Last July the Fijian government made public all previously private surf breaks throughout the country's archipelago. It's been close to a year since the Fijian Surfing Decree, and while it's no secret that most affected has been the two world-class surf breaks, Cloudbreak and Restaurants, it's nice to see that the locals can now surf anywhere they please. Unfortunately, after recently spending a month on Tavarua, it became apparent that most locals don't have boats or the money to pay for the long ride out to the breaks through local operators. Those staying at Tavarua and Namotu Islands have enjoyed private access to these waves for over 25 years, and even today, by being closest to the reefs they still enjoy the best wave count.
I've been to Fiji twice since the new decree went into affect, last August/September, and just recently in April. There are a lot of issues that have come up because of this new decree, but most surfers are concerned with the crowds. And I can report, the waves are a bit more crowded at times, but more importantly, there are still a lot of empty waves to be had. Lots!
You'll find between 8:00am until around lunchtime is when it's the most crowded. The dawn patrol is always empty, as are most afternoons and evenings. Most boaters coming to surf, who aren't guests of either Tavarua or Namotu, have quite a long ride to get to the surf from the mainland, and can't check conditions beforehand.
After about two to four hours of surfing, most head back to retreat from the sun. If there's only one spot working anywhere from 15 to 25 surfers will be in the water. Occasionally, all six spots in the area can be good, and usually two or three are working at the same time. So do the math, and you'll find that it's really not that crowded. And if you're into world-class Cloudbreak when it's looking like Pipeline, only longer, there's never a crowd.
If you want to maximize your time in the water, there's no question that the best place to stay is either Tavarua or Namotu resorts. There are other options, with accommodations ranging from 'backpacker hostiles' to very nice hotels. They offer boat rides to all the spots, but most surfers complain about the reliability and safety of some of these operators. Plus, you usually don't have your own private boat, so it's a group decision on where you surf, and when you come and go.
All told, Fiji is still one of the most beautiful and wave-rich places on earth, and you'll never find any locals more friendly, helpful and happy as the Fijians.