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Guam Travel

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First things first. Surfing in Guam belongs to the lo¬cals and anyone believing otherwise will soon get a rude awakening. There's no doubt that the island has some exciting reef breaks — "exciting" also means dangerous — but to say that Guam's surfing com¬munity are protective of their waves is a mild under¬statement. The island, the largest in Micronesia, is already one of Japan's favourite holiday destinations and the locals seem to feel that if the Japanese surf crowd ever get to know about their waves there'll be no space left for them. Even so, many Guam surfers enjoy surfing abroad — the Guam national team par¬ticipate in overseas events — and if their "take and not give" attitude continues they'll be making few friends around the region.

Surfing first came to Guam in the early 1960s when Rick Value started to teach the locals how to ride waves. Today there are several hundred surfers and boogie boarders. They enjoy local competi¬tions, but certainly not international meets —that's not their direction.

In any case, Guam's breaks are hardly the most user friendly. The island is actually the top of a moun¬tain that rises many thousands of metres from the ocean floor, so the coastline is exposed to the full force of deep ocean swells. The waves jack up very suddenly, are very fast and break powerfully onto hard, sharp coral reefs. From November to March, swells generated by storms in the north Pacific crash onto Guam's shores, while in the summer, typhoons and tropical storms bring conditions that can only be called totally wild. Some of the best-known and most consistent waves are at Agana Boat Basin. It offers lefts and rights, but the left is more consistent, with clean tubes that can hold up to 4m. Rick's Reef (named after Rick Value), a right-hand break at the north end of Agana Bay, needs a big north swell to work properly but in the right conditions turns into a Banzai Pipeline with 2-3m waves forcing ultra-fast reflexes.

At Malesso Channel, a break on the southern tip of Guam, the reef runs deep enough to allow a long run with¬out fear of shredding your flesh on a wipeout. Even so, only experienced waveriders should take on Malesso's left, which at its best gets to over 4m. Talofofo Bay offers the security of a beach break: most of the time the waves are only small, but when a storm moves past the waves reach 2¬4m and break left and right.

Since Guam is so expensive —the cheapest hotel room and you need a car to get to most of the breaks, the country isn't financially viable for budget-conscious surf trav¬ellers. Those visitors that do surf are normally just passing through and are "encouraged to pass through". As one local sand: "If people want to surf here, we tell them that this is our island, that these are our waves, and don't we it personally, but we like things the way they are." There's only one group of surfers in Guam .

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