Hans Isaac from Belgium is speaking about Cloudbreak, one of the most famous left-handers south of Tavarua island on Fiji. Hans is in his mid-forties, an addicted wave sailor, who has seen the world’s best waves for windsurfing and has spent 45 days on Fiji. We thought it would be interesting to ask Hans about his trip and his experiences in Cloudbreak.
Hans Isaac: “You start at the peak, you make a drop, then two turns and then you escape. If you keep on going at medium size you will finish on the shallow reef and destroy your gear completely. On a huge day… fuck! If you are not a top ten surfer or windsurfer…it is just scary! You see the wave and it is just accelerating. It is mad! You have the feeling that the water from the ocean is disappearing and then breaking on the super shallow reef…But believe me, seeing that wave on a very big day is a wonderful spectacle.”
But before you read more details about windsurfing on Fiji in the interview, watch this windsurfing clip with action from the old days from the “Namotu Fiji Wave Classic 1997” featuring Robby Naish, Björn Dunkerbeck, Josh Stone, Scott Carvill, Scott Fenton, Nik Baker, Jason Polakow and Anders Bringdal.
Fiji is an isolated group of islands located in the Pacific Ocean, around 2100 kilometers in northern direction of New Zealand. The islands can be hit by a big hurricane once each season during the months from November till April. In the period from May till October steady trades from south eastern direction produce moderate winds. The island can receive excellent swell all around the year, which breaks at countless reefs. The best spots for windsurfing are located at the Mamanuca group at the western side of the main island Vitu Levu. Vitu Levu has two airports, Suva and Nadi and is relatively easy to reach from all around the word as the island group is an international major hub for the Pacific region.
C7: Was this your first time on Fiji?
Hans Isaac: Yes, I wanted to go to this place since I saw the first contest like 20 years ago when the Professional Windsurfing World Tour made a stop in Namotu (1992 , I think). At that time, the Windsurf World Cup was still looking after side offshore conditions. Since then, not much happened in Fiji talking about windsurfing, except when that massive swell hit Fiji during summer 2011, I was at Diamond Head, Oahu, Hawaii at the time and I saw a five stars pictures of Jason Polakow windsurfing a very big Cloudbreak! I know, that Fransisco Porcella went there just after they open the Fijian reef to everyone. The video in my mind convinced me that I had to windsurf that wave one day. Since they changed the rules about the possibility to surf and windsurf the local spot in Fiji, I planned that trip on my agenda.
The Fijian people are really friendly. I was traveling with my family and my little daughter Nina, who lived like a queen over there. I knew that windsurfing at this kind of place was going to be really tricky, the super light wind, the waves, not being in the middle of the surfers and what about finding a boat which will bring me to the outside spot, would they consider taking my windsurf gear in the boat etc.
Finally, I decided to book a flight and just go for it! I convinced my Italian windsurfing friend to join me over there for 10 days. Laurie from France, a windsurfing girl, mailed me 3 weeks before, asking me if I think Namotu could be windsurfed. I was surprised about her question. Actually she moved to Australia and she wanted to escape the Australian winter, so she joined us for a week ! Meeting there was really fun and made the logistics much easier… to share a boat oriented on the windsurf mind !
Traveling from Belgium to Fiji, Namotu was quite a long trip, a very long one, but the waves were worth the journey!
Watch the video of Hans about his Fiji Trip – 10 minutes of windsurfing and SUP filmed by local fishermen. And continue to read the full interview, to get prepared for your Fiji trip.
C7: What kind of gear did you take on the island?
Hans Isaac: If you want to windsurf that place, you need a light wind board and a board that could handle a fast wave. I travelled with a Quatro Quad kt 83 liters. My weight is 80 kilos and a Goya 5.0 m sail. I ripped that sail and then I used the Goya Banzai 4.9 m sail. I took a SUP board for the no wind days of course. You can’t find any equipment there, you have to bring everything with you, what can be very tricky with the flying companies nowadays.
C7: How are the windsurfing conditions there and how did a big day look like?
Hans Isaac: Usually in the morning there is no wind at all. The wind picks up in the afternoon, but not every day. The wind is mostly 10 knots – max 12 knots strong. I windsurfed one day in super light wind but nice waves. One thing you have to know is considering the surfers over there. They have been surfing this place forever, that means that you go windsurfing only on windy days and you have to give them a lot of waves. A lot surfers travelled to Fiji to have the opportunity to surf Cloudbreak, the “famous world surf spot“, the wave, which was the reason, that Kelly Slater missed a contest, just to enjoy that wave. The wave is mythic, it is in the middle of the ocean and the first time it’s not easy to recognize where you are on the spot ! On a big day Cloudbreak is super super super fast !!!
You start at the peak, you make a drop, then two turns and then you escape. If you keep on going at medium size you will finish on the shallow reef and destroy your gear completely. On a huge day… fuck ! If you are not a top ten surfer or windsurfer…it is just scary ! You see the wave and it is just accelerating. It is mad! You have the feeling that the water from the ocean is disappearing and then breaking on the super shallow reef…But believe me, seeing that wave on a very big day is a wonderful spectacle. Cloudbreak is one of the 3 top waves with wind from the left that I windsurfed , Cloudbreak, One Eye (Mauritius), a wave in Sumba (Indonesia) in a trip with Stephane Etienne and Fransisco Porcella.
VIDEO – Hans Isaac on Sumba
Namotu is always manageable, the wave is beautiful and easy. Even when the wave has a big size the wave is super fun, except when the current is too strong, because you have to go upwind for 20 minutes before reaching the peak. Windsurfing at those places is quite an adventure. You must be ready to wait till the right day (wind, wave, not too many surfers…etc ), but Cloudbreak was worth the trip! Talking about filming: the small video was made thanks to the fisherman I was going with to the Cloudbreak. I gave him my camera and he decided to film me in this shaky conditions from the boat … not too easy! So I didn’t get that much footage.
I had a perfectly wonderful day. I saw the wind picking up at midday, I had the boat, I went to Cloudbreak. The waves were like 5 -7 feets… the surfers were leaving due to the relatively strong wind. I could windsurf at Cloudbreak just for myself for all the afternoon !
C7: Did you meet any other windsurfers there?
Hans Isaac: Nobody, except my Italian friend Gian Marco Revel and Laurie, the French wave sailing girl.
C7: Is it a real paradise for windsurfers?
Hans Isaac: Those kind of places are like hell or paradise! No compromise …! The perfect days meet the worst days … You have dream days, the color of the water is just unreal. You windsurf or SUP and you see all the fishes underneath your board. Some sharks, too. You have the right wind, perfect angle of the wind and a super nice size of waves.
On some days it is cloudy, the wave is choppy and not easy at all. As it’s located in the southern hemisphere and I was there during the European summer it was winter (it’s the period with the most consistent swell and highest waves). But you have some rainy days, too. During those days there is nothing to do, just wait in your bungalow and wait till the sun will return.
I went also on the major island and stayed close to a place in order to windsurf Frigates, the so called Fijian Pipeline….in two weeks …no chance, not one day was sailable. I tried with my friend Marco to windsurf other places… there is still some potential but be ready to spend money on a boat, which brings you out there.
C7: How about the total costs.. a shocker compared to other trips or was it ok?
Hans Isaac: The trip is super expensive! The Australian economy is going well, so you have a lot of Aussies there, who do have money. They spend a fortune in expensive resorts. I was staying in a small resort. It was quite ok for a reasonable price. One thing that is expensive is the boat. Each time you want to go you have to find a boat and pay. You can try to share a boat with surfers, but it is not easy if you are the only windsurfer around!
But I would like to come back to Fiji for SUP and windsurfing. I would just check the forecast and go! It’s much easier if you live in Australia or Hawaii, not in Belgium.
C7: Thanks for the interview and good luck on your next travels.
The first, oldschool video reminds me exactly why I started windsurf and why I got fascinated with it. The footage looks magical combined with this music and the moves are absolutely hardcore. Josh Stone was showing ultimate balls out there. Why don’t people make such videos anymore?
sick arial from josh.
all great windsurfers btw.
All vids are massive!!! Windsurfing and surfing have no limits. Josh Stone’s arial must be in textbooks, what a windsurfing generation btw….golden times.