The One that Got Away…

One of my mates told me that Salani Right was his favourite wave.  I had to ask where it was.

The week before I arrived on Samoa’s main island of Upolu, apparently both the Salani Right and Left had been going off.  The Left in particular was seriously overhead and brutally quick – well that’s what it looked like in the photos I was shown.  Even the surf guides confessed to taking a hiding, so I was pleased that the swell had dropped for my arrival.

Salani Surf Resort is a great setting on the western bank of the Salani River.  Though I must admit that at first look, there seemed to be great potential to be carried away by insect life.  The fales are built right on the river’s edge.  However, I was pleasantly surprised that mosquitoes were not in plague proportions and that the rooms were air-conditioned.  I slept very peacefully and in great comfort every night.

The surf guide advice was that with a small swell and favourably light winds, the low tide would see the Right turn on some beautiful waves.  How “right” they were….

While it is possible to paddle from the shore into the Salani Right lineup, the resort offers a boat ride as part of the service.  The experienced surf guides Paul and Luke provided us with a safety briefing, including hand signals and responses to check and acknowledge that we were OK.  Paul spends part of his year on the North Shore of Hawaii as a lifeguard and it shows – he’s serious about safety.

We set out in the boat for the short ride down the river from the Resort and out to the break.  Once moored, it was over the side and into it.  And it looked gorgeous. Perfectly groomed 3-4’ swells were standing up and barrelling over the reef.  It took me a few waves to work out where to take off.  At first, I found myself being suckered too far inside and taking off behind an unmakeable section (at least, they were unmakeable to me, not being Kelly Slater).  The better waves were breaking a bit wider and eventually I paddled across.  A couple of the other guys were wide too but a bit closer to shore and one guy stayed further inside for most of the time.

I got a couple of waves in my wider position and was really starting to enjoy it.  If anything, the waves seemed to be becoming a bit more consistent and frequent.  I paddled a bit further out and sat and waited for my turn.  Then, almost out of nowhere, there it was.  One of the most perfect looking waves walling up in front of me and as I glanced around to make sure it was my wave, my turn, I could hear surf guide Paul (closer to shore but even wider than me) loudly encouraging me into it, saying something like I was in exactly the right position for a barrel.

I stroked hard into it and felt the wave pick me up quickly.  I jumped to my feet and as the lip started to pitch, I ducked my head and promptly freefell to the bottom of the wave.  Once there, I hit the water with such force and was tumbled so comprehensively, that my rashie was ripped fully off one arm and over my head.  I surfaced coughing and spluttering, with the rashie hanging to me by my left wrist only.

I jumped back on my board, paddled off the reef and sat wide in the channel to collect my thoughts and put my rashie back on.  I then slowly paddled back out and caught some nice waves during the rest of the session.  But none were as perfect as that one that got away…….Bugger!!!


Luke Purcell.

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