This was always going to be a monster - the biggest swell to rifle into Fiji's Thundercloud Reef since 2012 blipped into existence yesterday, drawing some of the top hellmen to book a flight over to the South Pacific island, or, for some like Kelly Slater, head to Cloudbreak rather than the WSL's event at Keramas.
And boy, did this session deliver. What transpired was an historic day of tow surfing, and in doing so, kind of re-legitimised tows place in modern big wave riding, a new advent in confidence for the tow crew. Oh and sure, tow's been around for years, but has been kinda shunned, pushed out of the spotlight for quite some time – even the WSL has chosen to reward paddle waves over tow. That is until Nazare stormed to prominence. It's hardly an easy task to relegate that hyper wave to the confines of paddle when tow is winning XXL awards.
Anyway, steering the good ship MSW's Insty feed over the past few days has been Stu Johnson, “It was wild and wooly, couple of victories at seas. Dane Gudauskas paddled into a bomb, there was so many crazy ones,” he said. If you need a lil' recap, sling on over to our Instagram account (HERE) and hit up the highlights... yeah, we can't take credit for calling it the Black Mamba swell, that's all Alex Gray...
Stu added: "It was a weird feeling in the mooring. Everyone watched it for about 45 minutes. Wind was kinda on it and Shaun Lopez broke the ice with Jon Roseman whipping him into the first three rides of the day. Then Dane Gudang paddled out and swung for a big lump that loaded on the middle reef and rode it masterfully, long enough for many lensman to capture the moment.
watched helplessly as he popped up just out of reach before the next wave in the set hit him I was helping with water safety and watched helplessly as he popped up just out of reach before the next wave in the set hit him. He dove under it only to get sucked right over the falls. Snapped his board and scraped his knuckles but, he was all smiles.
"Kai Lenny showed up and he and Anthony Walsh took my black and yellow ski and did whips. Kai Lenny is a legend. Koa Rothman paddled a monster as well as Luke Shepardsen."
Perhaps the most mind blowing moment came from Ramon Navarro (sequence above), hucking into one of the largest waves seen at Cloudbreak, certainly in recent times. He said, translated, “Simply without words to explain what happened yesterday. With my great friend Kohl Christensen, we had the plan to wait for the biggest wave of the day — the same one in 2012 that went unridden.
We waited for two hours for this wave and really if it were not for Khol this would never have happened We were all crazy thinking about it for all these years. We waited for two hours for this wave and really if it were not for Khol this would never have happened. The best wave of my life, even if it’s tow in. But it is what it is. Thanks Fiji for two of the best moments of my life.”
Mr Slater sketched out of Keramas to get to Fiji, and half expected him to face a keyboard lambasting. But when the swell is this historic (plus, it's Slater's favourite wave of all time), can you blame him? Besides, even though the king said he felt good enough to surf macking Cloudbreak, there's another gear you need to shift into when competing in the big league.
Explaining via Insty, he said: “I am not on the level I want and need to be to compete. 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.”
He added: “I’m calling at least 1 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.”
West Oz charger Zac Haynes was in the middle if it all yesterday and was only one of few people attempting to paddle. He told MSW: “Yesterday (Sunday) was out of control, definitely some of the craziest surfing I've ever seen.
“First thing I saw when getting to the channel was an easy 20ft bomb fright train down the reef. It was overcast, stormy and very moody. The guys towing first up got some incredible waves. Some of the biggest barrels I had ever seen.
“There were about four tow teams and only three of us paddling early and two guys kite surfing. As the tide started to drop the wind slightly backed off and it started really to light up. The guys towing definitely ruled the day. There was the craziest tow waves I've ever seen with that wave of Ramon's edged into my mind for ever. Paddling over that wave seeing the water drawing off the reef it was definitely the biggest craziest one of the day.
“Once you take off and set your line that's it, you're locked in and hoping the wave doesn't run away from you and you have enough speed to make it. Luckily, the water safety guys were on point and didn't miss a pick up all day. With out them there would have been a lot of people getting washed into the tower.”
And Garrett McNamara, usually found pitched up for when Nazare would be firing, added: “Everybody kept saying that yesterday was the best, biggest and most historic day that Cloudbreak has ever seen. I wasn’t really sure how to process all these different opinions, because compared to what we are use to at Nazare etc, it wasn’t that big.
“Then I saw a bunch of footage and it was amazing! I’m blown away by what went down. This place is where dreams come true — I’m definitely back on the saddle after the session yesterday! Going to paddle today! Also, the guy who packed the BOMB was Makua. Try and survive that thing.”
And as Gmac said, there's still more to come... stay tuned.