Upon arriving at Aganoa surf resort on the island of Savai’i, the ocean mist was thick in the air and the peaking swell thumped the reef. The waves were firing! Without hesitation, I jumped out of the van and quickly unpacked my board bag. I took a moment on the beach to overlook what the conditions and break was doing and headed straight out for a taste of the infamous ‘A frame’. To my comfort I paddled out with a local Samoan whom I’d met the previous Mel Cup in Fiji with the feeling that he knew the spot like no other. It didn’t take long to get out and before I knew it, there was a massive wall of water growing in front of me and I had no option but to make the split decision to ditch my board. As I scratched through the wave, all I could feel was a vacuum of energy sucking me back onto the reef…! Finally surfacing, the Samoan was nowhere in sight… welcome to Aganoa!
After that first day of poundings, I was fortunate not to experience anything like that again. I had two full days of practice before the competition started and tried my best to use every moment of it for this break was one of the hardest spots to learn. I rightfully named it “Moodys”. Apart from the surf, the atmosphere at Aganoa gleamed everything but a surf contest. Everyone seemed super mellow and mostly excited to see familiar faces rather than competition. That is the beauty of the Melanesian Cup, the coming together of Pacific islanders alike to share waves and encourage the youth into the beautiful sport of surfing.
The opening ceremony was filled with traditional Samoan music and introduced the teams and venue. Not to mention the food was amazing and Samoan’s for some reason have a way with making everyone eat triple his or her body weight. We had to constantly remind ourselves that we’re all athletes here!
The first day of competition kicked off with the Men’s open, under 18s, over 35s, and by the time it got the girls, the tide was too low. Lay day for the women’s but as anticipated we ran our first heats on day two. I must say, my first heat had some of the best waves of the day with a 3-4 ft. swell, off shore wind and maximum tide. I won my first heat with an overall 13.77 score!
The atmosphere during the final heats of the Men’s and Women’s open was very patriotic and every country tried their best to sing their anthems and dance away…we were all shouting over one another! When it came to my final heat, I was up against two girls from Vanuatu and one lady from New Cal. I had been watching the line-up all day and made the decision to stick to my usual tactics and sit out the back to wait for the bombs. In all my years of competing whether it is in swimming, water polo, or surfing, I had never experienced such immense support from my team the way I did that day. Every single person from Fiji (surfer or not) paddled out in kayaks and surfboards, they sat in the channel and began singing our national anthem while waving the Fiji flag. I sat out there trying to stay focused but I couldn’t help but feel so proud every time I heard someone say “come on Hannah!!!”, “Lako Hannah!!!” Finally I caught a set wave, completed it the way I wanted and backed it up with another bomb that undoubtedly put me in first place! It was one of the best feelings ever, to achieve my goal and have my country beside me literally carrying me up the beach.
As always, the closing ceremony was filled with excitement and celebrations! All teams/nations came together that night and celebrated the love of surfing as indigenous Pacific islanders. With amazing Samoan food and a full moon, the party didn’t stop till the break of dawn! Couldn’t have wished for a better outcome and experience and hope that we can continue to progress as a thriving foundation towards excelling in the sport of surfing but not to forget where the culture lies.
By Hannah Bennett