by Sammy Gibson
The reef is chaotically designed by the deep forces of the ocean. Moulded into a coral kingdom where colour-rich fish thrive, algae-green turtles cruise the currents and glassy waves barrel. The reefs off Samoa are fierce with rewarding waves crashing onto its underwater metropolis. A sparkling jewel in the central South Pacific, Samoa is a selection of islands with rich culture, thick virgin jungle, volcanic rock safeguarding turquoise lagoons and some of the cleanest, epic waves in Oceania.
Arriving into this island nirvana, I was greeted with an instant sweat as the heat engulfed me. The warmth of the sun lingering in the midnight hour. Our driver with a bright blue floral shirt and round belly collected us from the airport to take us to the idolised South Coast of Upolu. His silver rosary beads swaying in the rear view mirror. He tells us tales of local legends, the hierarchy of village life and mythologies of warriors protecting the Samoan shores.
We came to surf the outer reefs, the notorious sharp teeth of Samoa’s underwater grin. Late to bed, early to rise is the mantra for our surf holiday and as we settle into our beachfront bungalow, we sink a few Vailimas (the local beer) and prepare for a dawn session.
Ink black darkness surrounds us. We skim across the oil black blanket of the lagoon with heavy eyelids. Last night’s Vailimas still washing through my veins. We pass taro plantations and emerald thick jungle swaying in the offshore breeze. An orange hue starts to dribble over the darkened mountain range in the distance. We pull up to Coconuts, a super charged powerful, fast right hand reef break off Maninoa Village. The waves wrap around the horse shoe reef which is far offshore and could take up to half an hour to paddle too. Boat transfers are generally the popular choice at this break.
The boys dive into the lukewarm water waiting for a set to build. As if timed by Huey himself, the sun rays beam brightly lighting the ocean in a golden infused light as a four-foot set rolls towards the smile of the marine floor. Wave after wave, our four surfers carve through right handers with a face as smooth as coconut oil. Venturing to the next break, we spot turtles swimming in the shallows. The boys jump into the dark blue water and paddle to Wakas. Wakas is a short punchy left hand reef break with a good barrel section and a nice open steep wall for hacks and airs. Listening to loud tunes pumping out of the Sa’Moana boat, we watch the surfers get more barrels than a brewery. As the sun escapes the day, we head back to Sa’Moana Resort with iced cold Vailima’s in hand.
Surfing at Sa’Moana
Our days in Upolu are spent at the beachfront accommodation of Sa’Moana Resort on Salamumu Beach. The friendly staff with big smiles and happy eyes are always keen to talk about their proud nation. Visits from Sa’Moana’s owners Daniel and Kirsten always end in a good night as they welcome their guests into the Salamumu family with flaming Sambucca shots. With traditional Fia Fia nights every Thursday, pool competitions, dance offs and sitting under the starry night sky, Sa’Moana create a fun and relaxed atmosphere for all their guests.
Sa’Moana has a collection of colourful beachfront bungalows with balconies looking out at the heaving surf and picturesque lagoon. A large outdoor stone walled shower connects to the bathroom where you can bathe underneath the hot rays of the sun. Surf-X is the backpackers out the back of the resort which has an affordable all-inclusive rate for hard core surfers. Surf-X is a big house with twin and double rooms which is perfect for budget travellers.
As with anywhere in the world, the surf is not guaranteed. Luckily, Samoa has an abundance of serotonin-filled trips throughout the island. You can bathe in the sparkling emerald waters of To Sua Trench, buy a signature Vailima singlet from the colourful markets in Apia, snorkel and dive through the fascinating underwater coral cities, walk along lava fields and slide down natural waterslides.
Special: At the moment, Sa’Moana Resort have a beautiful special deal: Stay between 1 September 2014 to 31 December 2014 and receive a Stay 7 Pay 5 or a Stay 10 Pay 7 deal.
Surfing at Aganoa
No Samoa surf trip should be without an adventure to Savaii, the island to the west. Savaii is an isle where men walk the lonely streets with flax woven baskets hanging off a branch, colourful windowless buses on high axles blast loud tunes, weathered fales with paint flaking on the poles nestle silently in amongst jade jungle and the main traffic hazard is a jaywalking village pig. Accessed by a ferry from Upolu, it is an island which finished practising cannibalism just over a century ago. Wild with tradition and true Samoan culture, Savaii has waves all along its rugged South Coast starting with the notorious Aganoa Beach.
I awaken to the sound of thunderous waves crashing metres away from my sleepy head. Peering out of our simple wooden fale, I watch eight foot monsters crashing down onto the shallow reef. Nestled in a sapphire cove, Aganoa Surf Camp is a family run surf camp with basic accommodation, an exceptional bar and restaurant and a large deck overlooking the action in the surf. To access the beach as a non-guest, there is a fee of 10 Tala (roughly $5 AUD) which goes to the village school.
In our short time at Aganoa, a storm stirred up messy sets with large growling faces. Surfers with big Hawaiian guns took on the steep right hander, skilfully staying on the wave as long as possible, making sure to pull off before it closed out and swallowed them whole. Aganoa is a hollow, heavy wave which can produce perfect glassy right and left hand breaks. It is a thrill-seekers dream, a big wave ecstasy. The waves can only be ridden at high tide as the dangers of the reef teeth smirk when the moon steals the ocean for a few hours. At low tide, the popular hangout is the exhilarating Alofaaga Blowholes where the ocean surges underneath a volcanic crust blasting saltwater metres into the air. Collecting coconuts from the forest floor before arriving is a must as you throw soggy coconut shells into the blowhole and watch the ocean spit them out high towards the clouds. On the drive back, a must stop is the breath-taking Afu Aau waterfall where cooling mountain water cleanses your sun-kissed body. In Savaii, days are endless and life is simple.
The extremes of nature collide happily in Samoa. A love triangle between the ocean, volcanoes and jungle has birthed a nature lovers dream. With the deep force of the Pacific Ocean smashing perfectly onto a colourful lively reef, Samoa satisfies the surf hungry with juicy big barrels and refreshing smooth water.
I end my Samoa surf trip with the words a local man said to me, “Share a smile and enjoy life”. It is the Samoan way.
Samoa Surf Trip Basics
Bring: Extra fins, spare leg rope, booties and surfboard repair kit.
Samoa Surf Breaks: There are plenty to choose from, lefts and rights. Be prepared to pay $169 Tala (roughly $80 AUD) for a half day boat trip out to the breaks. It is well worth it. Sa Moana’s Surf Guide Ferani is friendly, knowledgeable about the breaks and will not steal your waves. The boat anchors up by the break and blasts energetic tunes while Vailimas chill in the eskie.
Best time to go: The tropical dry season is May – October. This is also the best surfing season. Board shorts can be worn all year round.