Published: January 23rd 2011January 17th 2011
12 foot plus - anyone got a jetski?
Before leaving, certainly in Australia at least, if I mentioned to someone I was going to Christmas Island, the inevitable responses revolved around asylum seekers. Eventually I had my stock standard repost down pat: "Mate, if we manage to spot any Tamils, Afghans, Iraqis or any other boat people for that matter, on the Christmas Island I'm visiting, then they've boarded a boat that's overshot the mark by about 10,000 klms.
Pull out an atlas and you'll find that Christmas Island Part 2 is one dot in the mighty nation of Kiribati, smack bang in the middle of the deep blue Pacific Ocean.
Then again, even sprouting the word Kiribati would usually lead to some puzzled looks, maybe because they had never heard of it, had no idea where it was or perhaps more realistically they were wondering why the hell anyone might be tempted to go there in the first place.
Of course, at the other end of the equation, there are plenty of informed folk out there who were able to rattle off some impressive stats on this place, such as:
(1) Isn't Kiribati the 1st place on the planet to see the sun rise each
Torpedos from the beach
Nasty paddle out over the reef
(2) I've heard Kiribati, along with the Maldives, are the lowest nations on earth (in altitude readers, let's not be nasty now) and will thus be the first nations to go under when the world's water levels rise.
(3) Don't those islands stretch for a few thousand klms east to west?
Yes, yes and yes on all accounts. Kiribati IS the first nation to see the sun rise although they have tweeked the rules a tad by bending, quite significantly, the international dateline around the Line Islands (which includes Christmas Island) in order to keep the entire country on the same calender day. Remember the part about stretching 3000 or so klms east/west? No point having one part of the nation a full day behind the rest.
Now for that sinking feeling. Many of us have witnessed video footage on the downside of owning water frontage in Kiribati, people shovelling the encroaching ocean from their living rooms. Snorkels could become a handy accessory in many Kiribati homes in the future. Christmas Island, however, is bucking the trend of a drowning nation and is inadvertently fighting back. How so prey tell. Well, the locals proudly informed us that not
145 kg of lovable local with 20 kg of giant trevally.
only is this the world's largest coral atoll but also the fastest growing. Yep, growing fast enough to keep those nasty rising waters at bay.
Christmas Island, 2 degrees north of good ol equator. You're probably visualising a Gilligan's Island sweltering in the high thirties with a humidity that would cause Darwin's toughest to blanche. NOPE! Visually this place is unique, a thin strip of lowland punctuated with scrub and palms and bending around for about 150 klms in the shape a lamb chump chop that surrounds a multi-coloured lagoon with an average depth of around 1 and half meters. Sound confusing? Well it is. It's kind of beautiful in an atypical tropical kind of way, even if the "architecture" and the local's dearth of environmental preservation savvy doesn't help. But whilst the locals may be prone to discard their wast willy nilly, they sure are a smiling, friendly bunch. You can't help but love them, particularly the younguns.
The aforementioned weather also defies all equatorial logic. The water temperature is pleasantly refreshing and the air sits comfortably in the dry twenties. The locals wear as a badge of honour the fact that this is the coolest corner
Main London stretch - an occasionally makeable closeout.
of the tropical world. It stays that way because of the around-the-clock trade winds that rarely dip below 10 knots and, judging by the howling that whistles through the flyscreens, regularly nudges 25+ knots.
Sounds like perfect weather for windsurfing, kitesurfing or any wind driven sport for that matter. Pity our wee group are simply a rag tag bunch of garden variety surfers whereby such winds would normally signal a recipe for disaster. Not so much here. Whilst some lighter winds would indoobedebly be a bonus and open a whole new array of options, the easterly trades are generally the perfect direction for this west facing surfing coastline. You are spoilt for choice in terms of setups (although strong winds reduce dramatically the number of surfable reefs), the crowds are minimal and basically all that is required is some swell.
Did I mention the tides? The variations aren't extreme but are significant enough to chase you out of the water towards the lower end, unless you're of the ilk that ekes some form of enjoyment tap dancing on exposed coral heads.
Oh, whilst I'm on a roll, the names of the breaks. Whoever monicored these reefs must
Our boat again.
Nice colours huh.
have been born at the far end of the creative queue. The two main surfing areas are London and Paris. A gift horse if ever there was one. But do you think we got to surf Big Bens, The Eye, Trafalgars or Westminsters? Nope, just plain old London Point. Then over on Paris we surfed Paris Rights and Paris Lefts. PLEASE! It's not too late. Give anybody the shot at surfing Sacre Coeurs, Notre Dame, Eiffels and Louvres all on the same day and the punters will flock in.
So is Chrissy Island the next big thing on the surfing atlas? In a word, negatory. No question there are some good waves here but realistically, when describing the surfing experience here you tend to throw in way too many "as long as" or "buts". Look, if you have any queries, drop me a line and I'll fill you in as best I can. Take those offerings as you like then go decide for yourself whether you consider a Kiribati surf trip worth the effort. By the way, don't forget the rod, if the surf is not co-operating, the fishing absolutely will be. Mauri.
There are more photos below