Mr. Gray & His Love For FIJI
How many times have you been to Tavarua and when was your first trip?
I’ve been to Tavarua about 20 times. My first trip was when I was 19. I had no idea how to ride the wave at cloudbreak, and felt a need to get my act together out there. It’s probably the hardest wave in the world. But I also believe it’s the best.
Restaurants or Cloud Break?
I really go to Tavarua for Cloudbreak. One wave or there will change your life. There’s so many times I’ve backed out of a wave and thought it was a closeout only to see it blow it’s brains out down then line. It’s so intimidating looking at such a long wall grinding down the reef. But when you finally sack up, there’s a wave of a lifetime waiting for you if you want it. I also would like to touch on the island. The fijians are the most welcoming and kind people you’ll find. The resort is amazing. I put it all as my favorite place in the world.
How big was this swell and how were the crowds?
I went to this swell hoping it would be maxing 10 foot ledge. Meaning no wash throughs, and just doubling up madness. On the rise and fall of the swell it has really great moments. The peak of the swell I got washed through the entire reef 12 times in 3 hours. And unfortunately broke 2 boards in the spin cycles of it. But I did manage one wave that made my whole trip in between the wash throughs. Stoked!
Favorite model to ride out there? Why?
Up to 8 feet, I typically ride a 5’9″ 6 channel that I get specially shaped. It has a very thick deck next to the stringer and under my chest which allows for paddling. Although it has a shortboard nose and round pulled in tail. And thin rails to knife drops. When it goes the 10 to 12 foot and washing through I like to ride a 6’3″ taco grinder. At that point I feel I need a little more length with all the water moving. Then when it goes 18 feet beyond its time for a 9’0″. That’s when it moves out to the third ledge and goes bonkers beyond belief.
Would you rather be on a bigger board that’s less maneuverable and coast in or be on a shorter board and take off under the ledge/lip?
I’m most comfortable on shorter boards. Something that changed my life was surfing with Kelly Slater at Cloudbreak. I was on a 6’6″ and he was on a 5’9″. During the session he looked at me and said I was riding too big of a board. I brushed him off and laughed thinking no way, you’re Kelly slater and only you would be riding that short of a board right now. Well, I decided to take his advice, and it changed everything for me. I was outrunning barrels and trying to slow down on the longer board. The shorter board allowed me to sit under the double up ledge and take off late. Than rather than trying to slow down with a longer board, I was able to match the speed inside the tube from the new gained maneuverability. That ending said I’ll never surf like Kelly. Especially at cloudbreak. No one surfs as good as him here. But I’ve transferred the shorter board in barrels mentality everywhere I travel now. Especially at slabs. You just don’t want the length dropping into a steep, quick, barrel with a lot of curve.
Worst wipeout out there?
worst wipeout was during the swell that Bruce got that wave on the orange board.It was third ledge and pretty damn big. 20 feet. I caught a wave on my brand new 9’0″ and it was the best backside paddle in wave I had ridden. Well Mother Nature has her ways and immediately decided to knock my ego down. As I kicked out of my wave, garret McNamara is towing into the biggest wave of the swell. The wall of the wave was all the way down the reef. I was in the middle of that wall. I remember seeing garret get eaten by the foam ball and then I just put my head down scratching and paddling as hard as I could. Halfway up the face of the wave I was in the barrel. I ripped my leash off and dove through the lip. I swam as hard as I could trying to make it through the wave and out the backs I didn’t. I got sucked up and over from the back of the wave. Luckily ink ever hit bottom. But went for quite a dark and violent ride. I came up and thank god there wasn’t another one after it. A ski found me at the bottom of the reef about 30 minutes later. We went to look for my board and found it in About 20 pieces. It literally looked like a confetti party of foam. There wasn’t an ounce of glass left on the board!
Favorite crew to surf with out there?
Favorite crew is always surfing with the chief Aca, isei, and all the boys. But definetly doing step offs with Jon Roseman stands as a highlight in my life. He’s my hero. And then of course the cold beer in the jacuzzi after an all day surf just doesn’t get any better.
Describe the taste of the kava? Local vibe?
Well it has a formidable taste! It’s more about the respect aspect than anything. Offering kava to the tribe and drinking it with hem is a cultural, fine experience I hope everyone gets to try. Just be careful going the full hot order to Fiji camp….. 😉