GSN Team Rider and dead-set frother, Vanessa Cook and her fiancé Michael pack up their entire life in Sydney and head across to Samoa to work as surf tour guides. This whirlwind adventure has only just begun!

Vanessa Cook


Tofa!  That’s it, we are checked in and on the plane! Phew. We had bought an extra two bags of luggage each and packed ourselves to the max! 7 surfboards (including Marsh 5’10”-19”-23/8”, 6’0-183/4-26/16), 10 x big wave leashes, 10 x fin sets, 2 x spearfish guns, 5 x spears, fishing gear, masks, snorkels, fins, laptop, iPhones, more Surfkini’s than you can shake a stick at (or wear out!) and the rest of our surf and clothing wear that we will need for a year in Samoa!

What a whirlwind last 9 days! We saw the job advertised on Sa’Moana website on the Monday eve. We both applied and got offered the positions on the Tuesday! Talk about life changing! We packed up our beautiful little 2 bedroom unit in Queenscliff, NSW, said bye to all our lovely friends and families (who thought we were quite mad) and shopped till we dropped for everything we thought we could need for living on an Island for a year.

We toasted our friends and family with champagne and sushi at Sydney airport and then ventured into the unknown! Neither of us have been to Samoa before, we’ve been to Fiji last year and I’ve surfed at Vanuatu and Tonga also.  This was going to be adventure for sure!



Talofa! We landed at 5.15am on Thursday morning in the dark. A very friendly Samoan named Freddie from Sa’Moana Resort was there to pick us up.  He had such a big smile on his face! We popped to one of the 20 ATM’s Samoa has on her islands to get some cash.  Samoa is in the heart of the glistening Pacific below the equator, about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand.  She is made up of 10 picture perfect islands has a small population of 186,000 largely Polynesian.

We drove through a few of the 362 villages to our new home at Sa’Moana Resort.  It was about a 40-minute drive with a lot of the roads having huge potholes and volcanic rocks.  The sun was starting to rise at 6.50am, just as we pulled up to our surf house.  We were absolutely shattered after only 3 hours sleep, but eager to look around.  We did a bit of unpacking then headed out to explore our new front yard.

Out the front


Sa’Moana Resort took the brunt of Cyclone Evan on December 13th 2012.  Since then, Daniel and Kirstin have been working tirelessly along with their committed and happy staff to rebuild the resort. It was originally a 3.5 star resort and they have high expectations and goals set to be a 4.5star resort.  Everything has to be shipped in from New Zealand.

There are 7 fale’s on the beach. Each of them brand new with beautiful tiles, own bathroom, fridge and views straight over the ocean.  In front of them are hammocks just begging to be sat in. There’s also an infinity swimming pool! Chuffed! Life couldn’t get much better.

The main Fale has a restaurant, bar (excellent cocktail menu) and beside that was our new office!  We had breakfast of fresh fruit salad, cereal and our choice of hot breakfast.. Mmm yummy banana pancakes should keep us going! We then got our surf stuff organised and jumped in the van to go to the Northeast side of the island to surf a little break called Coolio’s.



Farani is the Head Surf Guide at Sa’Moana and he has been guiding for over 10 years around the islands. As we sat up front in the bus, the other 3 guests were body boarders freshly off the boat from Aganua, Savaii (another Samoan Island). Farani pointed some of the local vegetation including the papaya trees, elephant ear leaves, taro plantations and banana trees.  This place was beautiful. Apparently it was only 3 months ago, 4 months after the Cyclone that the fruits have started to produce fruit again.

As we drove past the villages, Farani beeped everybody with his horn. One beep for hello, two for thank you!  All the locals walked along the road and always smiled and waved back. We stopped en-route to feed the turtles. Farani used an FCS fin to cut open some ripe papaya and the turtles come right up to your hand to take it.  Apparently they catch the turtles when they are little and remove them from the sea, and then when they grow and get bigger, they return them back to the ocean.  Not sure if it’s the best way, but it was a great experience!  We then carried on our journey to the surf.


Coolio’s is so named after the guy who lives there.  He charge’s everyone a small amount to surf at this break.  It’s a peaky little wave that works well in North swell and Southerly winds.  On bigger days it’s a short right-hander, but today it was small peaky A-frames.

We scored it to ourselves for 90 mins before word got out and the place was pack shortly after. One guy even came out drunk as a skunk… he didn’t know what was happening and a danger to everyone else out there!

After we had our fill of fun waves we headed to the flea market for a look around the locally made produce.  Clothes, coconuts, wood, all beautifully handmade and at reasonable prices along with the fruit.


Next stop was the Papapapai-uta waterfall.  A spectacular 100m waterfall that has a dramatic plunge into a gorge.  After this we went to the Papaseea Sliding Rock… You descended down 100 steps to a 5m waterfall, then you sat down at the side of it, pushed yourself onto the slimy stuff and slide down the falls into a not so deep freshwater pool! It was fun! There were 2 more slides, smaller, but a bit more dangerous! We were all smiling and having fun!

Back home we snoozed before dinner- beef stir-fry and rice. A great homely food for starving surfers! It was delicious and full of colourful flavoursome vegetables. After dinner jet lag caught up with us and
we were in bed by 8.30pm!

The Trench


The next morning we awoke to the howling ocean, onshore wind and torrential downpour.  Yuck! The mosquitos were out in force, but we braved them for breakfast and then made our escape to the 28’ Island Hopper, Mercruiser boat.  Once boarded, we headed for the famed Pebbles break. One of the other guests had lost a lot of skin in one session there.



We passed Funkytown, a cheeky, bowly right-hander that we surfed later on 2’ swell, low tide and practically dry reef! Pebbles was doing it’s best to impersonate Cyclops! The bodyboarders were off the boat in seconds and paddled over to score some bombs.

Michael and I watched and waited for a rideable wave. We saw the boogers paddle, drop into some jaw dropping neck braking rides! They
took off, dropped down and then were scooped back up along the barrel section and then spat out. It was a quick short ride, that was impressive to watch.  Pick the wrong wave and you’re in for a belting!


After watching for a good half hour, we moved onto the next break called Wackas. There was a big white bouy marked “X” just for us.  Wackas is a left-hander and today we were content with a little 3’ bowly
wally waves coming through.  There was now a crowd of 10 of us in the water and there were 2 take off points so we all took turns.  This wave was super fun. I got nice take-offs with three good turns in before hitting the channel and paddling back out to the peaks.

After I warmed up to the wave, I started getting a bit more
adventurous and stretch out my lines. Every so often a bomb set would catch you off guard and you’d have to scramble for the horizon as the reef drained and threw out massive barrels! After our fill of waves, we headed back for lunch- a delicious chicken and papaya salad with peanuts.


Next day we went exploring in the boat. In the lagoon we saw turtles that tried to out swim us! We ventured all the way out to Boulders- at Black Sand Beach.  A big wave break, solid left hander and mind out for the coral heads as you race along the line! If you fall off, you may get washed up on the boulders after you get washed across the coral reef! But the photos look good!

We then disembarked the boat and back at the resort we jumped into the double kayaks and floated off East to the lagoon. It’s a spectacular ride- all little white sand beaches, brilliant blue starfish on the bottom and lots and lots of fish! We turned into the lagoon and went through a mini rapids! Once in there, the current takes you over to the Mangrove trees, the water turns from a crystal clear blue to muddy brown.  You do wonder if there are any crocodiles!

Surf Samoa


We then surfed Village Lefts- about 500m before the resort, (funnily enough it is directly in front of the village!) we paddled out- looking for any break in the reef and then got to work! It was pumping. 3’-4’ with the odd bigger set coming through.  We gradually drifted down to the end of the reef and found this to be the spot to sit. The rides were about 200m + long. You’d take off deep and then race along.. Pretty similar to Racetracks at Ulu’s.  I was trying to get into as many barrels as possible, but conscious of the razor-sharp reef underneath!


At the end of the day, working there just wasn’t for us. Everything was lovely, but we didn’t get to surf enough for this point in our life. So with a heavy heart we headed home back to Australia for the next chapter of our lives…. Indonesia for 3 months of solid surfing!



About the Author: