Surfing Nusa Island Retreat

John Charlton (better known as JC) is the famous QLD surf forecaster. You may recognise him from Coastal Watch or heard him on your local radio station. JC has recently returned from Nusa Island Retreat and was so impressed with his stay and with Lou – NIRs remarkable surf guide -  that he decided to do a write up on how truly amazing this place is (in case you didn’t already know)

Here is JC’s overview of Nusa Island Retreat:

"Are you getting a bit tired of heading off to Bali chasing waves with big crowds or doing the obligatory boat trip to the Mentawais with a bunch of mates? Looking for new and unique adventure? Why not try a different surfing and cultural experience? This is not your hard core surfing destination, but you could be pleasantly surprised and then some if you get it on.

The Nusa Island Retreat is situated on Nusa Island, just south of the equator, 5 minutes by boat from Kavieng, in the New Ireland Province of Papua New Guinea. It’s a small, charming Island that has no roads or cars. The surf season runs from November until the end of April, when a variety of swell variations from the north light up the numerous reef breaks in the area close to the Retreat.

The Retreat is owned and run by surfer Shaun Keane and his sister Shannon. This is a place where your needs are personally catered for, with the management team interacting with visiting surfers to ensure that you achieve maximum time in the water, get the best quality waves and most of all, have lots of fun doing it.

The Retreat’s surf coordinator Lou, assesses the conditions at dawn every morning and organizes the days surfing schedule. The PNG Surf Management Plan only allows for 20 surfers to use the area at a time and that not only keeps the crowds down, but also reduces the impact of surfers on the local culture. Lou schedules different boat departure times to different variety of breaks to keep the groups small, at up to 6 to 8 at the most at a time.

Banana boats are the local form of transport and they are expertly skippered by local Melanesian surfers to deliver you to the selected reef that suits the conditions best. They inform you of the different nuances of each break, stand by while you enjoy your surf and even come out and share some of the session with you.

The range of breaks is impressive; Ral is the furtherest break from the Retreat, it’s about a 20 minute boat ride and it is a swell magnet. It picks up any swell that’s about and almost always has a wave when conditions are tiny. It is a right hand reef break off the front of a tiny, picturesque atoll that usually has a couple of take points on the peaky, racy walls.

Nago Island has a fast, hollow, long walled right hander off the south western side of the Island, appropriately called Nago Rights. It needs a bit of swell to get in there on the reef and needs a bit of water over the reef to make it workable and is for the more experienced surfers, being one of the premier, more demanding breaks in the area.

Over on the other side of Nago Island is Nago Lefts, it’s a wrapping left hander that grows as it runs down the line. It is a fun, user friendly wave with a workable wall and a hollow section through the inside. It’s bit of a wave magnet and is reasonably consistent. Across the channel, is Long Long. Everyone likes to get a taste of Long Long. It’s a long, walling right hander that is often described as Bells Beach like wave, but without a wetsuit. It’s not as intense or as intimidating as some of the other breaks, but has a great bowling end section when it’s on. It’s suited to Longboards or Fish/ Funboards and you can draw multiple clean lines of your choice as you make your way down this long, peeling wave.

Nusa Lefts is a short boat ride from the Retreat to the mouth of the harbour. It is a great left hander that comes out of deep water, hits the shelf, and has a great take off, then it forms up into a short intense wall and an exit strategy is a must as the reef comes up very quickly at the end. You’ll need to keep an eye out for sneaker sets also, as sitting too far inside can bring you undone and no one likes getting a set on the head over sharp, shallow coral.

Across the channel is the premier righthand reef break in the area. Piccininis, is often compared to a mini Kirra. It’s a hollow, quick and intense wave with no room for error. It is a bit like a relationship, there is no pulling back once you’re committed and the reef is shallow and will punish board and body if mistakes are made, but the rewards can be great. This is where the locals surf and communication is a must as we are visitors in their backyard. They have a great attitude and are only too happy to share their waves when a little bit of respect is shown. Nusa Retreat Surf Guide, multiple PNG champion Titima Mange calls this place home. He is a surfer of the highest caliber and it is a pleasure to watch him take the place apart. In simple terms, “he rips” and does so with a grin from ear to ear.

There are a few other mysto breaks in the vicinity that can turn on from time to time given the right conditions and there are some spots down on the East Coast of the mainland of New Ireland that can be accessed should the wind direction and swell size suit.

Accommodation is in traditional local style bungalows set right on the waterfront, with a classic sand floored, restaurant and bar as its centre piece. The food is better than excellent and the service warm, personal and friendly. The rooms are serviced daily and they’re unique in design, clean and very well maintained.

This place is not your usual surf camp or tourist destination, it is a much richer experience than that. The bulk of the clientele are repeat visitors that keep coming back for the special experience that the Nusa Island Retreat offers. It is sustainable surf tourism at its finest.

Uncontrolled surf tourism dissolves local cultures."

So there you have it - another satisfied customer. If this isn't enough to get you packing your bags and heading to the airport, then the thought of missing out on a spot in 2014/15 will - with limited space left for the season!


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