Dusty Snow's farm sits in the broad Malaeloa Valley, a mile from the coast, which is about as far as you can get here on Tutuila, the main island in American Samoa. The air is the same as it always is—syrupy and hot. and Dusty, only eight surfers, most expats, live in American Samoa. Now he’s working to open the territory’s first surf camp. After cresting the ridgeline, we turn left down a similarly steep road and get our first look at the sea. People would pay thousands of dollars and travel thousands of miles for waves like these.Still, Dusty builds a fire of coconut shells to keep away the mosquitoes. There’s a wave here, here, here, here, here…” American Samoa is a string of five islands and two atolls halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. Pago, as it’s called, is also the most densely populated town on the island, with 11,000 people filling colorful, one-story cement houses that rise on terraces near the water. The independent nation of Samoa, just 50 miles west, has a dozen surf camps. The reef here is said to be some of the shallowest and sharpest in the South Pacific. Which is exactly why photographer Kanoa Zimmerman and I are here. says, “and I’ve traveled all over the world, but I found a wave here that is the closest thing to Pipeline I’ve ever seen.” Telling someone you found the next Pipeline is like telling someone you found the next Grand Canyon. The mountains block the wind, and the ocean is smooth. We scramble to wax up our boards and slap on sunscreen as another, bigger set pours through.The reef is a mess of sea turtles, fish, and more than 250 species of neon coral.People refer to it as the Most Beautiful Beach in the World.It’s less a national park in the traditional sense and more of a preserve—American Samoa is the only land under U. A brochure warns that visitors won’t find the usual park amenities and should show up with “a bit of explorer’s spirit.” Which is a nice way of saying that there isn’t much to do aside from sitting on the beach or hiking the few miles of trail that snake in and around the densely jungled Mount Alava ridge.
Because of its small size and isolation, there isn’t much plant or animal diversity.
The plane is almost always overbooked, and it doesn’t take off if there’s even a suggestion of north winds.
Before our trip, I called a few coral biologists and Park Service employees who have spent time in the Manua Islands to find out where to begin the search for surf.
His job was to record catch and bycatch data, making sure that the boats weren’t accidentally pulling in too many sea turtles or dolphins. In a minute we’ll head over to the same spot we surfed yesterday. We didn’t come looking for perfection—after all, there may be a reason there aren’t any surf camps here. “There’s Pipeline,” Kanoa says as we pass a break in the reef that looks exactly as bad as the rest of the coast.
moved to American Samoa in 2010 to work as an observer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on long-line fishing vessels. For the past two days, Kanoa and I have driven circles around the island. The southeast trade winds are unseasonably strong, ruining all the waves on the south coast, and a solid-seeming north swell has failed to materialize. The surf looks terrible—small, crumbly, shallow, whitecapped garbage. J.’s map, we’ve already driven past three world-class waves.