On the Radar- Part IV: Réunion Island Debrief

St Leu, doing its thing. Photo from our deck

“Not your average tropical island” boasts one of the tourist posters and I couldn’t agree more. This place was one seriously bizarre piece of volcanic rock in the middle of the Indian Ocean. A bubble of modernity off wild Madagascar. It has the strange feel of almost being 1st world Europe (technically an “overseas department of France”) with quaint frenchie villages, baguettes around every corner and euro-style cafes on the beach. But then there’s the 3rd world island vibe with road-side barbequing, common place beer drinking at 10am and general pockets of creepy dilapidation. After you spend a few days you start to feel like the whole place is a weird contradiction.

volcanic peaks streaking up to 3,000 meters above the sea

A few things that I really struggled to get my head around:
(1) The French addiction to baguettes/ pasteries. For the life of us we couldn’t find a place that served bacon and eggs. Being a famous cultural melting pot, we were baffled why EVERYONE felt the need to eat bread for breakfast, in every town.
(2) The island’s obsession with the Dodo bird. This crazy turkey-like creature is famous for its relatively-recent extinction. They named it the “dodo” because it was friendly and dumb enough to hang around the sailors and their barbeques. Islanders eventually ran them into extinction in the 1600s. The place we stayed was called the Dodo Spot, the national beer is Dodo (which everyone over the age of 11 drinks at any hour of the day and night). However, most of the reading I’ve done states that the Dodo was an endemic species of Mauritius, not Reunion. No one could explain this to us.
(3) Unemployment. Although the lineup was pretty empty, there were still a variety of guys in the water and general crowds around the towns in the day. Everyone seemed to be enjoying their casual weekday afternoons as though they were on vacation just like us. A few beers with the local boys revealed that unemployment is heavily popular given the generous hand-out from the French government. As one guy put it to me, “I could work and pay 40% tax or pick up my check for 650 euros a month and enjoy the island life.” On the Sarkozy dole in the Indian Ocean- mind boggling.

The inside bowl at St. Leu is awesome. The wave bends almost 180 degrees from a mushy outside section and wraps on the gnarly coral reef

Testing out my new 5’7” Larry Mable quad, thanks to Felipe. The board was loving the 200 yard long walls

For all the weirdness we dealt with, one thing was as expected: consistent, solid Indian Ocean energy. The waves were pumping overhead for 8 days straight and the famous St. Leu and surrounding reefs did not disappoint. Well aware that Réunion’s Marine Observatory has confirmed 24 shark attacks around the island since 1980, the massive shark sighting on day 2 caused a bit of tension when debating where to surf. We were quite pleased to find that St. Leu remained pretty empty and staying 20 yards away from the paddle out spot, we surfed our brains out the whole trip.

One of the bigger days. When it got too big it didn’t hug the reef as well but definitely got the blood pumping

Will get some footage up eventually

”If you don’t see the mountains you’re an idiot”- said local shaper Mickey Ratt in surf article about the place. We took note and made a reservation to go “canyoning”. A general skeptic on the quality of these type of tourist gimmicks, I quickly took my foot out of my mouth when after putting on dry suits and rock climbing harnesses- the guy has us repelling down 55 meter waterfalls! We completely underestimated how serious it was going to be – the whole mission took 12 hours- but is was incredible scenery. Kinda of like Costa Rica meets the Swiss Alps.

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One Response to “On the Radar- Part IV: Réunion Island Debrief”

  1. Chris Rice Says:

    Yeah Steve!

    How amazing is canyoning? I did it in Switzerland, and the repelling/dry suit/overall adventure of it should never be missed!!!!

    Overall, looks like you had quite the trip. I’m jealous, but then again, I’m always jealous of your constant travelling. I don’t know how the hell the Dome manages to consistently pull these capers, but cheers, cheers, cheers!

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