Government of the Federated States of Micronesia

Waves of Tourism hit the FSM

Palikir, Pohnpei (FSM Information Services): January 27, 2011 - The month of January has seen very consistent strong ocean swells hitting the Federated States of Micronesia; last week being particularly noteworthy, with the biggest swells of the winter season hitting Pohnpei and more precisely Palikir Pass. "January 21 was, I would say, one of the top 3 biggest days I have ever seen in 7 years of operation," said Allois Malfitani, owner of Pohnpei Surf Club.

This means that during this time of year, a very little talked about industry in the FSM, is making waves overseas. Unbeknownst to most, these swells attract surfers from the four corners of the earth to Pohnpei, to surf the spectacular waves hitting the various reefs surrounding the island.

P-Pass Surf Camp, operating out of Nihco Marine Park, in Sekere, owned by Wilbur Walter, and Pohnpei Surf Club, operating out of PCR Hotel and Restaurant located on the Nanipil River, become home-base for these surfers from early October, until the end of the month of March, the "surf season." Since the beginning of this surf season, P-Pass Surf Camp has welcomed a steady weekly average of approximately twelve to fifteen surfers, and Pohnpei Surf Club closer to twenty. These surfers come accompanied by their friends, girlfriends, as well as their video and photography crew.

Last week, two of the three Gudauskas brothers, Dane and Tanner, and John John Florence, all members of the Vans Surf Team landed in Pohnpei, and stayed at P-Pass Surf Camp. The day after landing, they began a grueling five day surf session, boating out to the reef passes as early as 6:00AM, returning to shore at sunset around 6:30PM.

Many surfers claim they despise any form of publicity involving perfect surf destinations, their concern being that too much publicity will trigger an influx of too many visiting surfers who will then crowd the "line-up." The line-up is the area in the water where the surfers lay or sit on their surfboards, waiting for the peak of the wave to form. Once the shape of the peak is visible, the surfers will begin to paddle in front of the oncoming wave until they feel the wave's push and then jump up onto their feet to ride the wave until they reach the channel. One of the main rules of etiquette of surfing gives priority to the surfer physically located closest to the peak area of the wave.

The "crowded line-up" issue is a complaint which can easily be dismissed in places such as Micronesia. This season in particular, the swells have been so consistent, that waves have been rolling in, to be surfed 12 hours per day, for three months straight. Surfers take turns riding the waves, and still many waves are left un-ridden. Should there truly be too much of a crowd at Palikir Pass, Pohnpei alone offers a number of alternative reef passes for surfing, including: Sokehs Pass, Main Pass, Mwand Pass and Pehleng Pass.

Regarding Pehleng Pass, surfed by the Vans team last week, Dane Gudauskas climbed back on the boat after his surf session and exclaimed "it was a little daunting seeing the coral head boils in the water, but a really awesome wave!" When asked if this surf trip had met his expectations, Gudauskas replied: "it exceeded all my expectations!"

Tomil Harbor is another great surf spot in Yap, as well as Walung in Kosrae. Even Quicksilver Travel, a division of Quicksilver, Inc. - one of the world's leading surf equipment and clothing company, with a 4th quarter net revenue for 2010 of approximately $500 million, offers on their website organized trips for surfers to "Kosrae Surf Resort," operated out of Pacific Treelodge Resort.

Over the past three years, shots of surfers enjoying the beautiful waves of Micronesia have graced the cover page of many U.S. and Australian magazines, including: Surfing, Tracks, Pacific Longboarder, Surfing Life, Surfer's Path and Surf. So the antiquated argument of wanting to keep the spot secret to minimize the crowds makes little sense. The surfing options are vast in Micronesia. And if nothing else, crowds promote exploration, so one benefit may likely be the opening up of access to more remote and less obvious places for even better surf.

Looking beyond the issue of crowds, FSM is a developing nation with no real industry aside from its fisheries resource. What if the international surfing industry could become more involved in creating surf camps in FSM? What if FSM could produce a few of the world's next generation of professional surfers? What if the market became big enough to incite surf companies in opening surf shops in FSM?

Walter and Malfitani have certainly seen the potential and both have committed themselves in promoting Pohnpei as a surf destination. Walter works with Steve Ware, as his agent based in Australia, and Malfitani works with tour operators in Australia, the United States, Europe, Japan and Brazil. In Pohnpei, they each work with a local staff of approximately ten people, to fill the positions of boat drivers, cooks and house-keepers. Ware operates the P-Pass Surf Camp during the height of the surf season.

Malfitani also organizes, during the summer time on the island of Nahlap, an annual surf camp for local children,"from the age of 8 to 80!" said Malfitani. This is a one day camp to introduce surfing to beginners; Malfitani provides all the equipment - boats, surfboards, jet skis - and teaches the participants the basics of surfing. He said he had approximately 40 participants during the summer of 2010, and up to 50 participants during the summer of 2009.

Adam Van Nooten, a guest currently staying at P-Pass Surf Camp, is visiting from Australia for a two-week surf trip. He has had experience surfing throughout the pacific region, including Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu. Talking with him about the waves breaking at Palikir Pass, he said "this is one of the world's best waves." Sitting on the boat, moored in the channel at the pass, he looked dreamily at the waves breaking on the reef and said "it's just a perfect wave."

For further information on this release, please contact:

FSM Office of the President
Public Information: Press, Radio, Video
P.O Box 34
Palikir Station, Pohnpei, FM 96941
Tel.: (691) 320-2548/2092
Fax.: (691) 320-4356