With spellbinding green mountains, wide, sweeping bays, and glassy barrels on tap, Samoa is a gem hidden in plain sight — so much so I almost want to lie about the location of this trip and deter people from coming. Perhaps the reason Samoa remains uncrowded is because nearby Hawaii and Fiji act as fly traps, or maybe it’s the island’s reputation of being particularly fickle with sharp, shallow reefs. Whatever the reason may be, Samoa holds great rewards for those willing to take a chance, and I was able to do so with just the right crew of women for such a trip.
Our group of eight ladies sat around the breakfast table on the first morning, munching on fruit and coconut jam toast. Above us hung a picture of the wave in our front yard, the iconic Salani Right. For most, the hope of witnessing that image in person is what lures them to this remote corner of the Pacific. We were no exception. But given the onshore winds, this morning we’d have to seek our fortune elsewhere. We loaded up the van with enough boards for a small circus and headed off to the north end of the island where the conditions would be cleaner.
Our van pulled into an empty beach lot and we were greeted by a little right-hander peeling along the reef. Mountains surrounded the wave like a football stadium, but there were no crowds to be seen. We surfed until our arms turned to noodles and our eyes felt like fried eggs.
After lunch the winds still weren’t cooperating, so our boatman, Angus, suggested we spend the afternoon fishing. We trawled along with rap music blasting and Taulas (the local beer) flowing. Maybe it wanted to join the party because all of a sudden someone yelled, “fish on!” In a flash a Spanish Mackerel, the size of a large loaf of bread, flew overhead and flopped onto the boat floor.
The next morning we woke to the chilling rumble of waves hitting the reef. The ocean had woken up and the wind had gone to sleep. We were on for Salani Rights. Anticipation buzzed through the air as we downed cups of gritty instant coffee, eager to get a look at what we were up against.
A five-minute boat ride later, we were staring down a wave just like the photo that hung on the wall back at camp. But unlike the photo, the real-life version was loud and had a personality of its own. It emerged from the depths and flipped itself into a hollow cave that had a 50/50 chance of staying open or clamping shut. Not making the drop could mean spending some time getting raked across the reef. Surprise surprise, there was no one out.
Despite the fact that women who charge have recently been gaining more attention, it’s still rare to see ladies taking on waves of consequence. Here we had a crowd made up entirely of ladies doing just that. Having the company of each other gave us the confidence to push our limits – Kia driving us to take off deeper, Kirabelle and Alyssa laying down critical backside turns, Emily hunting down the barrels, and Alex and myself waiting on the outside for bombs. Best of all, we didn’t have to worry about creepy photographers taking pictures of our butts. Silvia and Claire had the only cameras around, capturing all the action from the boat.
Sharing that session cemented our bond and set the tone for the rest of the week. We spent the days surfing, teasing the boat guys, exploring waterfalls and singing along to throwbacks in the back of pickup trucks. In the afternoons we cooled off by taking paddleboards up the river to a natural spring. Every time we’d be joined by a group of local kids who found it entertaining to jump from a bridge and try to commandeer our boards.
Our last day was a Sunday, which meant we couldn’t surf Salani as it is considered a day of rest and therefore disrespectful to do so. Fortunately, this forced us to go exploring and we wound up at a secluded bay where a river mouth had created a machine-like A-frame. Like a choreographed dance, we split the peak in twos until the sun went down.
That night we were treated to a Fia Fia, or “happy get together.” We enjoyed traditional food, participated in a kava ceremony, and watched the famous fire dancing. Family is the the root of Samoan culture, and that night we felt like we had become honorary members of the family. In the morning we would have to pack our bags, say goodbyes and return to normal life, but in our hearts we were already planning our trip back. Tofa soifua Samoa, goodbye for now.