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Well, we arrived in paradise yesterday to pulsing swell and both Cloudbreak and Restaurants pumping. The pack was neaty divided along national lines – the Aussies on Namotu enjoying solid six to eight foot Cloudbreak to themselves – Mick F and Taj dominating with some clean tubes and sharp carves. Meanwhile, the Tavarua contingent were weaving through slightly ruffled but still crazy three to five feet Restaurants. It was always going to be a tough call getting the surfers to come in for the traditional Fijian welcoming ceremony but fortunately a good proportion of them did, as the Fijian Prime Minister himself was in attendance to welcome them. Globe presented the PM with his own Channel Island board and Kelly suggested to the PM’s wife that he might want to try a few lessons. Then the Fijians embarked on their enthusiastic kava drinking, singing and dancing and a good time was had by all.
Today, the swell had bumped up slightly and the morning session at Restaurants was busy but polite as the surfers warmed up for round one, A dropping tide slowed things down slightly as the day drew on.Taj sat for 15 minutes needing a three and didn’t get it. But even the ocean seemed to co-operate when Kelly paddled out for his heat. Pulsing sets roared through the lineup as he madly collected nines, while his competitors Taylor Knox and local trialist Esai picked up the left overs.
At one point, Kelly picked up another long, double tube ride, as the others paddled back out and the commentator announced they both needed a combination of 18.6. “Sorry, make that 19.6. Kelly just got a 10,” he announced. Mick F was sharp in winning his heat, while Occy cruised through his comeback to WCT competition. The energy level and swell seemed to drop after Kelly’s heat and it was the luck of the draw whether your heat was blessed with sets or not. With swell slowly dropping over the next few days, they are going to go into the first two heats of round two today, and the event could well be at solid Cloubreak for the next couple of days, with a wait for more swell to finish sometime in the latter stages of the waiting period. No complaints here, this place is absurdly beautiful, and there are waves everywhere. The food is amazing, the people the friendliest on earth, and if the swell drops out Namotu management have kindly organised helicopter rides to the nearest golf course and all equipment, for whoever cares to cough up $499 for the privilege. Don’t let anyone tell you the life of a pro surfer is a picnic – it is more like a smorgasbord over here.