Goodbye Fiji hello Cali

Paige Hareb fitting right in © Saltmotion

Goodbye Fiji hello Cali

Paige Hareb bids Fiji farewell & readies for California

Some of the World Tour Women openly showed their emotions of nerves and anxiety while others kept their poker face, most of the time.

It’s been big talk all year and apart from Carissa Moore and Stephanie Gilmore getting wildcards into the event over six years ago, none of the other women had much or no experience at the famous waves at Cloudbreak and Restaurants. Since the start of the year, everyone has been wondering how this Fijian week would work out.

With no sponsor ASP took a risk and backed the women, giving us one of the best events on tour all year. The first few days of the waiting period were too small for competition so we had a chance to relax, warm up and do other activities like stand-up paddle boarding, snorkeling, and fishing.

Johanne Defay, Paige Hareb, Pauline Ado, Bianca Buitendag © Paige Hareb

 

Tavarua is a small island with a five minute boat ride to Cloudbreak and you can see Restaurants from the island restaurant hence the name. The island only holds 52 guests so all the competitors and a lot of ASP were crammed on there all of us having to share rooms, something a lot of us hadn’t done before since we are selfish competitors and like our own space.

It worked out well though, we all got to know one another better but it was still friends on land and competitors in the water!

When the event finally ran the first two rounds were run at Cloudbreak in 4-6ft messy conditions, definitely nothing to brag home about. Nikki Van Dijk was super unlucky and hit her face whilst trying to duckdive, ending up with 16 stitches. It definitely dampened everyone’s day and made us that little bit more wary and renewed our respect for the famous breaks.

Wednesday oh big Wednesday! You know it’s big when big wave legend Laird Hamilton flies in the night before just for this big day. 12ft+ wash through sets forced the ASP to hold the contest at 4ft restaurants. A few barrels, big turns and high scores kept everyone happy.

The last day was held back at Cloudbreak but still with tricky conditions with wash through sets and solid 6-8ft faces on some. My heat with Malia Manuel was so hard, it looked good from the boat but once you got out there you felt like you were in the middle of the ocean and you sort of were. I think I did at least two backflips and got hit by my board underwater before I even caught a wave.

The whole finals day was very tricky and nowhere near as perfect as what it looks like from the TV. I want to thank ASP for getting us to Fiji and letting us surf big, challenging waves to try and push women’s surfing even further.

Congrats to Sally for taking out the event. I know she was pretty happy about winning in Rio at a beach break then coming to complete opposite reef break waves in Fiji and nailing it again. She really can surf amazingly in any conditions and that’s what the tour should be about, that’s who the true World Champion should be, someone that can surf amazing in any conditions, not someone that can only surf good and take off in 2-4ft onshore beach breaks.

Sally celebrating the win © Paige Hareb

My hat goes off to Sally for being so courageous and determined to win the Fiji Pro, especially since she has broken her arm out there before, it would have been pretty daunting going back there, let a lone having to surf 8-12ft waves out there.

On another note, I know there was a lot of harsh and negative comments on the Internet about the women surfing here,  but all of us women would like to see those people try and surf 8ft plus Cloudbreak.  To be compared to the men, when we are half the size and weight of them was harsh.

They have been coming here for so many consecutive years and they know it like the back of their hand. This was our first go, dumped in the deep end and we did it! I hope we’ll be back next year to be bigger and better!

Vanaka Fiji!

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