Embrace surfing, it is the enduring path to life’s fulfilment! Whether it is simply the immersing of oneself in sea water’s negative ions or the thrill of the drop, the pleasure of surfing is a composite of experience. After 55 years in the waves, I highly recommend the sport for good health and an exciting lifestyle. For me the best way to keep surfing, long after others have adopted a more sedentary existence, is to have surfing daughters ………….over a 32 year span!!
Making the most of my mid-life crisis, I arrived in Fiji in 1988. My dream was to anchor my yacht in a sheltered bay with an epic surf spot off the stern. Well circumstances involving a leaky timber boat and bouts of heavy weather brought me to Suva Harbour & the beckoning Lighthouse break. What a great wave! Only matched by the colourful locals with the same passion. Young Matthew Light, Conrad Maessup, Todd Bower, Adam Watkins and Uri Kurop were the reigning groms of the day!
Marcus Oliver, undeniably the `Father of Surfing in Suva’, discovered the Lighthouse break in the 1980s & ran surf tours from the then Tradewinds Hotel. He is Fiji’s premier survivor of a life of surfing & good times. Back then, he managed against all odds to make Club Masa one of surf tourism’s icons in Fiji. With its Rivermouth break & a backdrop of shifting sand dunes, Club Masa was the surfers’ clubhouse during the preparation for the South Pacific Games in Tahiti, & the Fiji Surfing Association’s birthplace
The 1995 South Pacific Games (SPG) catalyzed the board-riders in Fiji to get serious & lobby Pacific-wide for surfing to be recognized as a SPG sport. FASANOC’s requirement for a formal sporting entity gave rise to the Fiji Surfing Association, now in its 20th year.
Those were the golden years, with surf devotees like Edwin Gardner, Tim McBride, and Godfrey Eaton. Edwin, with his penchant for philosophy & dedication to be Fiji’s best surfer, was an inspiration. Tim was another who never fitted the mould of organised training as being the path to greatness. He would often show up halfway through our competitions and then win them. Our gratitude goes to Godfrey for hosting us at Club Masa where a positive mental attitude was enough payment. Good surf, good times and a general philosophy of Go Hard or Go Home!!
Ian Muller, my rival on the waves, has proven to be the best longboarder, and entrepreneur that introduced Fiji’s first and longest-running surf shop. Now making boards, offering surf tours and an arch-conservationist, he remains a powerful presence in the West’s surf scene.
Surf Fiji created by Steve Turner in the mid-1980s, was the international face of local entrepreneurship. In 1990, I was invited to take part in a surfari to Cape Washington, with Simon Anderson, Dog Marsh, Robbie Bain, Beau Emerton, and photo-maestro Joli. In the village, our yaqona was unexpectedly pushed back and sevu-sevu rejected by the Chief. Despite months of preparation & a huge logistical effort, we were not allowed to surf due to the sexual indiscretions of a previous visitor. In the face of confusion and disappointment, Steve calmly reached for his guitar and broke into a lively Fijian song, and then another. After several Turner renditions, attitudes softened and the kava was flowing. By the end of the night, we were granted three days surfing the most amazing Kadavu barrels at one of Fiji’s finest breaks (see Surfing Life, August 1990).
The participation and sponsorships by Tavarua and Namotu has been vital to the FSA and immensely appreciated. Our best surfers hail from Tavarua, exemplified by FSA President Isei Tokovou and Aca Ravulo’s wildcard entries in the Quiksilver and Volcom Pro events, and Aca’s recent first-place performance at the 2014 Melanesian Cup in Samoa.
Rick and John have always been great FSA supporters, with nearly half the 1995 SPG team being Tavarua boys, and Tavarua hosting the 2003 SPG. Many of our training sessions and competitions were held at Cloudbreak, with boat transport and lunch provided on the island
Namotu Island Resort has also been instrumental in strengthening the FSA & hosting contests, thanks to owner & top waterman Scotty. The annual Craig Memorial Longboard Comp brings us together to commemorate one of the FSA’s lost comrades – Craig McElrath.
FSA’s rise to prominence would not have be possible without the tireless efforts of John Philp over the past 8 years. Through his leadership, the FSA is thriving & displayed in all its glory on a very active website (thank you, web guru Joel Frost!). JP is a true Goldfinger with the Midas touch. He enlisted the help of Cassie Thomas and now Andy Eames through AusAid’s Ambassadors for Youth Abroad scheme.
Andy and Godfrey’s commitment to the Little Nippers is opening the door for the next generation of young grommets.
The FSA remains the principal sporting body for Fiji surfing, & continues to have a vibrant membership & competition program within Fiji and internationally. It is well respected by the Fiji National Sports Commission and FASANOC, due to the professional level of our organisation which includes a 5-year strategic plan highlighting youth development and water safety. Thanks to JP with his fingers on the pulse of government sporting committees. With keyboard & iPhone, his proposals have made funds available for a number of diverse initiatives.
Vinaka vakalevu also to those who have taken on the mantle of expanding the FSA into Chapters: Matia Waqa – Tabanivono; Ian Muller- Vodo-Ua; Bruce Climo & Andrew Brown – Coral Coast Board Riders; John Rounds & crew – Kulukulu Surf Club; Kris Stice – Christian Surfers Fiji; Uri Kurop and Godfrey Eaton – Wailoaloa Boardriders; & Ed Lovell – Suva Boardriders.
Long live the FSA!!