FUEL TO THE FIRE

Inside the Fiji Launchpad pro­fect de­signed to cat­a­pult our best young surf ath­letes onto the world stage

New Zealand Surfing - - The Connectors - Words and pho­tos by Derek Mor­ri­son

On our last day in Fiji we dis­cover what we came for: a big long-pe­riod swell turn­ing Cloud­break into an arena fit for only the best.

Ev­ery 10-15-min­utes the sets pour through and this one is the big­gest so far. Caleb Cut­more takes off and im­me­di­ately hunts for a bar­rel. The crowd and line-up of boats erupt in a cheer at see­ing Cloud­break re­veal its true, mer­ci­less self and with Caleb, 15, locked inside. On the next wave Jonas Tawharu, 18, fades deep and slots up into a cav­ernous sec­tion. The cheers again. Then El­liott Brown, 17, takes off late, pulls in and takes a high line through an­other over­sized roar­ing pit. The hoots and hollers are the last thing he’ll hear be­fore it en­velops him for an eter­nity un­til he finds the exit. “Soon af­ter pad­dling out, I took off on a wave and got the long­est, best bar­rel of my life,” re­calls El­liott. “When I kicked out into the chan­nel, all these Fi­jians on a long­boat were hoot­ing and cheer­ing about my wave. It was one of my best mo­ments in surf­ing ever.”

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