“I had been looking forward to our PNG surf trip for some time. Not only had I never been to PNG, yet had heard of guys who have been going twice a season for the last 10 years. I’d heard that the surf essentially works consistently for 6 months of the year, then doesn’t work at all for the other 6 months. Timing is crucial. And I was going with a number of mates from the hood. It had to be fun.
There were 12 of us on this trip. Between us, I think we brought the full array of current surfcraft, with maybe the exception of a SUP. We had ultra-short quads, standard thrusters, fat-bats, longboards, mini mals, alaias, a surf-ski and even swim fins and a handboard. A couple of keen fishermen also bought their fishing gear but with the waves on offer, there was little time for them to fully explore all the fishing possibilities.
The Tupira Surf Club is an eco-friendly series of buildings set right on one of the main beaches at Ulingan Bay, Madang Province. To get there, you fly into Port Moresby (3 hours from Brisbane), then take a 1 hour local flight to Madang. The flying is quite easy and comfortable, especially in comparison to the 2 hours of bum-numbing car travel over corrugated bitumen from Madang to Ulingan Bay.
Tupira Surf Club features a peeling right hander directly out the front. The wave can be viewed from the balconies of the bedrooms, the bar, the recreational area, the kitchen and the dining room table… as well as from several long bench seats set right along the rock retaining wall on the foreshore. When not surfing, a fair bit of time was spent simply enjoying the sight of the waves out front from various vantage points.
Nicki Wynnichuck is the resident surf guide. He has spent the last 4 seasons as the surf guide at Tupira. He knows a lot about the waves in the area. He tells you where the “keyhole” is at Tupira, so you can paddle out easily, how best to get back in, where to line up when you are out there, what the current will do, what the wind is likely to do later that day, or the next, what other breaks might be worth checking, etc. All the essential stuff, so that you can get into your surfing quickly and confidently, despite never having surfed a particular wave before. A good surf guide is priceless.
We were fortunate with the waves. It was on the small side and a little bit windy during the first couple of days but quite rideable and enjoyable. This allowed us to gain an understanding of the moods of the break. The swell gradually increased as our week progressed. It culminated in clean 6-8’ walls at Tupira, with the occasional barrel, on our last day. Put it this way – it was big enough for me to break my longboard after 2 hours, with just 3 of us out, on that final day. Why only 3 guys out? The long left, 15 minutes down the road, had turned it on for the goofy-footers, so the “crowd” was spread. Everyone was happy.
The founders of Tupira, Justice Nicholas Kirrowom and Andy Abel (Surfing Association of PNG President), have been active and instrumental in a number of major initiatives to benefit local communities throughout PNG. Indeed, SAPNG have been the driving force in implementing sustainable surf tourism in PNG. SAPNG levies fees on all surfers enjoying the PNG waves and ensures that the funds they collect get to the villagers. More importantly, they ensure that the villagers know that those funds come from the surfers who visit. So everywhere you go to surf, you receive a very warm welcome.
In establishing the various surf clubs that have come into existence in PNG over the last few years (Tupira included), SAPNG rolls out a surf management plan that involves extensive consultation with the traditional custodians. They also teach the locals to surf, with a special emphasis on teaching women to surf. Half of all the surfboards that have been donated to the SAPNG have been painted with bright pink noses, to denote that they are for the use of women only.
I hadn’t been to PNG before and was very pleasantly surprised. The swell was consistent and we were looked after like royalty. Food was good, accommodation was comfortable and I actually enjoyed the lack of internet access for the week (internet is available intermittently and with some difficulty but I didn’t bother even trying). Ahh! how’s that serenity!!!!
Looking forward to returning in the not too distant future”.
World Surfaris Director – John Finlay, Tupira Surf Trip