Surf the Earth helps surfers discover Solomon Islands
Solomons surf : photo courtesy SurftheEarth
Surfers discovers the Solomon Islands
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 2 September, 2008 : - - Suva, Fiji –You see more and more of them now. On Solomon Airlines' Twin Otter flights taking off and climbing west from Honiara International Airport. On the fast, comfortable Solomon and Pelican express passenger ferries racing out from the city’s Point Cruz wharves heading west too.
The word is spreading. Growing numbers of surfers from around the world are starting to arrive in the Solomon Islands with their boards. They are heading for the waves of the Western Province, already internationally known to tourists for its diving and fishing attractions. Now the surfers are giving an unexpected—and welcome—boost to tourism numbers and businesses there.
"I have three groups for this month and am getting more enquiries all the time," says Grant Griffiths, who developed and operates the popular Fatboys resort. This is on Mbabanga Island, a 10-minute boat ride from Gizo, the Western Province capital. Fatboys is one of the cosy little resorts with a big reputation. It is catering for and cashing in on the surfing growth. "It’s really just starting to take off," says Griffiths.
Griffiths is an Australian who settled in the Solomons. He came for its diving. He fell in love with the country and a woman from the Western Province. Now he and his wife Turia have developed Fatboys.
Why are the surfers coming now? he is asked. "Surfers are continually looking for new surf horizons," he says. "They want a surf spot where there are few other surfers and they can have the wave to themselves. "Surfers are adventurers and love the different cultures and out of the way places. Indo (Indonesia) is the big surf mecca but has been over done and surfers are now tired of it."
One of the main people steering them to the Solomon Islands is Australian travel operator Nick Blanche. His Go Tours and Surf The Earth (www.surftheearth.com.au) specialises in surf safaris. They have started heavily promoting Solomon Islands’ surfing. Blanche’s team calls the Solomons "the last frontier for uncrowded surf breaks".
Blanche offers surfing packages to Western Province resorts like Fatboys, the nearby Sanbis and Zipolo Habu, not far away in Vona Vona lagoon. He also sends surfers to Maravagi Resort in the Florida Islands. This is across Iron Bottom Sound from the capital, Honiara, and is the closest surf resort to Honiara International Airport.
Village-stay programmes are offered as well. Says Griffiths. "Now we have in Oz a designated surf travel agent going hard at promoting our Solomon Islands surf safaris." Griffiths lists the main surf sites Titianna Break—a short boat ride from Fatboys, Pailonge Bay, Skull Island Back Break and ‘Sorries’.
Sorries? He explains that it got its name because a super wave picked up a surf boat and dumped those in it unhurt on the reef. "The last words from the driver to one of the surfers when the wave had picked them up was ‘Sorry Boss’," Griffiths says. ‘Sorries’ is five minutes by boat from Fatboys. Titianna Break and Pailonge Bay are about 15 minutes away. Skull Island further.
Griffiths says these Gizo-area sites are popular because all are easily accessibly, there are few other surfers and they are "great shaping left and right handers".
What happens if there is no surf? "The beauty about surfing in the West is that if there is no surf, there are so many other options to keep the visitor occupied," says Griffiths. "Some of the world’s best diving, unparalleled fishing grounds, World War Two tours, sea kayaking, mountain trekking...and so much more.
Griffiths says the wet season, October-April, is one of the best times for surfing out west. This is because low pressure systems build up in the Coral Sea between the Solomons and Australia, he explains. They then move south, sending swells to the western Solomons and producing good surfing waves. Cyclones spawned out in the Coral Sea then heading south are good news for Solomons surfers.
Sanbis beach bungalow
But Griffiths says real development can only come with the government placing more emphasis on tourism. "The PM recently said that they are looking at doubling the amount of tourists in Solomon Islands this year," he says. "The real boon will be if they construct the much-talked about second international airport here in the West. "That would take tourism up here through the roof. If the government gets behind it, the sky’s the limit."
Surf the Earth Solomon Islands
Courtesy Nina Ratulelen / Islands Business Magazine
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