At the beginning of the Volcom Fiji Pro’s two-week waiting period off the coast of Tavarua, Fiji, a strong south swell began generating off the east coast of Australia. Early forecast models called for “large surf” to hit at Tavarua’s premier break, Cloudbreak, around June 8. So the contest got underway on the first two days of the waiting period, sprinting through round one and most of round two in highly contestable, pristine overhead conditions. But with one swell on the decline, and this other, meatier one looming on the charts, the contest went on hold for a few days.
Cloudbreak is a unique reef break in that it’s a perfectly tapering left-hander whether it’s three feet, six feet, or, as the surf world would come to see on Friday, 20 feet. Thanks to the magic of its bathymetry, Cloudbreak is able to hold its shape almost regardless of size. Keenly aware that the impending swell could very well be too big for contest surfing, Red Bull surfer Ian Walsh (pictured below) and his World Tour cohorts gathered on the Fijian mainland and waited, hoping for a chance to show the world what they’re capable of. When dawn broke on “Big Friday,” they were ready.
The ASP hemmed and hawed about whether or not they should call the contest on and start running heats. Originally making the call at 8:00 a.m., they would go on and off hold several times before the final two heats of round two were held around 11:00 a.m. By this point the surf was hanging in the 10- to 15-foot range, but due to “devil winds” whipping up the water, the wave faces had three-foot chop in them and the surf was deemed unfit for competition.
By 2:00 pm the contest was finally called on for good, and half an hour later, the Cloudbreak lineup had made a miraculous recovery. It glassed off and just kept getting bigger and bigger. The swell was unrelenting. The big-wave warriors descended on the lineup like locusts. By late afternoon it was peaking at 20 feet and absolutely perfect, and guys were pulling in.
“Fiji was mind blowing today ... best surf I think I have ever seen,” said Walsh, who bagged one of the best waves of the day and has seen plenty of massive surf at his home break of Jaws, on Maui, Hawaii, to qualify the statement. “These were the craziest big waves I have ever seen.”
“Best surfing I’ve ever seen! Thanks for the show legends!” tweeted Mick Fanning, currently second in the world title hunt.
When it was all said and done, Chile’s Ramon Navarro (pictured above) might have made the loudest statement of all, taking off on a 20-footer and pulling in deep behind the curtain. He was buried so far back in the tube that most viewers gave up hope that’d he’d make it out. But Navarro held on and gutted his way through section after section, only to get spit out on the shoulder. On a day that saw many a heroic ride, his ranked as the best.
“There’s a little reef out the back that lets you in,” explained 11-time world champion Kelly Slater. “And then they run... and you don’t know if you can make it. [Navarro] was way back there and I thought he fell and I’m like, ‘There’s no way... Oh, my gosh!’“
And like that, surf history was made. There are still three days of the Volcom Fiji Pro left, but at this point it’s kind of hard to figure how it could possibly get any better. Watch it all on the livestream at Red Bull TV.
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