Samoa. 170,000 people spread over 4 small volcanic islands in the middle of the largest body of water on earth.
The future is happening here. It's the beginning of the world each day and I am reaching tomorrow ahead of you. Yet somehow this place is more prehistoric than anywhere I've been before.
The small chain of islands that represents Western Samoa are slapped right at the beginning of time, in more than one context. It was recently decided by 'those that can' to scrap the 30th day of December 2010. Yes, it just failed to exist in 2010. I went to bed on the night of the 29th Dec 2010 and woke up feeling fresh on New Years Eve morning. For a 36 hour sleep I felt great. Sleep only comes to me in doses like that for a very specific, well practiced reason and I was counting on that for New Years Day.
Anyway, the reasoning behind this odd decree was to move Western Samoa into the same day as Australia for trading purposes. It essentially moved from being the last country in the world to see 'the new day', to the first. New Years was celebrated here before anywhere else on the entire planet. 70 miles away but a full 23 hours behind, the island of American Samoa quietly goes about its business.
There are waves here. For sure there are waves here. Some world class setups line these understated Southern Polynesian shores. Dense jungle, a lack of roads and far off reef passes are just the first obstacles in your path. The islands have a small yet well established surfing history, serviced by a handful of surf camps, resorts and surf tour operators. With the closest direct flights currently from Australia and New Zealand, Samoa is undergoing a shift in tourism from a once predominant American market.
Upolo and Savaii are the 2 main Islands in Samoa and are the most populated as well as being the most travelled. There are several camps and resorts that hold commanding positions at some of the more well known spots on the islands and with reef passes lining the coasts, a boat becomes a valuable commodity out here.
With the tsunami of 2009 leveling a large proportion of the southern coastlines, businesses are keen to get the tourist trade flowing again. Unfortunately the vibrant corals that used to thrive on the reefs out here have all but died. However with no shape lost, and a softer landing when you bounce, the waves are still pumping.
A popular misconception (and one I encounter regularly myself) upon embarking on a surf trip to a tropical locale is that the surf will be good more often than not. My advice to you for any trip is read the small print and do your research properly. If you want Indo style waves, go to Indonesia.
Surfing out here is a different ball game. Along side the difficult topography, surfing in Samoa is not only tough to achieve on a budget, but it also requires a myriad of variables coming together to score the epic conditions the islands can produce. After 2 1/2 months out here I can count the days of epic surf on one hand, with very little else in between. Swells materialize and dematerialize overnight, trade winds ravage groundswells and with no nearby buoys, accurate oceanographic data for this part of the world is hard to come by. Using typical internet forecasting sites will have you chewing your fingers off and making sacrifices you really don't want to make. However with some solid research, a trained eye will pick up the swells that set right handers spitting their internals at you and lefts that grind down the reef like mini versions of Teahupoo.
In the right conditions there are a stack of waves here which turn world class. There are ledges that compete with some of the heaviest in the world but only come to life once every year or so, rights and lefts that throw up barrels that would get even the most jaded pro running for wax and sunscreen, and wedge like ramps that would be a prime feature in most of todays 'new school' surf vids.
So, if adventure floats your boat and you would rather create the track that becomes beaten, there is still plenty of discovering to be done out here. Just be sure to bring plenty of time and patience with you. If you do, the rewards are mind blowing and you will be sharing them with only the people you saw fit to bring with you.