Samoa… An Island In The SunWhile the Sydney winter isn’t really too long or too cold in comparison to other parts of the country (yes, I endured winters in the nation’s capital), the longing for warmth and sunshine generally hits hard in my household some time around mid-July. While I’ve put up with it in the past, last year I decided to book a flight to Samoa to seek out some sunshine and surf a few reefs without a wetsuit in sight.
Samoa, for those of you not in the know, is about a four and half hour flight north-west of Sydney, about half way between New Zealand and Hawaii. The South Pacific nation is made up of two islands, Upolu and Savai’i, the former of which was on my radar. Contrary to popular belief, Samoa is not just a breeding ground for rugby players and nightclub bouncers. The size of the average Samoan was far smaller than I an- ticipated and they are truly some of the friendliest folk on the planet.
After consulting TripAdvisor and sending out a few enquiring emails to accommodation options that catered to wave-hungry waxheads, I was surprised to receive a reply email that ended as follows: “PS. I thought that name rang a bell…. The Beast…. I lived in Bondi for 13 years…. just moved over here with
my husband in January to take over management of Sa’Moana Resort…. my Dad actually built this resort and it’s been open for 13 years now…. I liked The Beast! Good little mag!”
And so I was sold.
As it turned out, about five days before my enquiry the crew at Sa’Moana Resort had decided to turn the house occupied by their surf guides into a surf house for guests happy with more budget-style accommodation, which suited tight-arses like my mate Matt and I down to the ground.
When we arrived we found out that we were the first guests to stay in the surf house and we had the whole joint to ourselves. While the sleeping arrangements were pretty basic (a room full of bunk beds),
the house did come with a decent kitchen with refrigerator, a warm shower, a CD player (with one CD – The Best of Creedence Clearwater Revival – which we played on repeat), a couple of hammocks and the piece de resistance, a ping-pong table (where Matt was dealt numerous crushing blows to his confidence, winning less than a handful of sets out of about a thousand).
There is plenty to do in Samoa but on this occasion we kept pretty simple: surf, eat mahi mahi burgers, play ping-pong, drink Vailimas (the local brew), sleep, repeat from the beginning. For the more adventur- ous traveller there are waterfalls, swimming trenches and volcanoes to visit, and some of the best fishing, snorkelling and diving you could ever hope to do.
The trade winds blew quite strongly on most days we were there but we still managed to score some fun, relatively uncrowded waves. The surf guides at Sa’Moana Resort, Anita and Farani, were super friendly and they’ve got the best boat on the island, so getting around was a breeze. Ironically, the day with the most swell and least wind (not a breath) fell on a Sunday, and given that the Samoans are quite a religious bunch, we were unable to score a boat ride out to the reefs. Nor did we have access to a vehicle and unfortunately the swell direction meant that the break out the front of the resort was closing out. We were left with no option but to play ping-pong and get on the Vailimas (again).
One of the highlights of the trip was a Friday night excursion to the bars of Apia. Our first stop was the most interesting, at a joint called the RSA (this definitely didn’t stand for Responsible Service of Alcohol). Moments after we saw a rather pickled islander shown the door, another fellow, twice as plastered, was allowed in so long as his two mates carried him under their arms. Needless to say their first port of call was the bar! After a few bottles of the local brew I ended up getting accosted by a rather large local lass who dragged me onto the dance floor. I was one of only four palagis (white folk) in the joint and the only one on the dance floor. Still, my mate Matt seemed far more uncomfortable when the fa’afafines (lady boys) took a liking to his curvy frame and he was forced to spend most of night reluctantly fending off their advances.
Samoa is surfable all year round and when it’s on, it’s really on. It gets a bit wet in January but it’s certainly not unbearable. You’ll also struggle to find a friendlier bunch of people anywhere else on the planet. While it’s not as cheap as heading over to Bali, Samoa is more relaxed, less crowded and a hell of a lot cleaner. When the reef tattoos heal, I look forward to getting back over there.