LI A B V S. F IJ I 8 . 6 5 0 0 ° S, 1 1 5 . 2 1 6 7 ° E 1 8 . 0 0 0 0 ° S, 1 7 9 . 0 0 0 0 ° E A DREAM LOCATION DUEL. BY COL BERNASCONI
Let me start this dream island duel by stating categorically I am no longer on the payroll of a sur ng magazine. Nor do I hold any hope for a prolonged career in the sur ng world as a freelance writer, post this article (print, web or otherwise). I've not (intentionally) grown a beard in ve years and am now (basically) a 9 to 5 working surf rat that is going to tell it like it is. No pro stoke bullshit. No beachside baloney. This is a straight up question for the ages … is a surf trip to Namotu Island in Fiji better than your stock standard run across the coals in that much loved (and unfortunately well worn) island to our north – Bali?
My rst thought was that surely there had to be an algorithm in this? A pie graph, a PowerPoint presentation, Something? A guide that shows "educated" surfers which sur ng destination is going to supply the highest wave count per dollar ratio. And while we're at it, we should also factor in where we can expect the least amount of traf c time, easy access to a multitude of quality reef breaks,minimal chance of a venereal disease,cheap beer and just as importantly – which "destination" of the two will have our "understanding" partners (they'll never be 100% onboard) cheering us on as we leave for the airport knowing we'll come back better for the experience. Well, guess what surf fans? I've found it! The answer is that glorious group of islands sitting in close proximity to the eastern boob of our country – Fiji. Perhaps (like me) we can dribble out a sad tale of having once visited in our (sans surfboard) teens. With pure grace on her side my mother took my sister and I to Fiji when I was 13 – high point? Nearly pashing a well endowed chick from Cronulla in the pool. But the horror I now live is knowing that our hotel was a mere 20 minute boat ride away from two of the world's best left-handers. Arghhhhhh! But I digress…
The truth is I used no graph to reach this conclusion. There is no wave count abacus – but there is this, the word of a return surf-ice-man (service man analogy – sorry I know) that has served no less than 12 tours of duty to the magical island of Bali. So, let's get down to it boppers. While I love Bali, the one bludgeoning factor working against it from the get-go is wave count. I am astonished by the difference in feet-on-board-up-and-riding time between Fiji to Bali. Remember the simpli ed rhetoric in this "travel piece" is to establish which island offers an everyman (or woman) surfer the greatest opportunities to advance and dance their sur ng kicks away.
Compare the ights for starters. A three and a half hour ight to Nadi (from Sydney) beats 8 hours to Bali hands down. Air travel has lost its romantic allure, and despite Louie CK saying otherwise, the wonder has worn off too – DM me on Instagram when the hover board's nally available and can traverse water.
On my recent October trip to Fiji I landed fresher (and less expectant) than a ight to Bali. Only to be scooped up into the loving arms of Namotu's transport manager. A diligent and friendly fellow named Baboo. The ve Indonesian male names have nothing on "Baboo".
A short and sobering (poverty happens here too) bus ride later and a gaggle of American Namotu-ites and myself land on a soft,swell protected reef just minutes away from island heaven. Describing the ensuing 20 minutes of fresh Fijian air lling my lungs as we raced in a boat towards Tavarua and Namotu would be a fail no mater what I said. No congestive city fumes,no screeching tyres – just sea birds, ying sh and Lucy in The Sky With Diamonds dreaming. I've never arrived to a destination so cleansed and puri ed.
Better yet, within an hour I was bailing out of one of Namotu's many well-equipped boats into the line up at Cloudbreak. Despite its fearsome reputation, at 3-5 feet this wave's completely surfable and enjoyable to no end. There's little wonder Parko and Slater (to name a couple) claim it as their number one go-to wave. Being just shy of 15 minutes from Wanga's bar – a Gilligan Island-esque watering hole at ground zero on Namotu, it's as handy as any cold tall Bintang on that other island.
Comparing the 15 minute boat ride (free and always ready and waiting once you're an island-ite) to having to nd a driver, haggle with said driver, and then ght the traf c in Bali is like comparing a toothy head job to that of a bee-sting-lipped Goddess who could suck a golf ball through a hose. There is no comparison.