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Surfers prepare to battle at Cloudbreak

Wednesday 25 May 2016 | Published in Regional

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FIJI – The world’s hottest men and women surfers are heading to Fiji this week as the World Surf League begins the Pacific islands leg of the world circuit.

The Women’s Fiji Pro is on from May 29 to June 3 and the men’s Fiji Pro follows from June 5 to 17.

The Fiji island of Tavarua is the venue with two world-renowned lefthanders to work with.

The deep-water beast of Cloudbreak breaks about 1.5km out from the island and offers up heavy barrels and opportunities for big carves.

If Cloudbreak stops pumping –admittedly a rarity – there’s Restaurants, another high-performance lefthander along the reef in front of the island’s restaurant, hence the name, and is an ideal backup spot.

The 2016 Fiji Pro is the fifth edition of the event since its 2012 resurrection. The event has seen some tremendous highs and some gruesome lows.

Cloudbreak has seen three perfect heats – Kelly Slater served up a 20-point total at the 2013 event and Owen Wright wracked up two perfect heats last year. But an early round in 2013 saw Glenn Hall air-lifted off the island after going over the falls and breaking his back.

The 2014 event was one of the three event wins that led to Gabriel Medina’s historic world title for Brazil.

The Fiji event was a staple on the women’s Championship Tour for six years, running from 2001 to 2006 as the Roxy Pro Fiji. It returned two years ago to much fanfare.

Last year continued the tradition of fantastic female performances, ending in dramatic fashion. After rupturing her eardrum, Australian Sally Fitzgibbons headed back out and took the event for the second consecutive year with two nine-point rides in the Final.

The Fiji Women’s Pro also marks a critical time on the women’s Tour as it is the halfway point of the season and, thus, a crucial moment for valuable rankings points.

Fiji’s Tevita Gukilau will compete with the world’s best surfers after qualifying for Fiji Pro event.

Gukilau, 31, earned a wildcard entry to the prestigious competition after winning the Cloudbreak Clothing Fiji Pro Wildcard Trials, held a Cloudbreak last weekend.

The Australian-born surfer saw off 11 other hopefuls over two days of competition. His score of 19.10 in the final was enough to see him beat last year’s wildcard, Inia Nakalevu.

Gukilau, whose father is from Kadavu, splits his time between Namotu and Australia, where he works in mining.

Despite his dual nationality, Gukilau says he is delighted to represent Fiji in home waters, and insists the quality on surf on offer in Fiji is unmatched anywhere else on the planet.

“I’m back and forth between Fiji and Australia, but I spend as much time as I can in the water here. Cloudbreak is my favourite wave in the world, so I take any opportunity I can to get out there.

“It was amazing at the event this weekend, it was pretty much as perfect as Cloudbreak gets. I was pretty happy just to surf it, but to win was an extra bonus,” Gukilau added.

The Fiji Pro will mark Gukilau’s first foray into elite competition, and he hopes to prove that Fijian surfers belong on the biggest stage. - PNC