Right know I am stuck on land with a ripped ligament in my knee that I suffered in a recent competition. It means that I am off the water for next few months. These are the hardest moments in every athlete’s life, when your most important asset – your body, is not working. It takes weeks to learn how to walk, to get back into shape but hopefully I come back stronger. These down days give you the time to reflect, to appreciate and to see things from a different perspective. Life is like a constant flow of waves that goes up and down. With each wave we ride we make certain experiences- good or bad. In the end of our life it only matters that we take challenges as a reason to evolve. These are probably the most precious lessons- or at least it the best way to tell myself that everything happens for a good reason.
Due to this injury I had some time to go through pictures from recent trips from the last months. I came across a photo of a beautiful boat anchored next to a tropical island. For me that picture tells a personal story of journey. It’s a story about why it’s so important to follow your dreams and be the captain of your life.
Off to new adventures
A trip to the south pacific, especially Fiji was on my bucket list for years. I red various interviews of people that circumnavigated the world. French Polynesia and Islands of Fiji seems to always be the highlight of their journey –there had to be something special about it. That’s why I wanted to see it first hand.
Making a choice
When you look at ticket prices to get from Europe to Fiji you have to already calculate at least 1800€ per person. Once you make it there you need a boat in order to get to the spots and discover this unique paradise. To make it short, I simply didn’t have the money. I tried to find sponsors and ask the tourism office for support. For some reason it didn’t work. Maybe that was due to the fact that I wanted to take my family with me as well!
My son was just under two years at that time and his ticket would have been for free. The clock was ticking, as I knew that 3 flights where completely out of my budget.
I contacted a lot of people that had been there or had connection to boat owners in Fiji. Still nothing seemed to work. After sending emails back and forth I was about to give up. One day an email of a friend of Kauli popped up and told me about a family with an old boat, that was looking for crewmembers. I wrote them straight away and it seemed like the perfect match. A young family that loves to windsurf and kitesurf, equipped with a 30 meter sailing boat with lots of space for gear. They offered a really fair price and I could even take my family. The only down side was that they were leaving Fiji in a couple of weeks heading to Asia. I basically had to make a choice to leave the next day or it wouldn’t happen.
When I learned one thing over the last decade- it’s that travelling is a damn good investment. I never regretted any of my previous decisions, so I made my choice- even if that meant that I had to sell my car afterwards in order to afford it. I bought the tickets and the next day we were sitting in a plane that brought us all the way to the other side of the world. Two x 10 hours flights in a row with a child that just wants to move. Fortunately Asian stewardesses seem to love little blond boys and kept him busy.
Welcome to paradise
After a never-ending journey we finally arrived in Nadi, one of the biggest cities of the main island named Suva. Our captain Marco and his son Mathies picked us up and gave us a ride to the boat. Fully jetlagged with a time difference of 10 hours we arrived in paradise.
On board, I fell asleep right away with the sound of splashing water banging against the hull of the old pirate vessel called “Silverland”.
The next morning I looked out of the window with a unbelievable view of a tiny island.
We anchored in front of Namotu, a private island resort with the famous reef break where once the wave world cup took place. Right away I rigged a 5,0qm sail and jumped into the blue ocean to catch myself a few “nuggets”. A few surfers around me didn’t seem to bother. The waves were small and the wind quite light. It was more than a perfect warm up session with unreal watercolours under my board. It seemed like I was floating over dry reef with coral heads coming extremely close to my fins. I had some really fun turns on fairly long forgiving waves that were running all the way to a channel. I went back to the boat after a few hours with pure excitement that I really made it to paradise.
In cruising mode
In the following days we had quite good forecasts but somehow the swell was as little as it could be and the wind seemed to be switched off . The waiting game started that we windsurfers know too well. Not this time, I told myself and tried avoid any expectation and rather take it as it comes. We went surfing a few times a day, discovered the amazing underwater world by scuba diving and snorkelling, we did hikes on some remote islands and connected with locals. The words “bula bula” were the entry code to get in touch with these warm-hearted people. We bought fruits in little villages, baked fresh bread and lived on what the ocean or the rich island culture had to provide.
We probably visited the nicest places you can imagine. Palm trees, empty sand beaches and water colours from another planet. There was just a small detail that really distracted.
The plastic waste paradise
Basically everywhere we went, except places that got regularly visited by tourists and therefore cleaned up every morning, we saw piles of plastic waste on the beaches. Partly from the local communities that don’t have a working waste management system, from ships that throw thing over board or little plastic particles that got swept up from ocean currents coming all the way from Asia. We found out that the islands of Fiji are also one of the most threatened nations from the effects of climate change. Sea level rising, coral bleaching, increased intensity of storm surges and coastal erosion just to name a few problems that the 322 islands of Fiji are confronted with.
I wonder how this place is going to look like when my son is my age? Will he walk on plastic pieces instead of sand?
In that moment I told myself- “start with yourself”. I decided to live plastic free as good as I can. I have to admit. It is not easy, but manageable if you are well prepared in your daily routine. I really hope that we will be able to end plastic pollution in a long run and make smarter choices and synchronize the economic system of mankind with the ecosystem of nature.
Finally after a week with no windsurf action at all a little swell arrived and I had the chance to score “cloudbreak” for the first time. Some people call it the “ultimate wave”. It’s probably one of the most amazing waves you can imagine- fast, hollow and runs up to 500 meters on good days. Just the razor sharp dry reef in the inside is a place you should avoid. The spot or let’s say the reef is so far away from any other islands that it is a bit trick to find your way in the line up without any landmarks you can position yourself to. I was the only windsurfer out and thus I tried to respect the handful of surfers that were catching the inside peak. I started to take the big set waves that where already breaking far out. It was an incredible feeling to ride these perfect blue walls and hit the thick lip that beams you up in the sky like a rocket. Pure perfection of nature and that basically just for myself. After a few hours on the water the wind turned onshore and the place changed within minutes to a chaotic mess but I finally got what I came for.
(means hello, goodbye, buy me a drink, I’m bored, I’m hungry or I’ve run out of conversation)
With just two windsurf sessions, it was more a family adventure to one of the most isolated places than a pure windsurf trip. The weather conditions are hard to predict and that’s the beauty of our sport. We always have to adapt to the natural elements, not the other way around. For me Fiji tells exactly that story about the contradictions of human behaviour and how this paradise could be soon partly vanished because of neglecting these facts. Thus, it holds an important treasure. Besides perfect waves to surf, Fiji stand for a place of pure beauty but also shows the fragility of our ecosystem.
I am grateful to be able to see it with my own eyes together with my family. These are moments that last for a lifetime but also make me rethink about my own lifestyle and how this is affecting my own future. I hope this story could inspire in some way to start your own adventure or reflect what really matters.
Make a choice, act and than create moments that last for a lifetime.