Fishermen have a saying:
“The gods do not deduct from man's allotted span the hours spent in fishing.” The same might be said of surfers in the ocean, or, more pithily, in the tube. Jon Roseman has logged a boatload of tube time. The co-founder of the Tavarua Island Resort, he first visited Fiji in 1988, and has maybe spent more time in those long reeling lefts than any other surfer.
Jamie Brisick: Nearly thirty years of Cloudbreak. Is there a particular session that stands out?
Jon Roseman: There have been many, many that were just incredible. The crazy thing about Cloudbreak is it can go from being absolutely terrible and everyone leaves to then it just turns on and is absolutely perfect. There was a particular swell, Easter Sunday, 1997 that was pretty unbelievable. That was right when towing was getting big. Gerry and Victor Lopez were spending a lot of time on the island, Darrick Doerner, Buzzy Kerbox, it was fun. So we got all dialed in on skis. They were tiny skis back then, like lawn mowers. I remember waking up and looking at Restaurants, and the waves at Restaurants were like 10 seconds long, the interval and the power was so intense it was making the waves peel around the island like twice as fast as normal. It was 8-10 feet and sheet glass. So we grabbed the old Yamaha 650 ski, grabbed boards, and jammed out. I remember seeing Cloudbreak from a distance and it looked like it was perfect 3-4 feet, except that between the island and Cloudbreak there were these giant foam balls getting pulled in with the current, it was like going through shaving cream. It was crazy. The waves had the same shape as if it was 3-4 feet but it was 15-20 feet, the most perfect waves I’ve ever seen in my life, just because it was so glassy. I remember we towed for a couple hours and it was the most amazing session I’ve ever had in my life. Just glassy, sunny, Easter Sunday, the barrels were so big, the spit was so crazy. Every single wave was so flawless.
"The greatest thing about Cloudbreak, when it’s got some size, is you’re never 100% comfortable..."
- Jon Roseman
JB: Is there a single wave that sounds out?
JR: There was one wave at Cloudbreak, it was big, like 8-10 foot, the wind was straight offshore, but it was almost like giant closeouts, ‘cause the swell was really west. I took off. It was a wave that no should have taken off on but I went anyway. It looked like it was closing out, but it just kept pulling me back in the tube, and then I’d start to come out, and then I’d get even deeper, start to come out, get even deeper. I remember I was laughing at myself in the barrel. And then the water started turning brown because it was getting shallower, but I remember it let me out at the very, very end. And I almost started crying. The longest, best barrel I’ve ever gotten, for sure.
JB: Most of us know what the wave at Cloudbreak looks like, but what does it feel like?
JR: The greatest thing about Cloudbreak, when it’s got some size, is you’re never 100% comfortable. It is such a challenging wave that you’re always on your toes. So you have this increased adrenaline, heightened awareness, it’s like a surfing sixth sense kicks in. The waves aren’t always perfect so your surfing has to compensate. And it’s so intense, and it grows as it goes into the inside. You’re always on edge so when you make the wave it just feels that much better. There’s no wave like it.
---Jamie Brisick is a writer, photographer, and director. He surfed on the ASP world tour from 1986 to 1991. He has since documented surf culture extensively. His books include Becoming Westerly: Surf Champion Peter Drouyn’s Transformation into Westerly Windina, Roman & Williams: Things We Made, We Approach Our Martinis With Such High Expectations, Have Board, Will Travel: The Definitive History of Surf, Skate, and Snow, and The Eighties at Echo Beach. His writings and photographs have appeared in The Surfer’s Journal, The New York Times, and The Guardian. He was the editor of Surfing magazine from 1998-2000, and is presently the global editor of Huck. In 2008 he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship. He lives in Los Angeles. For more of his work check out jamiebrisick.com & @jamiebrisick