Tavarua Trip Recap 2023
submitted by Dr. Brian Sturgill, conference coordinator
Tavarua holds a certain mystique that is unlike other surf destinations. It’s a special place—one that garners a degree of respect and reverence. A place that continues to attract visitors from around the world, year after year. The Surfer’s Medical Association has had the pleasure of being invited back to this magical island each year for the last 25+ years. And each year our Fijian friends greet us with the same warmth and kindness that we’d expect from an old friend.
The SMA’s week was accompanied by heaps of smiles, gratitude, and perfect waves. We had a number of families join us this year as well—creating memories that won’t soon be forgotten. Each surfer left with the memory of perfectly surfed waves etched in their mind’s eye (although our photos may suggest differently). We also left feeling like we’d made a difference. Part of the Surfer’s Medical Association’s mission is giving back. Each family contributed in their own way; serving our Fijian friends by donating gifts, medical care and supplies to the local village and school. The clinic day was “foreordained” according to Ted Hatch, an OB/GYN from the Bay Area. The waves were in the head high to double overhead range for the majority of the week—with the exception of one day… the day that we volunteered in Nabila. That day was small and windy; just as karma would have it.
In the evenings; we had the privilege of hearing from outstanding speakers with well-prepared talks. The topics ranged from spinal injuries to joint replacement to hydration and kidney function. The SMA’s top brass, Deric Weiss—a palliative care doctor from North Carolina also hosted a Jeopardy game one night centered around surfing and the history of the SMA. The evening talks were made possible by Simon Hutabarat, an orthopedist from Sydney, who doubled as our audio/visual guru.
From start to finish, it was an extraordinary week. The fact that Restaurants was cooking out front all week was just an added bonus—which is evidenced by the “group photo” on the last night taken at sunset. A select few surfers were missing, trying to get one last perfect left-hander before heading back home the following day. Meyo Malafa, a hand surgeon from Los Angeles, once again had to be peeled from the lineup each day. Skye Heston, a family practice doctor from Eureka and his wife Jessica, may have given Meyo a run for his money for overall wave count.
As it is with magical places, most, if not everyone is keen to return in 2024!