Marshall Islands

Destination Pohnpei, Surf’s Up

Any waves breaking in Pohnpei are over shallow reefs, so not only can you get perfect surf, they’re also powerful. Because of this power, it means surfers from all over the world chase the thrill of surfing in Pohnpei. By Georgina Auton.

May 31, 2019
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Rebecca Murphy

Rebecca Murphy

May 31, 2019

As you fly into Pohnpei (in the Federated States of Micronesia), you’re greeted by lush tropical rainforests stretched over mountains, and coral reefs speckled around coastlines which fade from bright white sand through to a million shades of blue.

If you look beyond the stunning scenery, you’ll find a niche surfing spot known to those willing to go a little off the beaten track.

Allois Malfitani from Pohnpei Surf and Dive Club has lived in many beautiful destinations across the world, but Pohnpei captured his heart. 

“The reason we first landed in Pohnpei was for the surf, and after coming for one month a year for four years on vacation, we finally decided to settle down and start a surf camp,” Allois said.

That was fifteen years ago, and he says the waves are still amazing and uncrowded to this day.

“The number of surfers is usually small unless a big and amazing swell is forecast,” he said.

And if a big swell is forecast – then look out! Palikir Pass, affectionately known to those who surf it as P-Pass, is the most surfed wave in the region. It can be surfed at any tide, but the pros hold out to surf on some of the more massive swells and often wait until the very last minute to jump on flights.

“Any waves breaking in Pohnpei are over shallow reefs, so not only can you get perfect surf, but it’s also powerful.”

Because of this power, it means surfers from all over the world chase the thrill of surfing in Pohnpei. While the surf season in Pohnpei often runs from September to March (or sometimes even April), December to February are the busiest months.

But the key question on every keen surfer’s mind – are the waves busy?

Allois says no, and that’s the beauty of Pohnpei. You’re not going to face forty other people competing for the same waves, and part of that is due to the fact it’s not the place to learn to surf.

“For most waves, it’s just a handful of guys and ladies in the water,” Allois says, adding that surfers like Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning and Stephanie Gilmore have all surfed Pohnpei.
  “Intermediate surfers can have a great time when the waves are up to six-foot faces, but once it gets bigger the game changes a bit.”

While Allois spends almost as much time on or in the water as he does out of it, he has this to say about the rest of Pohnpei – 

“You have to understand this: On these 130 square miles of mountains and waterfalls, plus 80 square miles of lagoon and barrier reefs, there are so many pristine places to explore that I would have a hard time getting to see them all.

“What brought me to Pohnpei was a kind of ‘follow your dreams thing’, literally and to this day, I don’t take a single day living here for granted.”•

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