On May 9th, 1997, 60 of the world’s top wave sailors arrived on the island of Nadi, Fiji. It took a convoy of trucks and buses to carry the sailors and their equipment from the airport to the port. At the port the sailors and crew were met by a 110ft cabin cruiser which transported them to the event site, NAMOTU.
Namotu, which translates as ‘magic island’, is surrounded by a flat coral reef which contains some of the most spectacular sealife to be found anywhere in the world. The island is tiny, barely the size of a soccer pitch, with accommodation for only 10 people. The sailors were forced to live on the nearby Plantation Island, and used the cruiser to ferry them to and from the event site daily.
The waves on Namotu originate from extremely low pressure systems which run across the Antarctic from between Australia and New Zealand. These waves travel thousands of miles un-obstructed before hitting the circular reef surrounding Namotu. When the waves break on this reef, perfect sailing conditions are created with the waves wrapping all the way around the island. This break gives the best conditions for windsurfing anywhere in the world.
A tropical cyclone swept across Fiji and directly over Namotu shortly before the event, temporarily knocking out the swell. The winds remained light initially and the sailors filled their time surfing and fishing, but the swell gradually built again every day, and by the 12th and 13th the waves were between logo and mast high. Expectations were high…
Friday 16th May, the forecasted 15-25 knot trade winds arrived, allowing the first half of a wave performance elimination to be completed in logo to mast high waves. Saturday saw a return of the South westerly trade winds and a building swell with waves approaching mast and a half in height for the final heats. The conditions for the contest can only be described as epic.
Eight sailors progressed to two 4 man semi finals. The first semi consisted of S 10 Anders Bringdal, KA 1111 Jason Polakow, KZ 1 Scott Fenton and US 12 Scott Carvill. Carvill entered the O’Neill Fiji Wave Classic as a wild card and blitzed his way past names like Robby Seeger and Kevin Pritchard on the way to his place in the semi’s. The standard of sailing throughout the entire contest was so high that sailors were forced to push themselves to the limit to be in contention. Anders Bringdal pushed his equipment a little hard, wrecking two rigs in his semi-final, a mistake which ended his progress. KZ 1 Scott Fenton, who had some of the longest rides in the entire competition, lost his rig in the same semi-final and went over the falls after a mistimed aerial. He spent most of the heat swimming.
The second semi final was equally strong, consisting of US 6 Josh Stone, K 77 Ant Baker, US 1111 Robby Naish and E 11 Bjorn Dunkerbeck. Ant Baker was having a fantastic contest, drawn in the same heats and sailing an identical board as his mentor and team-mate Robby Naish. However, Baker was kept out of the final by Josh Stone who was having the competition of his life in the huge waves and perfect cross-offshore port tack conditions.
Stone finally achieved his aim of defeating Dunkerbeck in his semi-final with arguably the most stunning display of wave sailing ever seen in a PWA competition. Naish also progressed to the final to meet up with Stone, Carvill and Polakow for the ultimate showdown.
Head Wave Judge, Klaus Michel, increased the heat duration to 30 minutes for the final, with the best three wave rides counting. This format allowed sailors to really push the limits of their sailing and equipment in the knowledge that they could easily have replacement equipment rushed out to them if necessary.
With the swell continuing to build and waves now approaching twice mast height, two different styles of wave riding prevailed in the final; the consistent and solid waveriding style of Naish and Polakow, and the almost unbelievable aerials performed by Carvill and Stone. After a riveting 30 minute heat sailed in the ultimate conditions, the five judges awarded 1st place to the master himself, Robby Naish, ahead of Scott Carvill, Jason Polakow and Josh Stone.
In the women’s contest, KZ 15 Barbara Kendall returned to PWA competition and snatched a victory from US 6 Kelly Moore and KA 191 Jane Seman with G 680 Jutta Mueller 4th.
All the sailors were stoked with the contest; from those who were eliminated in the first round right through to those who made the final. The shared opinion was that the PWA O’Neill Fiji Wave Classic had brought the highest standard wave fleet together for the highest calibre wave contest ever held in the most incredible conditions ever seen.
US 93 Matt Pritchard – Plantation Island:
“It was unbelievable. I’ve never seen a wave, sailed a wave, or witnessed a competition that was more unbelievable. So I think the sailors, the PWA and O’Neill scored big!”
USA 6 Josh Stone – Namotu:
“The best contest in the history of windsurfing.”
O’Neill Joost Bellaart – Behind his desk, Holland:
“The Fiji Wave Classic is a great opportunity for O’Neill to stay in the water with the PWA and where windsurfing finds it’s roots, this is a fantastic result for all of us.”
|Overall Results MEN|
|2||Scott Carvill||US 12|
|3||Jason Polakow||KA 1111|
|4||Josh Stone||USA 6|
|5||Anders Bringdal||S 10|
|6||Scott Fenton||KZ 1|
|7||Anthony Baker||K 77|
|8||Bjorn Dunkerbeck||E 11|
|9||Kevin Pritchard||US 933|
|10||Micah Buzianis||US 34|
|11||Blair Simpson||KA 19|
|12||Ashley Nicol||KA 17|
|13||Francisco Goya||A 211|
|14||Nik Baker||K 66|
|15||Ralf Bachschuster||G 55|
|16||Scotty McKercher||KA 181|
|17||Robby Seeger||G 307|
|18||Stuart Masters||KA 29|
|19||Matt Pritchard||US 93|
|20||Brian Talma||KBA 8|
|21||Rohan Cudmore||K 88|
|22||Vidar Jensen||N 44|
|23||Mark Pedersen||KA 6|
|24||Peter Volwater||H 24|
|25||Robert Teriitehau||F 35|
|26||Michael Viscovitch||D 154|
|27||Lars Petersen||D 99|
|28||Steve Allen||KA 0|
|29||Frithjof Opsal||N 4|
|30||Eric Groenewoud||H 8|
|31||Chris Calthrop||K 48|
|32||Jeroen Westrate||AA 0|
|33||Mikko Merve||L 1|
|34||Rick Markham||US 91|
|35||Wilhelm Schurmann||BRA 999|
|36||Shayne Bright||KZ 42|
|37||Tristan Boxford||K 35|
|38||Ashley Terrell||KA 171|
|Overall Results WOMEN|