Foreign Aid/Writer

Morning Glistening. Photo: Andrew Jolly

The Inertia

Sitting on a forgotten atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean can lead to certain surprises. I have come here several times now to sample the glory of untouched, empty waves that slowly wrap around an outer reef. It is a fortunate situation as this is my adopted “home island.” It’s a place of mystic and wondrous pleasures, highlighted by cold showers and bath like ocean temperatures.

My first adventure north of Tarawa was more for an outer island experience. I wasn’t exactly looking for surf or expecting the atoll itself to have a small population of grommets getting their kicks from pounding white-water. The tiny plane delivered our motley crew of pale invaders without engine failure, a pig on the runway our only reason for slight deviation. We got to work erecting mosquito nets and complaining about the amenities, or lack –there-of. I spied with my little eye an animated bunch of floating driftwood and realized that this was, in fact, a small group of frothers. Trudging up the beach with my camera in hand, kooking massively, I watched them surf. Technique was sound – probably better than my own – and the smiles abounding were brought from pure ecstasy. They weren’t going sideways, trimming the wave so to speak, no aerials or rounding turns. Just white-water and white teeth.

It all taught me something. Even as I  sit here now, in the same location, but with more understanding, surfed out from an afternoon with the very kids I stumbled upon a year before. Their enjoyment is unquestionable. Without the hassles of competition, they strive only for a long ride. No jostling in line-ups, happy to ride straight into the beach and start all over again, with their families on the shore telling them to go to church.

President of Kiribati Surfing Association scores. Photo: Andrew Jolly

Their boards originally arrived here from a surfing catholic missionary, so I guess I should pay my respects to the church in that sense. Going door to door in long black trousers along-sleeved white t-shirts isn’t really my jam, but if the good word is spread through providing access to boards for these kids then who can really complain?


So next time your wave has diminished, you’re aware of your bottom turn improving and you are nailing those re-entries, spare a thought for the equatorial Pacific grommets riding their own water to shore. Maybe stick around on that wave for a little while? Ride the white wash straight into shore and savor the entire moment before rushing out to do it all again. Enjoy the scenery and forward momentum a tad longer and let those sore muscles in your back benefit from a slightly longer rest before working to send you back to bliss.


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