The rise of surfing in Vanuatu

VANUATU often sits in the shadows of its more well known and developed Pacific Island siblings. Islands like Fiji, Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia that are renowned for world class surf breaks and pristine paradise.

Recently the Vanuatu Surfing Association held the inaugural Leimalo Classic, a celebration of surfing and custom in the Pacific. Named after a local deity Leimalo, meaning ‘the lady wave’, past and present surfers call upon her by chanting her name in a kastom song to send good waves for them to surf on.

This year Leimalo was definitely listening and Pango Village was greeted with consistent 3-4 foot waves and glassy conditions for the five day event. The competition offered the richest prize purse ever seen in Vanuatu with over $4,000AUD on offer for open and junior divisions.

The event began with an opening ceremony coinciding with the Leimalo Art Show, an exhibition held at local art gallery Foundation Suzanne Bastien, which showcased the skills of talented artists including photographers Peter Carroll and Arlene Bax and traditionally made timber boards and painted works by local surfers Narsong Taleo, Simon Pettiford and Gideon Arudali.

The event attracted surfers from Australia and New Caledonia as well as representation from many island and village communities throughout Vanuatu.

The female surfers took to the water first with local Pango surfer Resmah Kalotiti beating a stellar field of local and international surfers to win both the Open Women Shortboard presented by Lattitude Property and Longboard events. New Caledonian surfer Pauline Kojfer won the U/18 Law Partners Pro Junior Women and Charly Donchos notched a win in the U/14 Au Bon Mache Girls division.

The junior boys division was a close fought battle between Ni-Vanuatu and New Caledonian surfers.

In the coveted U/18 Law Partners Pro Junior Men local Pango surfer Junjun Kalmet clinched the win from rival Roger Taleo and Rodrick Taleo was crowned champion of the U/14 Au Bon Mache boys division.

John Steven, former Melanesian Longboard Champion and founder of Vanuatu’s only indigenous operated surf school, used a stylish combination of footwork and manoeuvres to come out on top in the Open Men Longboard division.

The Open Mens Shortboard presented by iCount was the last final in the water and although the waves had slowed down it still gave Feanser Kalmet the opportunity to take the win convincingly with his strong aerial performance. Following the completion of competition twenty five people with a disability participated in the very first ‘Surfability’ program.

The Vanuatu Surfing Association is committed to making surfing inclusive of everyone and following its recent success with the Solwota Sista female surfing program it turned its attention to giving people with a disability the opportunity to try surfing.

The Vanuatu Surfing Association acknowledges the following bodies for their support of the 2017 Leimalo Surf Festival; Law Partners, Pacific Advisory, Au Bon Mache, Lattitude Property, iCount, Billabong, Rip Curl, Azure Pure Water, Promedical, Pango Green Force, The Rainbow Theatre, Wan Smolbag, Vanuatu Society for People with a Disability, Vanuatu Aquatics Federation and Vanuatu Yacht Club, Solwota Sista and

The Vanuatu Surfing Association is the national governing body for everything surfing in Vanuatu. Established in early 2000 it works to strengthen high performance and competitive surfing while also making the sport accessible to the next generation of stoked grommets on all 83 islands.

VSA focuses on the inclusion of women and girls and people with a disability and uses its influence in the community to advocate for social and environmental issues while empowering future leaders and change makers. To find out more follow Vanuatu Surfing Association on Facebook.