Cloudbreak: Nathan Florence finds eternity inside a turquoise Fijian barrel

On March 7, 2024, Cloudbreak delivered one of the most epic swells in Fiji's big wave surfing history.

The use of superlatives has become commonplace in journalism and writing in general, and sometimes, we need time to let the dust settle and process the information.

However, you can't ignore the facts and the footage as they, in this particular event, could easily replace the role of words.

Unexpectedly, for this time of the year, or maybe not, the famous small island of Tavarua was the center stage of a massive big-wave riding showdown.

The first signs of this anomaly issued an XXL Code Purple alert that put swell hunters on high alert. It was time to quickly book flights to the South Pacific Ocean archipelago.

Surf media followed, with a dozen photographers and videographers eager to shoot anything that moved inside the massive blue cylinders.

Remember June 8, 2012, and the "Thundercloud"?

If so, do know that March 7, 2024, nearly matches its grandiosity in size, energy, rawness, and perfection.

Early in the morning, Cloudbreak was firing 20-foot bombs down the reef.

Nathan Florence, Billy Kemper, Conner and Parker Coffin, and Benji Brand met at Tavarua and got in the boat to the infamous break at sunrise.

Soon, the lineup was invaded by around 30 souls wishing they could have a go at one of these turquoise gems.

Into the Blue

The minutes and the hours passed, and the waves only got bigger and bigger, hollower and hollower, heavier and heavier.

At 11:30, the tide and wind conditions were perfect, and the glassy giants paraded on the catwalk.

Timing the paddle-in was an exercise of geometry punctuated by grains of luck, though.

At a wave like Cloudbreak, triangulation is never quite possible, and Nature's acts of randomness make it impossible to find an optimal take-off position.

The liquid curtain that fell down on every swell pulse was thick and relentless. If a surfer were too deep, he would surely be punished.

But even if you found the sweet take-off spot, you could get engulfed by a faster freight train.

The view from the boats on the channel was mesmerizing and increasingly hypnotizing.

"Every single person that entered the water and rode a wave got one of the waves of their life," said Nathan Florence afterward.

The Fijian lefthander proved to be a dream big wave arena for the regular footers, but surfers like Parker Coffin and Che Slatter made goofy footers proud and inspired to push.

The blue skies and offshore winds were as enthralling as misleading.

Billy Kemper suffered one of the wipeouts of the day after free-falling on a huge avalanche of saltwater. But he was not alone in this league.

More than a succession of waves of a lifetime, everyone was somehow getting to the essence of what it feels like to be alive and of how life really is precious.

The strike mission to Cloudbreak was a resounding success.

Soli Bailey, Jai Glindeman, Mick Davey, Mark Visser, and many others were surfed out. They could only be.

"Today is a day that will go down in history," expressed Billy Kemper.

"I've been surfing for over 30 years now, and I can count on one hand how many days I've seen like that."

Waves of a Lifetime

For many surfers, it was the best day of their lives.

"Every hour, we were saying, 'How could it get any better than this?' And it just kept getting better. We all got the waves of our lives. I've never seen barrels that big and been in barrels that big," added Benji Brand.

Reality exceeded the surf forecast and weather models' best expectations for this Southern Ocean storm that popped off-season.

"We always expect this crazy thing from crazy numbers, and this one had small numbers, and way overperformed. It was epic," concluded Jojo Roper.

Laura Enever got some fresh Fiji tattoos but was more stoked than ever.

"To be honest, when I saw the first bombs come through this morning, I wasn't sure I was going to make it off the boat," confessed the Australian big wave charger.

"I ended up watching for a while, then giving it a crack!"

"I got to be in the front row of some of the craziest tubes I have ever seen. I got some visions, a wild beating, and lost my earrings."

Kohl Christensen, who seems to be everywhere simultaneously, took time to reflect on this "surreal" experience.

"Waves you dream about, the ones you would draw in your notebook while staring out the window in school," wrote Christensen.

"Beautifully shaped cylinders with the perfect lip line, running at the precise speed - no need to pump."

"Deep water swells hit the reef at the sweetest possible conjunction, and cyan caverns slow down time and space for those inside and out."

"It's' days like this that transform surfing into a transcendental experience."

There is a new entry in Cloudbreak's history. It's March 7, 2024, the day a few human beings had the best waves of their lives.

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