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Thursday, June 7, 2012
To stay or go at Cloudbreak?

By Jake Howard
ESPN.com

Kelly Slater
Kelly Slater "warming up" at Cloudbreak while John Florence was making headlines at the Billabong Pro Rio last month.

In a few hours time we'll know the fate of the much hyped Volcom Fiji Pro. Peter "Joli" Wilson reported last night that as of sunset the conditions were flawless and it was dead flat on Namuto.

"The contest crew having been running around trying to second guess the swell forecasts, moving the web cameras from Cloudy to Restaurants and then talking of taking them back again," says Joli. "It's a wake up and look call from me but there are big-wave Joes from all over the world who have flown in."

But the surf comes up in a hurry in the islands. Thanks to the massive swell that's probably starting to kiss the Cloudbreak reef right about now -- if forecast predictions hold true -- the Fiji Pro event staff may opt for Restaurants, an equally world-class wave, but as Surfline.com noted in their breakdown earlier this week, it can be 30 to 50 percent smaller than Cloudbreak.

"You're right Restaurants is the call. That way all my friends that traveled to Cloudbreak can score and not waste any waves. Have fun guys," sarcastically tweeted North Shore mainstay Marcus Hickman this morning.

As you read this Hickman and a smattering of the world's best big-wave riders are perched on the Fijian mainland -- there's no room for them on the islands of Namotu or Tavarua -- just waiting for the chance to go and prove themselves in what looks to be the swell of the summer season thus far.

So my point is this, is the ASP and Volcom Fiji Pro event staff blowing it? Last year a similar "code red" swell hit Tahiti during the Billabong Pro, and while Kelly Slater won at Teahupoo -- when the swell was on the decline -- it was the heroics of Nathan Fletcher, Bruce Irons and others on the day of days that made history. The contest went on hold because the surf was too big, and hence Fletcher's wave will forever be remembered, Slater's won't.

The argument could be made that it won't be "contestable" at Cloudbreak today. But anytime you can paddle in you can compete, anybody from Hawaii will tell you that, so ax that excuse. Another argument may be that all of the tour guys are "severely undergunned," that they lack the proper equipment to ride 20-footers. If they're the "best surfers in the world" as the ASP espouses shouldn't they be properly equipped? The crew at Channel Islands mowed foam last weekend and got Slater, Alex Gray and Pat Gudauskas some big lumber this week. This swell's certainly no secret, and there's been time to prepare.

Maybe Cloudbreak will be too big, maybe it'll just be washing through, and maybe this rant is all for naught, but given what we saw last July in Fiji, that wave stays pretty perfect at a pretty absurd size. Say round three of the Fiji Pro runs at 10-foot Restaurants while the big-wave crew do their thing at 20-foot Cloudbreak, what do you think the webcast audience really wants to see? Better yet, where do you think commentators Alex Gray and Dave Wassel will be?