Exploring Western Samoa
Allured by reports of sick waves, steady trades and the appetite for adventure Scott Mckercher, Anne Marie Reichman, Peter Volwater, Rick Markham and John Carter headed to the South Pacific Islands of Western Samoa to explore:
"A friend of mine described Samoa to me as ‘The land that time forgot’. The main island, Upolo, had waves no-one knew existed, and the local islanders protected their culture with a savage dedication that, according to history, earned them the reputation as the South Pacific's gnarliest Polynesian race. The Samoans fought invasions and established a hierarchy of chiefs to rule, give land to villagers, and oversee a nation into peaceful loving existence. Now, the only interruption is from visiting surfers and tourists!"
6th FEB 2001: "YA COMIN?"
I flicked straight past all my other messages and clicked on "Ya comin?" an e-mail from no other than Aussie wave guru Scottie McKercher. It sounded interesting:
"JC…Want to Go to Samoa in May. What you doing? Keen? Trying to set up a trip. Apparently sick waves with good winds. Think about it. Later Scott"
Three months later, (May 3rd 2.15am to be precise) I am stepping out of an Air New Zealand jumbo (business class section) at Apia airport on the Island of Upolu, Western Samoa. It feels like I am in a sauna and within seconds I am drenched in sweat! But its 2.15 in the morning, this is ridiculous! I later found out we were only a few degrees away from the equator, in a land where the temp rarely drops below 95 and the sticky humidity never goes away!
The trip had been the idea of Scottie McKercher and his Dutch girlfriend Anne-Marie Reichman. We were to be joined by a couple of Scottie’s buddies, Peter Volwater and Rick Markham who were due to arrive from Hawaii in a couple of days"
THE SAMOAN CULTURE
"Scottie is in the business of tracking down potential set ups for wave sailing so I left it to his better judgment to head over to Savaii. We caught a ferry and left Upolu behind us. Savaii is the less inhabited of the two islands and we immediately felt that although welcome, tourists were not fundamental to the islands economy or way of life. Unlike Upolu, Savaii is fighting to maintain its identity as a Samoan island for Samoan people living the Samoan way of life"
THE WAITING GAME
"I took a walk around the back streets of the village one evening, just minding my own business and enjoying the whole ambiance and tranquillity of the place. There were people were out in their gardens sweeping leaves, tidying up, others were just sitting around, most people smiled, some waved. Chickens, pigs and horses all roam freely around the place. It all felt very surreal, a whole different world, a whole different way of life! Most Samoans live in open houses, there are no walls, just four pillars with a roof on top. It’s too hot to have walls!"
"For several days we woke expecting to see a rise in the swell, but each time raised the head to look out of the Fale to disappointment. Flat again. We surfed up the coast most days in pretty fun waves, but that was a 40-min drive, which started to wear thin after a while. A big Vailima was always a good way to ease the drive though (The very fine local beer)
At the beginning there was no wind and no waves, but then I got all excited as the wind started to brew, showing the prospective set up a little more. You could just see with waves it would have been an incredible set up"
BACK TO UPOLU
"We finally moved over to the Island of Upolu and spent a very welcome night at the Sa’moana resort. Very nice set up! I beat Scottie at Table tennis 2-1 and then 5-0. He was not a happy chappy! Beer cost twice as much here though! Salamumu, the resort's location on Upolo's most southern-facing shore, picks up any sniff of south, east and west swell moving through the South Pacific. All swells are generated by lows sweeping up between Australia and New Zealand, or by hurricanes near Hawaii that bash Upolo's north shores with waves during the wet season. Spirits were up, we had moved to a new location and we had decent waves right out in front of the camp"
"So then we came to our last day of having John the photog around. A gray looking day, which started off glassy and which had my spirits down thinking that was it for the trip. No sailing and no Photo's.
But then it picked up a little and there was a cloud out to sea that looked a little windy. I told Pete and ran back to our Fale to rig up as the wind continued to build. Rigged and ran back to the resort and fully planed out over the reef. (We had to sail here as it was Sunday and weren’t allowed to sail in front of the village)
There was just enough water over the reef to get out and we were on.
The peak moved around a lot and you had to be careful which ones you picked. The waves would build and then jack violently as they hit the reef. Hollow powerful waves that were clean with some nice bowl sections. Which is pretty much the standard for Samoa. If you want to play, you got to expect to pay. The set ups are virtually all, hollow powerful waves more suited to advanced wavesailors and surfers.
Peaking!!!!!!!!!!!!!. After so long waiting it was almost unbelievable I was sailing. I had the reef to myself, as the boys were a little slow off the mark. Pete then got out and got a few, and Rick as well, but basically by the time they got it together the wind backed off again. A fleeting glimpse of what could have been this trip. And one that's going to bring me back again. But next time with foresight from hindsight from this trip"
"It is Sunday when we finally get 15-20 knots of wind. Officially you’re not allowed to surf, 99% of the Samoan's are Christian and it remains a resting day. We are told that as long we don't sail in front of the church we're OK. Scottie gets the first wave rides as he's absolutely ripping throwing sick cutbacks and I see him aerial over a section looking from behind the waves. The conditions are firing, but it's that shallow that I hit my fin every other time just going out on the coral. Some waves are closing out and break on the reef, with 2 feet of water the whitewash explodes back up to mast high!!"
TIME TO GO
"Samoa is a special place. Almost untouched by time and technology, which is even more evident back here in Hawaii. (The contrast of the locals getting over run with onslaught of America) And I got the feeling that that's the way it's meant to be. As it's definitely the way the Samoans want it to be.
So maybe that the way it's meant to be"
"Shame we missed a few days of decent conditions but at least we did get something on the very last morning. The surf was pretty heavy and the reefs are live and razor sharp! The Vailima was a decent beer especially the big bottles at beer o clock. Two weeks was not really long enough… I could have spent some more time exploring Upolu. The people were friendly and very humble. Respect the ways of the Samoans and they will respect you!
"I awoke on my last morning in Samoa with a hangover. It was Pete’s birthday the night before, moving slow as ever, grabbed a couple last minute waves before Polynesian Paralysis fully set in and headed to the airport to see if they could sneak me back out of the country. We looked back over the past three weeks at what a special place Samoa was and how that very few places in the world are really left untouched... Samoa was as close as it gets! We had gone back to what the soul of the sport was all about -- a few close friends and a lot of sick waves! Fafitai Samoa!"
"It is time to say FAFETAI LAVA- Thank you very much Samoa. It was an incredible trip we'll never forget"
SATUIATUA BEACH RESORT
CONTACT: MATE (Western Samoa) (685) 56026.
CONTACT Website: www.wordsurfaris.com E-mail: Shaun@worldsurfaris.com