Surfers from around the globe are always searching for the newest untouched spot of ocean to indulge their passion. Newcastle-based brothers Kirk and Brett Owers found their paradise in the unlikely setting of Nusa, in the New Ireland Province, alerted to PNG’s only dedicated surf camp by Ian ‘Smiley’ Osborne.
Osborne had surfed in PNG’s remotest corners in the 1970s. Recently he returned with a dozen surfing mates to Nusa, a small, sand-fringed island off the coast of New Ireland. The Owers, Osborne and the others found seven good reef breaks within easy reach of the retreat, and with more surf options a short drive away.
Kirk Owers says surfers are somewhat obsessive. “We tend to holiday away from a renowned surf coast only under duress. PNG certainly qualifies as a surf trip, but it’s an enigmatic one,” he writes. “PNG tends to attract older surfers because the waves are less challenging and less crowded than in nearby Indonesia. There’s no need to compete for waves, so cordiality, rather than antagonism, develops. It’s a good vibe as they used to say.”
The PNG Surf Association has minimized surf overcrowding with a surf management plan. Each of the nation’s reef zones has been designated a maximum quota of visiting surfers who must pay a daily fee of $A10. The money goes towards community projects and local surf clubs. The president of the PNG Surf Association, Andrew Abel, says he developed the system after seeing how local people in some countries were “bystanders in their own land”, unable to benefit from surf tourism.
After flying from Moresby, the Aussies are met at Kavieng airport by a driver who ferries them across a narrow channel to their island. Local tour operator and head of the Kavieng Surf Club, Luke James, takes The Owers boys in a squeaky SUV to a beach simply called ‘Ribs’ after a guy who broke his there.
“Ribs packs a punch. We surf for an hour then late in the afternoon we have a second surf in front of Kavieng High School. The waves break quickly across a dangerously shallow reef ledge and barrels for just five or six metres before running aground. It’s not a great wave, but it’s exciting. Brett and I push each other into bigger and more dangerous waves --- hooting and hollering. Brett paddles around grinning: “Look at this? How about this! Papua New Guinea!”
Oh, and the accommodation at the Nusa Island Retreat consists of traditional island-style bungalows which are fan-cooled and sleep up to six. There are also over-the-water bungalows with ensuites plus a large, two-storey bungalow.
Kirk Owers’ story appeared in the Melbourne Age’s Traveller supplement, 12 July 2008.