Foreign Aid/Writer

Photo: Patrick Clarke

The Inertia

With all the wavepool chatter nowadays I thought it might be a bit cathartic to inject the spirit of exploration back into current events convos surrounding surfing. There are still plenty of remote locales that beckon for those eager to argue with small-time local airline operators, experiencing the joy that is explaining exactly what constitutes a surfboard bag and what it contains.

Here, we venture into the southern atolls of Kiribati as a way to look back on what real surf exploration used to be like and where it still exists today.

Air Kiribati being the only domestic airline doesn’t leave curious surfers with many choices as to where and when you are going to visit the outer atolls of this sprawling nation. You are quite literally in the hands of the pilots when you purchase a ticket, attempting to convince them that surfboards may double as life rafts if the plane goes down. You can’t exactly take your whole quiver on these adventures with the 10 inches of aisle space on your craft.

The plane immediately begins to rattle as we climb skyward. Shadows from the clouds now around us pockmark South Tarawa as we leave it in our wake. Cravings for a cold beer from an attractive stewardess seep into your mind and quickly dissipate as the wondrous flavors of aviation fuel being to fill your nostrils. The Pacific Ocean seems endless beneath you and thoughts of plunging into the navy blue abyss are never totally quashed.


Peering to get a look at the break as we near the Northern end of the atoll provides us with nothing. The pilots decided to come from the west, which obscures our view. We will just have to trust our incredibly amateur meteorological skills and hope that enough trade wind strength has formed some clean lines. We jump in the car to our accommodation, knock off a couple of lukewarm beers on the way, and settle in for what turns out to be a night of moderate debauchery.

Photo: Anne Paulsen

The next morning we head out in the village boat and are at the break within the hour. The trade winds had done their job and we are treated to a long, bowling left-hander. In hindsight, it would be great to visit at low tide and watch the beauty suck itself a little more off the reef. Getting the boat out of the channel near the hotel would be a challenge though – also waking up the driver from his kava haze could pose some issues.

There is a high probability that we were the first surfers to board that Air Kiribati flight path with boards in tow. At least the pilot seemed to think so. I know Yachties had stopped in the safety of the lagoon and if they had boards aboard, would have sampled the winding crests at their blessed low tide best.


It just goes to show there is still plenty to sample throughout the Pacific, assuming you’re not too worried about what’s happening in a wavepool in Cow Country, California.

Photo: Patrick Clarke


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