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Cloudbreak 26 May 2023 - 25




A solid swell prior to the 2023 Fiji Pro World Cup tempted a team of early arrivals, they tell us how they scored big!

WORDS – Baptiste Cloarec, Ricardo Campello, Antoine Martin, Morgan Noireaux, Coraline ‘Coco’ Foveau.

PHOTOS – Maleen Hoekstra, Mattéo Nativelle / native-pictures.com

Baptiste Cloarec

I flew from Brest-Paris-Singapore-Sydney-Nadi…50 hours travelling! I just had one night to sleep and we were already on the boat on our way to Cloudbreak. It was quite a mission getting out there. We went on a small boat with a 40 hp engine, together with Ricardo Campello. The engine stopped 3 or 4 times on the way out there! We were a bit worried we wouldn’t get to Cloudbreak! The waves were just huge! One of my biggest sessions for sure! The conditions on Windguru were around 2.5 metres with a 15 second period and 15-20 knots of wind, but it ended up more like 5.0 – 6.0 metre waves, even more on the big sets! Quite big for my first time in Fiji! I used a brand new custom board, a RRD 66-litre – 222 cm long x 54.2 cm wide with quad fins (hand made) and I was using the 4.0 RRD Vogue production sail!


It was quite scary! Already when I was rigging in the boat, which was rolling with the waves,… I was really afraid! Then I went in the water and it was really warm! It was my first time sailing in warm water in shorts and a T-shirt! The waves were insane… really big, but quite well spaced and clean! I enjoyed it a lot, but I was also super scared! But now, when I think about it, I think that it was one of the best sessions of my life! And getting some sick shots from Maleen Hoekstra was absolutely amazing! Thanks to her! My best moment of the session was when I got back to the boat without breaking anything!

It was always a dream to sail Cloudbreak, and I always wanted to sail in warm water too! Fiji is one of the best places in the world for that! And also port is my best tack as I’m a goofy-footed surfer. Thanks to the IWT and PWA for making this event happen so that I could come to Fiji!

Ricardo Campello

So originally my flight with all the boys was to leave just a few days before the event started. For months I have been looking for port tack places to sail and train my down-the-line wave riding at, as most of the time I windsurf on port tack it is onshore riding and jumping. I really wanted to do something different, but in the end we sailed a lot on the south shore of Maui in a place called Kanaio, which is a mission to get to, but we do get a bit of riding and a bit of jumping and in the end it was good training. We went to Diamond Head a couple of days as well to sail, but I really wanted to know the wave at Fiji before going out in my heat and I thought that if I didn’t make the call to go early, the only time I’d sail would be in the heat!


So I looked at the forecast for Fiji constantly for 2 weeks and called up Scott Carvill pretty much every day as he is very familiar with Fiji conditions and I wanted to hear his take! In the beginning it wasn’t looking amazing, but there was something on the horizon, so I was in a quandary over if I should come earlier or not. I asked Swifty and Marcilio if they wanted to join, but they couldn’t. I called up Polakow and Robby Naish as well and Robby couldn’t, but Jason had a really good think about it and made some calls and all his friends said it wasn’t going to be good. There were also reports of a lot of pro surfers from Maui being there, so it could be too crowded also.

I decided to roll the dice regardless, but Fiji is 18 hours ahead of Maui and there are not flights every day from Maui to Fiji, so I had to come on the 23rd of May, which would arrive on the 24th at night Fiji time; originally my flight was the 27th!


I came in on the same flight as Morgan (which he had originally booked) and convinced Jace Panebianco to come earlier with me to get some cool images, so we were on track! Our particular flight on that day was a bit harder because it had a connection on a little island between Hawaii and Fiji called Kiribati, so the flight time was a little longer but it was the only option! We arrived at night and first thing next morning I prepared all my gear to get on the boat as early as possible.

Antoine Martin and Baptiste Cloarec were already in Fiji, as well as Maleen Hoekstra, a lady that came all the way from Cape Town to shoot; she does it for fun as she loves windsurfing and thanks to her and Mattéo Nativelle I got some great shots!

It’s huge!

It’s a boat ride of about 40 minutes out to the reef, the guys had a bit of a jump start on the boat before me, and I was super excited because someone sent us a report and it just said, “it’s huge!” But I didn’t really know what that meant, or if the report was reliable or not, but in the end it actually was huge! It was a bit cloudy though, so I still wasn’t sure if the wind would be too light to windsurf! Our boat finally came, but the engine kept breaking down and we were going super slow and I was already stressing out because I really didn’t want to miss any conditions! As we were approaching the reef, I could finally see some sails, but also a lot of whitewater, and as I got to the channel I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Some sets were over double mast high, there were no surfers and just 3 windsurfers on waves with the smoothest faces I have ever seen. The wind was blowing about 16 knots steady, and in the best possible direction, it was a dream come true!


Antoine, Morgan and Morgan’s girlfriend Coco were out having a blast. Coco has more balls than many of the boys and she was riding some bombs, she actually lost her gear about 3 times while I was rigging and every time she went straight out again. She has no fear!

I rigged up my Naish Force 4 5.0 and my 88-litre Assault Custom Quad and went out straight to the peak and honestly had shaky legs, I don’t know if it was from the excitement or I was scared of how big it was. I didn’t have any reference on positioning or how shallow it was, it was my first ever time sailing Cloudbreak and it was massive!

Ben Wood, a windsurfer from Australia that used to live on Tenerife was there on a jet ski just having a look, and saw me and came to say hi and told me, “My only advice is don’t kick out of the waves until you see what’s behind because some come really wide.”

I got my first wave, which was probably my biggest wave of the session, and I couldn’t believe how smooth it was! I could hear the noise of the barrel exploding behind me and how the noise of the board sliding over the water was very different too, as it was just such a smooth wave.

Risk it

At first I was trying to adapt to the place and gain confidence, but according to the boys I got some of the biggest waves every time. I was just trying to make some sick turns on the wave, gain confidence and not get pounded or let go of my gear! I told Jace to film from the boat first because it was huge and a lot of current, but since his main passion for videos is water shots he decided to swim, I saw him swimming a lot as the current was taking him all over the place and he got pounded a couple of times, so my first waves were missed on video, but luckily Maleen and Mattéo got them with still shots! After a couple of nice rides and becoming more familiar with the spot, I decided to risk it a little more, but still wanted to be safe and not destroy my equipment before the contest started. I took a wave and wanted to do a little aerial and landed on the lip.


That part of the wave wasn’t as big, but pushed my gear to the reef. I landed right at the vortex part of the wave, so it pushed me down, but it wasn’t so bad! When I did come up, a huge set was coming behind me and I had nowhere to go, so I had to go down as deep as I could so I wouldn’t get washed (which is the dangerous part). I dove down as deep as I could, so deep that when I started coming back up with my eyes shut, I had no idea how deep I was! I opened my eyes and everything was dark, so I started to worry and started swimming up faster. I thought I’d never reach the surface, but when I finally did I had about 3 to 4 seconds to breathe and dive down again. This happened for 3 or 4 waves in a row, that was scary as I had no flotation on or my inflatable vest, just my harness! My secret was to stay calm and not panic! The current was pushing me towards the danger zone of the waves and I had to swim a lot, so I was super tired, but in the end it was all good, and thank goodness I got back to the boat and they took me to my gear on the reef. My sail was fine with a little cut on the sleeve and just one batten fully gone! So I rigged my 4.7, but the wind wasn’t that good anymore and the conditions had got much worse with the change in tide.


In the end it was an awesome day, one I will always remember, and I was super glad I made the choice to come early. What better way to tick Cloudbreak off your bucket list than double mast high waves, constant wind and no surfers out! You couldn’t ask for more! The next day the waves were much smaller, but it was still windy and fun. It was nothing like the big day, but perfect conditions to risk it more!

Antoine Martin

We arrived around 6 a.m. in Fiji and went on the boat at 11 a.m for a surf session the whole afternoon. When we arrived the swell was already pretty good. The next day we windsurfed and it was mast high, then the big day was double mast high ha ha. It was a proper start to the trip! As I already came last year I knew how good the wave was, so this year I decided to come for 3 weeks, even though the trip was pretty expensive already.

To get from the hotel to the spot we load the gear inside a truck to bring us to the beach, then transfer it from the truck to the boat, and then there’s a 30-minute drive from the shore to the reef. Once you get there you are in the middle of nowhere between some islands.


The big day was definitely one of the best sessions I’ve ever had in my life. It started kinda good, but during the day we had one hour where all the stars aligned – it was perfection. The forecast said 2.5 metres with 15 seconds, but I think it wasn’t really correct ha ha.

I was using my two North Sails – a 4.7 Wave and X-Over, with my Starboard custom 85-litre and production ‘Hyper’ 88-litre quad with 13.5 cm/14 cm front fins and 9 cm rear fins.

It was difficult at the beginning to choose where to start from because the waves were breaking so far outside. I definitely enjoyed the session. There were only 5 of us out, no surfers and some of the cleanest biggest waves ever. It was smooth, but it you made a mistake it was quite scary, because as I said earlier the wave would break really far outside and if you fell at the peak you would get washed by many waves before ending up in the safe zone. Also the current was pushing you back into the break, so you would always get the open face of the wave on your head! The funny thing is that the swell wasn’t that big when we started, so we weren’t wearing any floatation vests or anything like that! My best moments were taking a wave with multiple turns from top to bottom and also a half turn /  half air in front of Jace Panebianco.

Morgan Noireaux

Thankfully I changed my ticket to arrive a few days earlier than I had originally planned and I somehow timed it perfectly with this swell. I flew in the evening prior to this session, but I flew straight from Hawaii, so it wasn’t too bad.

The boat ride out was pretty mellow. It was a cloudy day, the water was choppy because it was windy, but I don’t think any of us thought it was going to be so big. When we arrived at Cloudbreak we were the only boat there. No one was surfing, so until we got on the water we didn’t realize how big it was. Antoine went out first and we realized it was actually pretty massive. The waves are so perfect it’s hard to tell the scale without someone on it.

Pure magic

I went out on my 88-litre JP Ultimate Wave set up as a quad and my 5.0 Combat. I almost always use the same size fins, which is 14.5 rear and 9 cm side Black Project fins, but with how big it was I probably could have gone down a bit. We had about an hour where the waves just kept getting bigger and bigger and it was pure magic. Super smooth and massive. There were some double mast high waves that came through. I don’t think the period was crazy. It was around 15 seconds I believe, so that made the sets pretty consistent which was great. We didn’t have to wait 30 minutes for a bomb. We all got plenty of waves.

I had sailed the year before so I know the spot pretty well. When it gets to a decent size it starts to break on the outside ledge, but I’ve only known that part of the wave to be pretty fat for the most part. This day it was a giant top to bottom barrel, but super smooth with a nice face on it. It starts to bend across the reef as it gets further inside and then you need to kick out to avoid getting destroyed on the reef.


I was pretty nervous. I had sailed some port tack on Maui before flying out, but I had to get used to my board and these were the biggest waves I’ve ever sailed on port tack. I was a bit timid on my first few waves, but I started to figure it out and I got a few that I was happy with. I would have liked to have gotten a big air or hit a big section, but overall it was an absolutely incredible session, and I made it back in one piece with my gear intact, which is good as we are technically here for an event!

I think the dodgiest moment of the day was when my girlfriend Coco caught a “smaller” wave. I tried to tell her not to go as there was a set behind, but she didn’t hear me, so she ended up kicking out too late and then took the biggest set of the day right on her head. She deals with situations like that better than most people I know, but I was still pretty worried. She caught like 10 waves on the head and ended up all the way inside of the reef, but her gear survived and she went out and caught a few more which was epic.

The whole session was pretty surreal. No surfers, five of us out and just massive perfect waves at Cloudbreak. We scored.

Coraline ‘Coco’ Foveau

I arrived early in the morning and at 1 p.m. we were already on the spot rigging our gear. It was a long trip from France and I was already a bit tired before I even left France, but I couldn’t miss the conditions so I decided to go anyway. And I’m really happy because the conditions this day helped me to prepare myself for the biggest day, which was the day after. When you go to Cloudbreak by boat, in the beginning it’s calm, but the closer you get to the spot the rougher it becomes. The first day I was even sick when I was rigging up, I threw up 3 times before finally being ready to sail ha ha!

I was using the Starboard Ultrakode 72 set up as a quad (13/9 cm fins) and used 4.2 Blade and 4.8 S1 sails. The bigger day we had 7 to 8 metre waves, but we didn’t have a really long period between waves, which was tricky because when we were losing our gear in the waves we didn’t have much time to recover and breathe before the next washing machine. The other days we had mast high waves and around 16-22 knots cross-off wind.

Reading the waves one of my biggest problems. I had trouble catching the good ones. I was mostly taking the smaller ones. It was not intentional as these were already big in my mind, but I was finishing too far inside and would get caught by the sets. Then the guys told me to take the bigger ones and to check if other sets were coming behind them before I kicked out, after that advice I had a better session.

I enjoyed the session, even if I swam a lot, lost my gear on the reef a few times and had some scary moments too. The rush of adrenaline I got was crazy. I learned a lot over these days, I proved to myself I was able to sail in these conditions and found the surf sailing feeling I usually have on starboard tack, but this time on port tack. And mostly I didn’t break anything! Which is good because I do not have any spare gear if something breaks.

On the biggest day we had, I lost my gear and had the biggest waves I ever had on my head, which was also the biggest set of the day, so that was the dodgy part of the session, but somehow I found some positives because even if I was a bit scared, I found the strength to calm down, come back safely to the boat and go back out sailing. Otherwise, I enjoyed every single second of being in Fiji so I think my best moment would be the whole trip in general!


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