Everyone's fav Gudauskas recalls the Fijian megaswell (of 2011).
Because the Fiji Pro (man, it must kill the WSL to be missing an event sponsor) is about to go, and because Mr. Goggans beat me to the punch with the 2012 retrospective, and because I just got some bad news and don’t feel like writing, I’d like to remind everyone that, before the 2012 Fiji Megaswell, there was the 2011 Fiji Megaswell.
At that point the largest Cloudbreak anyone had ever seen (though it would be surpassed the following year), the sheer insanity on display that day blew the surf world’s collective mind. And Transworld paid me to write an article about it.
I reached out to Dane Gudauskas to get some words about the day, and ended up getting an essay in response. To be honest, on its own it’s probably better than what I ended up submitting. So behold, in all its unedited glory, Dane Gudauskas on the July 2011 Fiji Megaswell:
“the morning of the big day, i just remember pulling up on the boat from the main island of nadi and seeing these lumps on the horizons, and i swore they were oil tankers. I thought no way. i didnt think they were waves at all from a distance, but as we got closer we could see white water and could tell that it was pretty massive. i first paddled out on a 9 foot surfboard. everyone must have been on between a 7 foot board to a 10 foot board so i felt pretty good right in the middle there. after a few wipeouts on my first few waves though i realized it was pretty unique challenge riding a board that big in the barrel, so i downshifted for my 8 foot 6 inch surfboard for the rest of the swell and it felt really nice under my feet. It was a little more sensitive so you could pump it in the barrel. It was bizarre to see a wave of that size be so down the line. I was riding a thruster, but i know a lot of people were riding quads, and they said they preferred that drive down the line it was giving them.
I think we showed up 3 days before the swell, just to lose the plane legs. It looked like the swell was developing really nice, and just over a span of so many days with so much swell, you had to believe there would be some golden moments in there somewhere. Even if it was windy or something, there would have to be a moment that would make it all worth it. And we really lucked out. The few days before the swell were super fun inside ledge and everyone was stoked. Barrels, sunburn, broken boards. all the rad stuff. then the main force of the swell came and just blew all my expectations away by a mile. At one point it glassed off for about 3 hours in the middle of the day, and the waves looked absolutely surreal at that size and perfection.
I stayed at a hotel on the main island of fiji. It was rad though, we had a super cool crew hanging at the hotel. It was Reef mccintosh, dave wassel, alex grey, Russo, mike peach, kohl christianson and their friend andy. Fergal smith was there for a bit, albee layer and a few friends from maui. Nathan and bruce were on the main island too but just down the way abit. then i think slater, walshy and healy were on tavarua. It was jsut a rad vibe. We would just surf all day then come in and kick it and laugh watching the sunset and drinking a fiji bitter. The comraderee was one of my favorite things about the trip really. Just as fun as surfing the waves, was sharing those experiences with everyone. being in the water to witness some of these guys´waves of their lives was a really special thing. it was like, you could feel this crazy electricity, and everyone was really looking out for each other too. it gave you a feeling like everyone was in it together.
Stand out moments… hmm dam its hard to pick just a few. i mean the whole few days were crazy. But for me, when i saw kohl paddle into that wave in the morning on his 7 fot 6 surfboard, then hell pump through two crazy sections and come out flying on his back, i was just floored. Ive never seen anything like that. And having been hanging with kohl for a few days, i was just so stoked for him. Because you knew how pure and special that moment was for him. It was on a deeper conscience level you know? i dont think words could really do justice to the emotions that were pumping through him after a ride like that. but everyone was on fire. It was all time for me to see a generation of these big wave riders pretty much coming full circle and each rising to the occasion to get some of the best waves of their lives. I was inspired and humbled just to be out in the water with them.
For paddle surfing, i think it was a pretty radical day. It just goes to show that where there is a will there is a way, and with enough commitment to putting yourself in the spot, you can pretty much paddle into some crazy waves that previously might have been thought to be unrideable. And looking around the lineup, there was no shortage of commitment too. You could tell by looking at everyone that they were excited to get in over the ledge. But to watch that generation of guys who were out there, who have pretty much dedicated the last decade or so to paddling into the biggest waves possible, it was a really special day.
i guess i would finish with a thanks to anyone on the jetskis picking guys up in the impact zone. when you´re taking whoopings in the impact zone and you see that ski racing in towards you… i swear, its as good as sweet tea on a summer day.”