The new “open access” rules handed down by the Fijian government have doubled the number of surf spots available to guests at Namotu.
Those reefs just a mile or so south by southwest of Namotu that were kapu at the start of summer 2010 are now easily accessible by the Namotu boats, giving guests a greater variety of options.
If you’re thinking “playful” and “warm” and “fun” then you have the right impression of Swimming Pools, a reef-break 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 longboarders, Swimming Pools has the speed, power and length to do all those things you doodle in your algebra book and daydream about in your cubicle.
Maui surfer Dave Kalama summed up the Swimming Pool experience like this on his website, after his first return to Namotu in 11 years: “Swimming Pools is probably my favorite wave in the world. You never feel like you’re in danger. You can long or short board it and it’s perfect for stand up. It’s got a barrel then a big cut back, and it’s easy to square off the bottom and hit the lip. It’s just a really easy wave to have fun on. Imagine Malibu on its best day ever - then clean it up a bit, crystallize the water, put the water temp at 76 degrees, take away the crowd and ta-daa!!!”
What Restaurants is to Tavarua, Namotu Left is to Namotu - 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 6 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 kitesurf world as Cloudbreak is in the surfing world.
About a mile northwest of Namotu Island, across the channel, Wilkes Pass is a powerful right barrel that breaks on the southern tip of a long barrier reef. Wilkes is a serious wave that will test the skill of any surfer, especially as it approaches the 10 foot mark. Access to all the surf breaks is by boat, with a boatman and radio on board in case of a broken board or an up-close-and-personal inspection tour of the Fijian reefs.
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 just about three miles straight south of Namotu, as the frigate bird flies. A world famous left reef pass that is regularly voted one of the 10 Best/Most Challenging waves in the world, Cloudbreak was described by Matt Warshaw in The Encyclopedia of Surfing:
“Cloudbreak (a shortening of “Thunder Cloud Reef,” which is translated from “Nakuru Kuru Malagi”) is a powerful open-ocean reef… waves here often subdivide into three main sections - the Point, the Middle and Shish Kebabs – which occasionally link up to offer a screaming, 200-yard-long ride, with a number of tube sections. Like many tropical reef-pass breaks, Cloudbreak tends to get faster, shallower and more critical as it goes. Waves here are regularly four to six feet, and it’s been ridden up to 18 feet.”
Not necessarily always gnarly, there is a growing club of surfers who come to Fiji once a year, psyched up and geared with their best quiver, to face the iconic wave that is “Cloudbreak”. Any surfer is more complete having faced this legendary wave.
A left-breaking wave 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. Matt Warshaw described Restaurants in The Encyclopedia of Surfing: …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. But the shape is perfect, and skilled riders are able to ride inside the tube at Restaurants for 10 or even 15 seconds at a time.”
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.
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 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.