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News provided by ASP World Tour on 31 May 2005

IT’S 10.45am on Tuesday morning in the beautiful Fijian islands, and we’ve just started round four of the Globe WCT Fiji. After yesterday’s excellent surfing and waves were frustrated with rapidly rising swell and howling onshore winds mid-afternoon, the event having to be canned at the end of heat 13 of round two, we have resumed this morning at Tavarua’s wave machine named Restaurants. It’s ‘only’ averaging 3-5’+, and theres plenty of bump in the face, but there are some gems amongst the reef huggers, and it’s expected to rise all day. Globe’s blessings continue!

We started at 8.50am after a prolonged decision process. Yes, the leading edge of the ‘Perfect Storm’ swell is with us, but it is still sorting itself out. At around 1.40am this morning, when this photojourno’ awoke at his desk, face on the keyboard, the high tide conditions had the entire massive normally becalmed reef shelf around Namotu awash with confused chop and whitewater lines running in all directions.

The constant crashing of small waves on the island’s foreshore was loud and unrelenting, from that stage through until another awesome dawn, many a tale exchanged at breakfast this morning after what was a restless night’s sleep for most. There was a new face at the Namotu breakfast bar this morning too, some mighty big bloke, who flew in yesterday to surf the forecast swell.

He was up at around 5am, and spent a solid half an hour pouring over the weather charts on the computer in the Namotu office before emerging onto the dining deck as the daily procession of sleepy heads began. Grasping for mugs of coffee, surfers and work crew alike shook off their pillow heads looking a little dazed at the new Namotu inhabitant.

“Pumped?” asked Nathan ‘Hog’ Hedge, not shy at all, of the mountain man standing across from him on the Namotu deck at 5.45am.

“Pumped?” came the return, a boomeranged question.

“Are you pumped? You know…” continued Hog, puffing up and putting his arms out beside his torso like a wrestler entering the ring.

“Well there’s probably some surf out there,” said Laird Hamilton, deadpan, almost nonchalant, but without any hint or air of cockiness, as he is sometimes assigned by the gossipmongers.

“Struth he’s a big bastard!” said Dan Wills with a giggle. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone fitter. He looks like Rob Rowland-Smith’s brother!” said Willsy, himself looking the fittest he ever has, referring to the renowned Australian Rugby League professional trainer and taskmaster from Sydney. It was a good comparison, though Laird might weigh in bigger. A large man has a large appetite, as evidenced as the big bloke’s heaped plate of scrambled and fried eggs, baked beans, pancakes and bacon, as he stepped from behind the self-serve trays.

“I wish I didn’t have to eat so much, but I do. This stuff just goes straight through you anyway. Just two pumps out there and the energy from everything you’ve eaten in the last two weeks is gone,” joked Hamilton. He later went back for a further couple of plate loads.

At that stage, all including Laird Hamilton were still trying to work out what we had happening out in the ocean. At first light it looked like Namotu had grown that toothpaste commercial ‘ring of confidence, a ring of whitewater surrounding the island. As the pre- dawn progressively granted more vision, all could get a proper grip on what the ocean was doing.

To the west, outside Wilkes Pass was pitching big frothy walls, while to the west, looking through binoculars over the top of large lumps of ocean swell, the Cloudbreak reef looked awash. Just after dawn, Head Judge Perry Hatchett returned from his daily dawn check.

“It’s 10 to 12’ solid out at Cloudbreak, and not a drop out of place out on the second ledge, but it would be impossible to have a contest out there, and probably to paddle in. It kind of hurts to call the event on at 3-4’ cross-shore Restaurants, but there’s not much we can do about it. It’ll get better all day,” said Hatchett finally.

The Head Judge’s outlook was evidenced within a matter of hours. Young Brazilian Bernado ‘Little Piggy’ Pigmeu, no slouch in the big stuff, Hawaii or wherever, went out to Cloudbreak to watch Namotu’s Scott O’Connor towing in Laird, Slater and Dorian mixing it up, others whipping in the likes of Tom Whitaker, Mick Fanning and Luke Hitchings, and Maroubra madman combo Koby Abberton and Mark Mathews who arrived here this morning.

Sitting on his board watching the jet skis catapulting the boys into what Little Piggy called “15-18’+ faces”, from the channel, a wide set came rumbling through and there was no escape. Rolled and rolled, thrashed and trashed underwater, Bernado got to that consciously fateful, but seemingly spiritually calming point of relaxing the struggle and accepting that maybe his time of surfing Mother Earth was over. He popped up. Let’s hope and pray everyone does out there today, and escapes the wrath of the reef in here at Tavarua. There’s some waves that are growing to near six foot faces, running along the Tavi’ reef right now. Oh my goodness, what a wave, what a place, what a contest…


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