After nearly two weeks of unflattering attention during the Billabong Pro at Jeffreys Bay -- from the conspicuous absences of Dane Reynolds, Bobby Martinez, and Kelly Slater, as well as mediocre surf -- an announcement today by the Association of Surfing Professionals that it would be returning to Fiji for a contest beginning in 2012 was met with approval. Goofy-footed brothers CJ & Damien Hobgood took to Twitter this morning: "Are we Dreaming tour? ... thanks @Volcom @aspworldtour. can't wait to see my Fiji family."
"I've been waiting for this event to come back. I can't believe we ever left," said Fred Patacchia. "I haven't surfed there since the last time the World Tour was there. Hopefully this is the ASP moving in the right direction."
Ironically, Slater missed the latest contest to meet a sizable swell that hit Cloudbreak and Restaurants, two celebrated left-hand reef breaks off the shores of the remote resort island of Tavarua, in Fiji, where the ASP will hold next year's event. The ASP said in a statement that Fiji would host the Volcom Pro through 2014, "with the potential for further extension from the current three-year license agreement."
"We have been going to Fiji for nearly 20 years and are continually reminded of how amazing a place it truly is," said Volcom Vice President of Surf Marketing Brad Dougherty. The Volcom Fiji Pro -- the apparel company's first World Tour sponsored event -- will be the first competition in Fiji since 2008, which Slater won.
Since then, the ASP schedule has seen a growing number of so-called "Dream Tour" contests occurring in urban destinations where spectator quantity can exceed wave quality. Unlike other stops during the season, the Fiji event -- some 3,000 miles east of Australia -- hardly caters to spectators.
While each ASP season opens along the crowded shores of the Gold Coast in Australia, the top competitive surfing circuit will visit Long Island, NY (Quiksilver Pro New York) in September and San Francisco, Calif. (Rip Curl Search), in November. And in May, this year's annual ASP Brazil tour stop moved north from Santa Catarina to Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city in the country with a population near 12 million.
A homecoming to Fiji is a move that will satisfy some competitors' desire for a more consistent, superior wave. Teahupoo in Tahiti and Hawaii's North Shore are the dominant shallow reef waves on the World Tour. Two months ago, the ASP went online seeking the public's opinion about adding an event at what it called a "reefy lefthander," although, at that time, G-land (Grajagan), Indonesia was the expected choice.
Not since the 2008 Rip Curl Search arrived at Padang Padang and Uluwatu in Bali, Indonesia, has a peeling reef-break similar to Fiji welcomed the world's top competitive surfers. "We love the concept of The Dream Tour so it just made sense to host an event in world-class waves," Dougherty told ESPN.