July 7, 2016
by Christopher Parker (@wheresbossman)

ISA Worlds in Fiji: Racing Locations Confirmed; Surfing Set for Cloudbreak (Includes Map)

Cloudbreak SUP

Paddleboarding legend Jamie Mitchell at Cloudbreak, one of the key venues for the 2016 ISA Worlds (photo: Tom Servais)

One of the most eagerly anticipated SUP events in recent memory got one step closer today, with the ISA confirming key locations for the 2016 World Stand Up Paddle and Paddleboard Championship, which is happening in Fiji from November 12-20.

While we’ve known the Worlds were heading to Fiji ever since the big announcement in March, nobody knew exactly where the racing was happening, so this afternoon’s official announcement will no doubt generate some buzz in the community.

The short version:

– Surfing at Cloudbreak
– Long distance “point to point” course between Cloudbreak and Musket Cove
– Course race/relay race on Denarau Island

The long version…

The official confirmation of Cloudbreak is particularly exciting. This is one of the most famous waves on the planet (it plays host to a WSL pro tour event each year) so it’s a pretty massive coup for the SUP World Championships.

In that photo up top you can see paddleboarding legend Jamie Mitchell (with Kelly Slater on the shoulder enjoying the view), showing what Cloudbreak can do. The waves generally aren’t that big and gnarly in November, which is probably a good thing for the ISA event, though at the very least you can expect something like this:


Cloudbreak is pretty much the definition of perfection when it’s working… (photo: Scott Winer)

But while the confirmation of Cloudbreak is exciting it’s not particularly surprising, with the spot having been touted as a key venue ever since Fiji was confirmed four months ago. So the real news from today’s announcement is where the racing will take place, and the most interesting details center around the long distance event.

The distance race at the 2016 ISA Worlds will be an inter-island marathon, and while we won’t know the exact course until much closer to the event, we do know the start and finishing locations.

The race will begin “in the open ocean waters off Cloudbreak” (a little vague — the exact spot probably depends on conditions) and head north before finishing at the Musket Cove resort on the Malolo Islands. However that’s only about 12km as the crow flies, whereas the course is pegged at 20km, so we can assume there will be a few twists and turns to make up the distance.

According to the official press release, the race will go “through lagoons and islands” before the finish at Musket Cove. That could refer to any number of “lagoons and islands” — as the photo below (and the interactive map below that) clearly shows, there’s no shortage of clear blue water in this part of the world, including the famous islands of Tavarua and Namotu and the endless turquoise seascape of Malolo Barrier Reef.

All in all this sounds like a pretty stellar course, with the athletes set to paddle across a stretch of water that looks like something straight out of a South Pacific postcard. And while it wasn’t mentioned in today’s announcement, I’m assuming that race officials will leave the door open for a downwinder, or at least a partial downwinder — Fiji has the potential for some epic inter-island downwind runs.

Tavarua Island Fiji

Tavarua Island with Namotu Island and Malolo Barrier Reef in the background. The long distance race will pass somewhere through this frame from left to right.

While the surfing and the long distance race are happening among Fiji’s famous islands and iconic outer reefs, the course race, and indeed much of the event in general, will be based on Denarau Island, which is attached to the mainland (despite the “island” in the name, Denarau is only separated from the mainland by a very narrow waterway and is connected by road).

But while it’s not exactly the secluded, desert-island oasis of somewhere like Namotu, Denarau still looks pretty solid. The island is home to seven luxury resorts, and given its location within 20 minutes drive of Nadi it makes logistical sense to use it as a base of operations.

Apart from the course racing, Denarau will also play host to the opening ceremony and the awards/closing ceremony. It’ll probably host quite a few of the teams as well, at least those with a budget to stay in the four and five star resorts that populate the island.

As for specifics: I’ve heard the racing will be happening on the beach in front of the Sheraton Resort, though that won’t necessarily be the main event hotel. And I’d say waves aren’t particularly common in this part of Fiji, so expect a relatively flat course race.

Key locations for the 2016 ISA Worlds in Fiji

With the locations confirmed, we can now start to see the 2016 ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championship taking shape.

With the dates set from November 12-20, we can assume the opening ceremony will be on Saturday the 12th at Denarau, with competition starting on Sunday 13th. The closing ceremony/awards will be back on Denarau the following Sunday (November 20th), with the schedule in between largely depending on the surf forecast — the quality of waves at Cloudbreak will decide which days are for surfing and which are for racing.

(This is just my guess based on previous years, it’s not the official schedule.)

Apart from that, the only other big question is logistics, with three separate locations meaning we’ll need a flotilla to ferry around all the athletes and officials. There’s also the logistical question mark about getting boards to Fiji in the first place, though if the ISA is on their game they’ll get a deal with Fiji Airways that guarantees boards can be checked in. But I assume/hope all of this will be ironed out over the next few months, if it hasn’t been already.

So there you go. That’s Fiji for ya. It’s hard not to get excited about the 2016 Worlds when you start googling pics of all these key locations, so no doubt the 5th annual edition of this event is going to be one to remember…