Scoping the Solomons
Pics and words by Brad Malyon
As surfers most of us embrace that sense of adventure that is part of a well-deserved surf trip. Whether it’s half an hour up or down the coast or boarding a dodgy chicken boat in Padang Harbour, it doesn’t matter, its all about leaving the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We all love it and in most cases it’s all about that “search” for perfection that drives our wandering souls.
So when I received a phone call from Coastalwatch editor Horvath to document a surf trip with three amazingly talented pro surfers to some out of the way destination I jumped at the chance, saying yes before I even knew where in the world I was going.
All I comprehended after my first briefing was that we were off to the Solomon Islands, somewhere out in the Pacific.
Fast forward to when I was gazing through the window of our trusty twin otter plane overlooking a series of perfect reef passes with Californian Benji Weatherly, and coolie rippers Shaun Harrington and Brent Dorrington alongside me, and I knew we were in for something special.
The Solomon Islands archipelago consists of 922 islands and is located east of Papua New Guinea. The estimated population is 500,000 and over 90 indigenous languages are spoken. Coral reefs provide a plenty of fish for the local communities, but most importantly to the travelling surfer, the smaller outer atolls are home to some world class surf breaks, that cater for intermediate to advanced level surfers.
Situated North in the Coral Sea above the coast of Queensland, the chain of islands receive all available swell from the south, generated mostly by cyclones and deep low pressure systems that form off the coast of Australia, making it an ideal surf destination during our summer months. The north of the island chain also receives typhoon swells almost year round.
Next time you ponder the decision of where to go, and you want to do something a little different, think about our neighbours in the pacific. It’s closer to home, the locals are friendly; the food is top notch and the waves rate high on the frothometer.
Return to paradise
Tourism in the friendly islands has suffered dramatically in the years since the political unrest and turmoil the country endured from 1999 to 2002. However surfers, divers and fishing enthusiasts are heading back to experience the natural treasures of the Solomon’s.
We flew into Honiara the capital city from Brisbane, on a short 3hr flight. A connecting twin otter touched us down in Gizo on a small island, which was a World War II Air field built by the Japanese constructed from crushed coral. The flight was a treat, we flew straight over reef breaks and beautiful palm filled atolls for as far as the eye could see, there seemed to be a wave rolling down a reef everywhere, barrels spitting, and lips smashing like thunder. The kinds of images you dream about when planning a trip were quickly becoming reality.
We lucked into a nice sized groundswell thanks to a low somewhere off the coast of Cairns. The wind was offshore so the lines were clean and evenly spaced; the boys were going bananas with familiar chants of YEEEEW! bellowing from our 20ft tendor as we entered the bay that was home to “church rights”. A pure white coloured church shaded by some bright green coconut palms provided a scenic backdrop to an amazing stretch of reef that served up some unforgettable lengthy right hand barrels and sections to bang the hell out of.
As expected the fella’s went to town in the perfect conditions. Benji casually and stylishly scratched his way out of some timeless pits that rolled down the reef like a freight train. The young guns “Dozza” and “Hazza” were just as impressive, boosting some incredible grab rail airs, to the amazement of the local kids who would gather everyday in the channel on their home made dug out canoes, screaming and laughing their heads off in excitement. The trio surfed their heads of for hours on end, suffering at times due to the harsh tropical sun and warm water temperature. Nothing a few beers didn’t sooth at the end of the working day though.
The guys were so impressed by the place that they started to compare some of the breaks to those in the Ments. Cruising around in the tender we started to realise that we had stumbled on a little surfing paradise. From the snippets we heard from the locals, regarding the consistency of swell and the light winds in the area you can’t help but think there must be so many more breaks yet to be surfed, or even to be discovered in the Solomon’s.
Gizo and its neighbouring islands offered only a few accommodation options. “The Gizo Hotel “is Australian owned and was a pleasure to stay at, offering comfortable rooms with modern facilities and an amazing landscaped pool to sink a well earned post surf beer. The hotel restaurant provided great tasty meals the highlight being the grilled crayfish plate.
If it’s a little peace and tranquillity that you’re after, whether with the lads or your girl, seven minutes down the lagoon by speed boat you can find the “Sanbis Resort” with immaculate beach bungalows sitting amidst leafy coconut palms overlooking the water. The Sanbis is the perfect place to unwind after a great days surfing, diving or fishing. There are never more than 10 guests on the island at any one time, so it’s a good place to kick back and relax with a beer and book in hand!
Looking back now, after not knowing exactly what to expect in the Solomon’s, everyone agreed that they’d be heading back sooner rather than later. This little uncharted gem in the South Pacific delivered everything that a surfer could ever wish for. An adventure which dished up the chance to see some amazing natural treasures and experience a friendly local culture all topped off by some cracking, smoking barrels which will surely put that eager wandering soul at rest. At least till next time!
A big thank you to “Ellison” from the Visitor’s Bureau of the Solomon Islands for sharing his local knowledge and assistance and also to Nicole at (www.fivestarpr.com.au) for pulling the trip together.
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