The Fiji Factor

Despite having been “friends online” for some time, Adam Bennetts and James Jenkins – arguably two of the world’s best prone foilers – hadn’t crossed paths in person, until circumstance delivered them both to the Fijian archipelago at the same time, along with grade-A conditions…

Photos: Ray Collins (unless specified) 

James Jenkins

“Bula!” – the first word you hear as you step off the plane in Nadi. As you wait in the baggage claim for your boards to come out, you can usually identify the other people that are heading to Namotu Island in Fiji. Just look for the most stoked people standing at the oversized luggage section. We are greeted by the friendly mainland staff from Namotu, who load up all of our gear into a truck. That is the last you see of it until it has conveniently arrived at your room on the island, just before you do.

The boat ride to Namotu from the mainland takes about 30 minutes or so, and when you get there you are greeted by the most beautiful voices, as the staff sing their Bula welcome song. I have been a surf guide/lifeguard on the island for about five years and the Fijian greeting never gets old. After a short introductory meeting, everyone hits the water for the first session of their choosing. Namotu has a fleet of longboats that will take you anywhere you want to go, at any time.

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I arrived on the island a few weeks before Adam and Wilko did, for their “Weekend at Wilko’s” Surf and Foil Week, which gave me some time to get settled in and get some sessions under my belt. Tom Carroll and Dave Kalama were on the island for one of Dave’s Kalama Kamp weeks, so getting to share some foil session with those legends was awesome. In fact, Dave actually gave me my first foil lessons, six years ago, right here on Namotu.

Life on the island is pretty dreamy. With a variety of reefs and breaks, there is usually something fun to do at all times of the day. If you aren’t in the water, there are yoga sessions, massages, pool/hot tub, and two different bars on the island. When you’re on Namotu, you can do as much or as little as you like. If the surf isn’t cooking, then the foiling waves are fun, or the wind is on for a wing or kite session. It really is just nonstop fun for the ocean enthusiast. Oh, yeah, and the cocktail hour every day is a highlight…Noah makes the best margaritas I have ever had down at the Sunset Bar. The real beauty of Namotu though is how it brings people together from all over the world that all share a common passion for the ocean and having a good time. I think this pairs perfectly with foiling. People who foil do it because it really is just that fun. It may not yet be entirely accepted in the surf world, and it sure gets its fair share of hate online, but it’s a sport which doesn’t have to be taken too seriously, which is why I love it. This was no better highlighted than by the arrival of Adam Bennetts and Matt Wilkinson, when they stepped onto the island for their surf/foil week. Their athletic ability speaks for itself, but these are two of the most epic and fun guys I have ever gotten to hang out with. I have a feeling we will be spending quite a lot of time together on Namotu in the future…

Adam Bennetts

Surely Namotu Island could be mistaken for Heaven on Earth. Arriving at Nadi airport, you’re instantly greeted with warmth in multiple aspects – warm air, warm smiles, and an all-around warm vibe. This was my very first time visiting Fiji and I could not believe I hadn’t been here before as it is so close to home, relatively speaking.

Wilko (Matt Wilkinson) and I had decided to host a surf/foil experience, offering coaching and video analysis to our guests. And what better place to do it. Before our guests arrived, we had one spare day and, boy, it didn’t disappoint. We were greeted with 6-10 foot perfectly groomed lines touching all the reefs, from Cloudbreak to Castaways. The launch of Fliteboard’s Series 3 was coming up and so we booked a boat from the mainland and loaded it up with our gear. The cool thing about the Namotu region is that every break is accessible by water and most places are no more than a 20-minute boat ride away.

Wilko and I spent our first morning whipping ourselves into some solid nuggets at Love Shacks, a random bunch of peaks in between Swimming Pools and Namotu Lefts. Usually no one surfs it because it’s a wide-open canvas and you need some sort of assistance to get into the right spot, so it was perfect for putting Fliteboard’s Series 3 Ultra L and Pro to the test. There were some crazy moments, one in particular where I found myself caught inside on an 8-foot set and ended up in the lagoon, swimming for my Fliteboard. We spent three hours whipping ourselves in and probably caught 50 waves each. That first session certainly got the blood flowing, and was a pretty inspiring introduction to this beautiful island.

I’ve been talking to James Jenkins for years now, but up until this moment we had never actually met. He was one of my many ‘Instagram’ friends made during the pandemic, and when I finally set foot on Namotu, he handed me a margarita and we were instantly vibing. Not only does the guy absolutely shred on the foil, but he’s also one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.

This week, we somehow lucked out and had high tides in the middle of the day and super light winds, so our daily routine was pretty damn good. Sleep in, have a mid-morning breakfast, yoga, ice bath, plenty of coffee, and then load the boats and skis at 10am and do four hours of tow and prone foiling before the tide got too low. It was amazing to see how much everyone improved throughout the week as I offered “on-the-fly” coaching whilst following the guests about with the GoPro, which would then be analysed later that night over a few Fiji bitters.

One of the most memorable moments from the week was when James and I did a lap of Namotu, which you can see on my YouTube channel. We went doubles on the rope and Kerry whipped us in at the top of Namotu Lefts. We both rode down the line, trading off on sections and into the lagoon. We got to the corner of the island and there was plenty of energy in the swell and so I just thought, let’s go around the island. Once we got around the corner and to the bottom of Mini Pools, it was a bit of a slog pumping, but we made it all the way to the boat house on the complete opposite side of the island. It is such a trip watching the footage back and comparing where we started and finished.

On one of the last mornings on the island, the tides were super low in the morning and James was on the ski, lifeguarding at Pools. It ended up getting too low for the intermediate surfers and he gave me the heads up that there was an epic little window opening up… He came and scooped me up on the beach and we went back out just as the last surfers were heading in. We were fortunate enough to have Ray Collins as the island photographer for our week and he just happened to be out there shooting the guests. He ended up staying out there and shot one of the funnest sessions I’ve ever had. It was so cool to see what James could do with his straps, throwing several backflips with ease. Super impressive!

What a spot, what a trip. Wilko and I will be doing another Surf / Foil experience this year in November, so keep an eye on out to book your spot.

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