Cloudbreak swells, May 2018
Over the holiday weekend, while most folks were enjoying barbecues and easy living, a cadre of big-wave surfers descended upon the tiny island of Tavarua in Fiji for one of the biggest swells in recent years. With surf topping out well over 25 feet at the infamous Cloudbreak (sometimes referred to as Thundercloud Reef), it turned out to be a surf session for the history books. When all the spray settled, it was Chile's Ramon Navarro that came away with perhaps the biggest wave ever ridden in the South Pacific. "I'm simply without words to explain what happened yesterday," said Navarro via social media. "The dreams are there to make them come true ... nothing and no one can stop you."
Waiting at Cloudbreak
"With my great, lifelong friend Kohl Christensen, we had the plan to wait for the biggest wave of the day," explained Navarro. "We waited for two hours for this wave and really, if it were not for Kohl, this would never have happened."
Towner on a beast
One of the other major standouts on the day was Australian Laurie Towner. Formerly a sponsored surfer, when his contracts dried up, he had to take a job laying tile. Needless to say, he was one of the standouts both paddling into waves and towing into them. Here's Towner on a beast that he was whipped into via a jet ski.
Towner, pitted on another bomb he was able to get into under his own power.
Ear to ear grin
You'd be smiling too if you just got out of a few days of laying tile to ride the biggest and best waves of your life. Towner, rocking a grin from ear to ear between sets at Cloudbreak.
Maui's Kai Lenny made a last-minute strike mission to Fiji and managed to bag a couple of big ones. "Cloudbreak is the most incredible wave in the world. From 2 feet to 50 feet, it's perfection," said Lenny.
Lenny setting his fins before paddling out. In conditions like this, the devil can be in the details, and making sure the fins are screwed in tight, the leash string is knotted and the wax is sticky are all critical components to a successful ride.
What an experience
"What an experience this was," said Hawaii's Koa Rothman. "When I paddled out there was about 10 tow teams and three paddlers. Right before I caught this wave I watched my brother, Makua, almost die on one of the biggest waves I've ever seen. It only got me more psyched to catch one!"
Slater on the scene
Meanwhile, 11-time world champion Kelly Slater withdrew from the WSL contest in Bali citing a foot injury to chase the swell to Fiji. "Today will never be forgotten. It was an honor to be in the presence of an ocean doing this," said Slater. "There is no better wave on this earth than Cloudbreak. I did catch one really nice wave today, went straight perfectly well, and saw a hundred other good waves. When I'm ready, properly healed, and able to compete with the world's best, I will. I'm inspired and more excited than ever to see surfing where it's at! I'm calling at least one billion people on this Earth should have witnessed what went down today. This stuff is like people going to the moon ... by tomorrow people will say it didn't happen."
No shortage of beatings
Of course, not everybody made it through the day unscathed. There were certainly a fair amount of casualties in the water. And while nobody died or suffered any life-threatening injuries, there was no shortage of beatings.
Steep and deep
Steep and deep, Felipe Cesarano sets the pace with a late drop while the crowd looks on in utter amazement at the size, scope and perfection of Cloudbreak.
An epic day
One of the first to paddle out at Cloudbreak in the morning, California's Dane Gudauskas showed up with his game face on and came away with a couple rides he won't soon forget. "So much power in that swell, just getting off the boat you felt like a tiny spec that could be swallowed up by the ocean," said Gudauskas. "I was so nervous and excited sitting on the boat watching it, I thought it might calm the nerves to just get out and get one, and hopefully fire up the crew for an epic day of riding."
Sit back and behold
Another wave to sit back and behold, Australian Luke Shepardson was able to put himself in the spot to lock into a couple of giant waves and gave the folks on the boats in the channel plenty to cheer about.
History in the making
When it was all done and dusted, the sun slipped back into the Pacific and the magic of Tavarua once again blurred the lines between dreams and reality. "History in the making," said filmmaker Tim Bonython. "One of the great days of big wave surfing. So humbled to be part of it."