[Photo Feature] The Many Perks of House-Sitting in Fiji

Last summer, I was lucky enough to stumble upon an invitation to house-sit and work as a photographer for a boat tour in Fiji. The invitation had come from my friend, Stu Johnson, who I met in last time I was in Fiji in 2013. Stu and his wife Malia live in Fiji full-time, working as wedding and surf photographers. They were heading to the states for a month and needed someone to watch their dogs while they were gone. Stu said he needed me there from mid-June to mid-July but I could stay as long as I wanted.

At the time, I had just returned from a previous trip to Nicaragua for about a month and had very little cash for another trip. I’d already turned down this invitation once back in February under the same circumstance when I had just got back from the Caribbean. I knew this opportunity might not come again, so I drained my bank account and bought the cheapest ticket I could find to Fiji.

I think I left around June 12th, but with the day and half of travel along with the 18 hour time difference, it may have been the 13th. When I arrived I went straight from the airport to Stu’s threw some board shorts on, grabbed my camera, and I was on the boat out to Namotu Left. The first few days I was there were pretty small, but soon enough a solid swell arrived and all the reefs were firing. I missed all of the contest except the final since I was at that point shooting guests who wanted to surf—an effort to try to make some cash back to pay for the plane ticket that I could barely afford.

As the gallery above will attest, I did get to see some amazing free-surfs at Restaurants, as all of the pros that were eliminated or had time in-between heats spent as much time surfing Restaurants as possible. Stu gave me the lowdown with the house and the dogs and headed off to California. I spent the month while he was gone shooting every day at Cloudbreak or one of the other reefs. I saw some epic sessions go down at Cloudbreak as we got an XL swell a few days after the contest.

Stu and Malia got back in July and I moved out of their house up into the Sugar Shack at the top of the hill where they had lived for the years before they built their new house. At that point, I had just about made my plane ticket back and was able to start taking some time to surf myself instead of shooting all day. July went quickly as Fiji was hit with several more solid swells where I saw Restaurants get about as good as it gets and several epic days at Cloudbreak. I got to shoot a couple different pros from different parts of the world, as Cloudbreak is pretty much the place to be during June, July, and August. Before I knew it, two months had flown by and it was time to head back to NJ which I had heard hadn’t had a day above one foot since May.

This trip was definitely my favorite trip of all time. Huge thanks to Stu and Malia for giving me the opportunity to live my dream for two months. Congratulations on their baby boy, Kainoa, just born this past winter. Also big thanks to Ian and everyone at Fiji Surf Co. for having me on the boat every day.

Stay in the loop with Dave via his Instagram (@dn_photo) and check out more over at his website, www.davenilsenphotography.com.