Surf Lifesaving

Fijians have been surfing in some form or other for probably thousands of years beginning with surfing canoes over reef’s to enter lagoons and then as recreation. The Fijian language has a number of references to surfing and according to Paul Geraghty our most esteemed linguist from the University of the South Pacific surfing was and is practiced at Vuna, the southern most point of Taveuni using papa ni savasava (home made washboards!). Other areas of surfing in Fiji were Tunuloa, Kade (Koro) and Mataisuva.

On Nacula in the Yasawa’s their vocabularly has two references to surfing vakatosiua – surfing lying down, and vitaubiau – surfing standing up. Paul doesn’t think that surfing faded out in Fiji, it’s just that it was never widespread and it was in places visitors rarely went.

Earliest known written references to Fijian surfing are 1890 – Thomas Williams who writes, “youngsters use the surfboards which are so often found in Polynesia”. In 1910 a traveling priest H. Wilfred Walker was given an exhibition of surf board swimming (sic) by the local women of Vuna on orders of the high chief Ratu Lala.

Fast forward a hundred years to 1981 and the locals from Lami begin surfing Suva reef on modern fiberglass boards in the era of the super short boardshorts!


“As they rode into shore on the crest of a wave I many times expected to see them dashed against the rocks which fringed the coast. I had seen the natives in Hawaii perform seventeen years before, but it was tame in comparison to the wonderful performances of these Fijian women…”

Leave a Reply