- 17 June 2009 | Surfing
When we think about fantastic surf spots in the world usually the first thing that comes to mind are Hawaii, Australia, Mexico, California and Portugal. But there is another location on the surf map, undiscovered, unpredictable, un-spoilt, beautiful and exotic. This destination is perfect for the European surfer staring out the window of his apartment, office or car at the cloudy, grey sky and cold, wintery conditions. This location, a hidden getaway, distant and remote, will surprise even the most skeptical with challenging waves breaking of scenic beaches, reefs and points without the crowds. Few know of this place, travel agencies rarely offer this direction that is why it is a surfer’s dream! The place in mind - Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea or PNG in short is located 160km to the north-east of Australia and lies just south of the equator. A country diversified and picturesque, discovered in the early 1500’s by a passing Portuguese fleet, is made up of a wealth of dense tropical rainforest, highlands, long rivers, tropical islands and white sandy coastline. Papua New Guinea’s 19 provinces are home to 5 million inhabitants, many local cultures and 800 local languages with the main one being Pidgin, spoken throughout PNG. Declared independent in 1975 Papuans still keep their old and various traditions alive by doing rituals celebrating births, deaths, marriages and other initiations. Travelers to PNG can experience the local variations of costumes, rituals and dance at a number of Sing-Sing shows - cultural and tribal shows held around the country annually with the most famous being the Goroka and Mount Hagen shows in the rugged Highlands. With this in mind PNG offers such a variety of activities travelers with completely opposite scopes of interest will be satisfied. Activities such as trekking through the highlands and jungle tracks, relaxing on numerous island resorts, diving amongst the coral reef and WWII wrecks, cruising the Sepik river and of course… Surfing.
The early days.
Surfing in Papua New Guinea found its start in the mid 80’s when a group of young, local surf enthusiasts, headed by Andy Abel set up a club in the northern coastal village Vanimo in the West Sepik province. Since then the sport has developed greatly where it has become affiliated with the PNG Sports Federation as a sporting body and has become a member with the International Surfing Association. Interestingly the Surfing Association of Papua New Guinea, with Andy Abel now its president incorporated a unique system, called the bottom-up approach, where the local communities own and manage their respective clubs cooperating directly with the association. Through this system local communities have direct access to surf tourism operators from markets like Australia, Japan and now Europe and reap the associated benefits, giving the profits back to the local people.
Are we there yet?!
Surfing potential in PNG is unlimited. All year round the conditions and climate welcome surfers to visit the numerous surf spots scattered around the mainland and islands. Our journey begins in one of Europe’s many large airports where we travel on our selected flight to Singapore. After the near 12-hour flight we have a choice of continuing directly to the Papua New Guinea capital, Port Moresby with the national carrier Air Niugini or travelling through Australia for a much needed stop-over in Cairns or Brisbane, with daily flights to Port Moresby simplifying our onward journey.
Having arrived in Port Moresby we are transferred from the airport to our hotel. Along the way we notice the many street markets selling sweet potato, coconuts, sugarcane and a local favorite – betel nut, the seed of the Areca palm, chewed and used as a stimulant by locals. The diversity of the people is clearly visible with islanders and coastal people having soft, tender features unlike the highlanders, whose warrior tradition stands out immediately. After visiting some of Port Moresby’s sights and local art galleries it is time to get ready for the upcoming days of wet fun.
Early morning we load the boards, wax, medical kits, and sunscreen and take a short trip south 10 minutes out of the city to Sero Cove – our first surf spot. This reef break has the best swells early morning, with 1 – 2 meter waves regularly coming in from June to September. Sero Cove is one of many spots, some still undiscovered on the southern coastline along the way to Milne Bay, 100km further on the south-east point of Papua New Guinea. With reef breaks being dominant between Port Moresby and Milne Bay, the latter does have the odd beach break where the not-so-experienced can attempt to master their board skills. Apart from surfing Milne Bay is known for the annual Canoe festival featuring a display of traditional canoe races, war canoes, dance, music and food exchanges. Having enjoyed the south coast for a few days it is time to jump on a plane and fly north to one of the premier surf spots in PNG – Vanimo.
Vanimo, just over an hour and a half flight time from Port Moresby, is the capital of Sundaun Province. Lying just 30km from the Indonesian border this small coastal town attracts mainly surfers all year round in search of the perfect wave. With the northern part of our journey beginning in Vanimo we have over 260km of coastline to explore in search of the ultimate ride. Waves in Vanimo are consistent between October and April, even with the occasional 2 meter swells pounding the shore. With reef and beach breaks the surf can be enjoyed by both learners and seasoned riders. The beautiful peninsula, tropical rainforest, crystal clear water and nearby bits of WWII plane wrecks additionally diversify our stay.
Travelling down the coast we reach Wewak, a small town located closely to where the Japanese handed over surrender documents in 1945. Having felt a large dose of WWII action, this exotic town is a diver’s dream with “postcard” views and unimaginable water color, palm – fringed beaches, untouched reefs and scattered Japanese war wrecks. However, surrounded by 15 tropical islands it also has a number of wonderful surf spots attracting surfers during the wet season from September. A huge advantage is that Wewak never gets crowded and has fairly consistent waves breaking on reefs.
Our trip is nearing its end, so our final destination is the remote town Kavieng in New Ireland Province. Long and mountainous, this tropical island is known for its never-ending beaches, peaceful and skilled locals and famous Shark-calling festival. Kavieng, situated on the most northern end of the province offers a number of reef breaks easily accessible by boat or land transport. Just out of the town is a small retreat providing accommodation, meals and transport for surfers to the surrounding breaks. With waves in Kavieng being well-established and consistent surfers visiting will not be disappointed.
That’s not all…
The journey we just took covered PNG’s surf spots only briefly. The country is abundantly filled with attractions, with the true picture impossible to describe in print. Other surf destinations like Madang, situated further down the coast from Wewak, give surf and sports enthusiasts additional opportunities to enjoy pure beauty and feel withdrawn. In fact, for a surfer, PNG really offers undiscovered and unlimited surf possibilities with members of the Surfing Association continuously exploring the land in search of new locations. An example is Bougainville Island, an island re-born after years of armed conflict and unrest, is referred to as a jewel of the South Seas. And although surfing and surf-tourism are high among the priorities of the governing bodies, if kitesurfing, windsurfing or wakeboarding is your thing then believe me your expectations and needs will be catered to. So, the next time you start thinking about your holidays during the long, grey European winter days imagine yourself relaxing on secluded islands and beaches, surrounded by rainforest, lagoons and waves that will take your breath away. When this happens stop imagining and make it a reality to visit Surfing’s last frontier.
No Limit Adventures is a small international company made up of people with passion for travel, sports and adventure. Being long time residents of Australia, over the last 10 years we have been discovering the charms of PNG. Having made good friends, acquaintances and partners amongst locals, business operators and governing bodies over the years allows us to see PNG from a different perspective and thus helps us invite travelers seeking journeys a little out of the ordinary.
Source: No Limit Adventure