Fiji Pro World Cup

Day 2: After a delayed Opening Ceremony the Fiji Pro World Cup is officially declared open with a traditional Fijian blessing

Day 2 of the Fiji Surf Pro was in many ways a celebration. A welcome day of respite from the anxious tension that preceded Day 1, and the hyper-stoke that accompanied it. Opening ceremonies were postponed until Day 2 to provide the opportunity for Round 1 to run on Day 1, conditions being so prime for sailing. Now that the wind had eased, and the swell subsided, a collective breath could be taken.

In the morning, our media team continued to upload and edit the captures taken from the 1st Round. The layout of our hotel breakfast diner seating becomes largely governed by photos and video. Tables are arranged in patterns of bunched-up islands centered around laptop screens. With one photographer sifting through his or her media, a host of riders gather in formation behind the photographer’s shoulder. Like prospectors panning a creek bed, the process of editing is to find the gold as quickly as possible, assess its value, and move on to scanning for more. This runs counter to the instinct of the windsurfer, who wants to ogle the spectacle of a great shot, emphasizing it with a hoot and further frustrating the editor’s efforts to streamline their workflow! One corner of the diner would erupt in an elated cry, signaling that a perfectly timed shot of a big aerial was found, then murmuring would travel around the room and athletes from other islands would waft towards the scent of fresh content. A kind of musical chairs ensued.

Just for context, on Day 1 we had a crew of five cinematographers and photographers placed in various areas of Cloudbreak. A good majority of the initial images that came out were from husband and wife duo: Fish Bowl Diaries. Paul Karaolides was shooting the channel-angle while mounted on a ski. Paul’s wife, Sofie Louca, captured stills from aboard the Thundercloud trimaran, pulled back some 200m from her husband.

It’s worth noting that after roughly a 10hr tour aboard the trimaran, Sofie shifts to all-night-editing mode just to get images out in time to post on the IWT’s facebook page.

This happens remarkably without much thanks, and miraculously without Red Bull.

Jace Panebianco sat inside the reef, where the old WSL judges’ tower has long since foundered in the reef, but the foundation still provides enough purchase, precarious though it may be, to place a tripod. Guillermo, a photographer for National Geographic, flew in to document the event. He swam in position just outside of the most critical barreling section, right before the wave runs into shallow reef at Shish Kebabs. All these people push their comfort boundaries in an effort to create their best art, and glean the greatest angle for the perfect shot. Paul van Bellen flies drone from aboard the Thundercloud, providing aerial angles to the broadcast. Paul’s also responsible for the multitude of the behind-the-scenes gold coming out on YouTube!

Each and every member of the media team works tirelessly through long days and late nights to get content online. They tackle the challenges of spotty Wi-Fi access, the logistics of working on the water, and the oppressive Fijian heat. Thanks to their efforts, notably those of Brian Welsh, Tritian Young-Glasson and Kai Katchadourian who pulled an all-nighter editing footage, a beautifully polished recording of Round 1 is available to view online.

While the media team works to capture the magic, the riders are out there pushing the limits of bodies, boards and rigs. The gear carnage on day 1 was significant but thankfully no bodies were broken.

The task of sifting though broken gear turned into an act of warm remembering. The scars our boards and sails bear becoming talking-points around the grounds of the resort. Each scrape and ding: a unique sigil, describing a moment of adrenaline. Among sailors, these moments are so easily communicated, the dialect of carnage pervades language barriers and culture differences.

After the morning ritual of breakfast and media processing, and once the gear had been thoroughly dressed down and prepped for the next days, our Opening Ceremony was ready to commence. This ceremony was the official welcoming of the windsurf community by the Village, owners of the Kuru Kuru reef. These villagers came with ceremonial bowls and Kava, sharing with us the traditions of their people. The officiating chiefs first oversaw the mixing of the Kava, then marshaled its distribution through the means of coconut-shell bowls. To drink Kava is to bond with the land and people, and the traditional nature of the ceremony slows the pace of time here: Fiji time. The word “Bula” is spoken when receiving Kava -a similar word to Aloha in Hawaiian- and “Matha” is the word used to express gratitude and finality once the cup is emptied. The Kava bowls are passed around the ceremony so slowly and deliberately that a clandestine kind of calm sets over the grounds of the hotel. In drinking, and speaking the Fijian words of gratitude, the nature of the day is profoundly changed. Now the concerns of media can, temporarily, disappear, and the concerns of human beings relating to one another come to the fore. The proceedings were also enriched by the fact that we had already gone and sailed the spot, and so we drank Kava together, grateful for the generosity of the Fijians, humbled by the perfection that we had experienced, lying just offshore.

In the most hospitable fashion, villagers had also prepared a monumental feast of slow-cooked pork and smoked lau lau leaves. Music and dance ensued, and kava flowed more casually now that the ceremony was concluded. It was during this time that true bonds could be made. And not just between windsurfers and Fijians, but amongst the diverse ensemble of windsurfers participating in the Unified Tour. There may be no better way for PWA and IWT athletes to come together than over a bowl of Kava, satisfying soul food, and the afterglow of a perfect windsurfing session.

Text by Bernd Roediger
Photos by Fish Bowl Diaries

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