New Caledonia recently hosted the 6th annual Melanesian Surfing Cup which welcomed 5 different Pacific Nations including Vanuatu, New Zealand Maori, Samoa, Fiji and the host nation New Caledonia. The Fiji team consisted of Che Slater, Bruce Climo, Lesi Navuwai, Aca Ravulo Lalabalavu, Sanaila Kaikai and John Vasea holding it down for the juniors. A quick meet and greet from FSA officials at the airport with the team while we put on the uniform generously provided by our sponsor “Cloudbreak”. Looking smart while lugging boards to check-in, we were off to a smooth start. Upon landing in New Caledonia the boys were quick to pull out the team hoodies as the temperature dived. Loading onto the bus with 40 other competitors we were driven thru the night several hours to our home for the week at a Catholic boarding school in Borail.
All surfers were down the beach the following afternoon to see what we were in for and the opening ceremony of the 6th Melanesian cup. As the other countries took the stage for the mixing of the sands and various haka challenges were performed, It become clear that team Fiji had around 2 minutes to get organised and practise a haka before being summoned to the stage. Aca took the lead and we delivered the goods. Tuesday was a practise day for competitors and a training day for judges. The main right hand reef break where competition was held had around 50 frothers on the peak, Team Fiji were having none of that and organised a boat with the local crew to surf the lefthander called Secrets over the bay before being chased onto the reef by a medium size great white shark. All action.
Competition kicked off on the Wednesday with longboards, juniors and Stand up paddle surfing. The wave was a soft righthander with Aca and Bruce progressing to and finishing in the second round of the longboard.
Sana and Bruce were in the SUP surfing with Bruce progressed to the next round before being knocked out in the semis. Summing it up as “The waves were junk and the boys were good”.
The teams only Junior John Vasea (12) was loving the entire event making friends with all the crew and dominating the evening skateboard sessions. John was knocked out in early rounds of under 14 and under 18 however the grom is still young and on the rise for future events.
The Stand UP Paddle long distance 10km race was always going to be a tough one with New Caledonia having the former world champ leading the large sup scene over there. We drew straws for which 30 inch wide boards we would use and made our way up the river to our start. Having to wear life jackets wasn’t ideal and the wide boards the team had wasn’t ideal but Lesi, Sana and Bruce got amongst it. The 4 boys from New Cal made an early break leaving the rest of the field to fight amongst them selves. Many competitors pulled out of the race after being confronted by strong headwinds however we all finished gaining points for Team Fiji.
The 5 km SUP beach race held the following day included 4 laps out around the buoys and surfing the wave in before a beach run with your board. Such a epic format and the New Cal boys once again hogging the podium.
The open mens shortboard was always going to be the main event of the show. A small swell emerged for the event to have the sets around shoulder high but it was no cloudbreak. Che had managed to break his hand the previous night in a skateboarding fall but with the help of ducktape he manned up and paddled out to progress his first heat along with Lesi. That was as far as the boys made with small wave specialists getting to work. Chris Malone from NZ took the finals out.
Big congratulations to New Caledonia for winning the Melanesian Cup and hosting such a successful event. Everyone had a great time, new friendships were sealed over a few number one beers and many laughs were had. At the prize giving Sana took away the trophy for having the biggest smile and Team Fiji took the award for sharing the spirit/Bula/ laughter of the event.
– 16th August, 2015. Story by : Bruce Climo