Because it’s out in the ocean, about 20 kilometres from Matanivusi, it picks up all swell. However some west in the swell can make it a bit dicey. It definitely makes the end section stand up! A longer board is recommended for larger days to handle the big drops and strong offshore winds.
Recommended surfboards would be a ‘hotdog’ shortboard and a larger semi-gun for the bigger days. Board shorts can be worn year round. A rashie or wetsuit top along with sunscreen are needed for sun protection and booties are optional to protect the feet from the reef.