Jeremy Wilmotte talks about foiling Cloudbreak @21 seconds

Jeremy Wilmotte talks about foiling Cloudbreak @21 seconds

For ocean athletes and surf enthusiasts, Cloudbreak in Fiji stands as a beacon of challenge and triumph. Tucked away in the South Pacific, this left-hand reef break is a distant dream for many. Accessible only by boat or jet ski from the land camps or the fortunate few staying on Tavarua/Namotu islands. Those who have firsthand experience know that Cloudbreak commands respect and admiration.

Cloudbreak is no ordinary wave. It is a realm reserved for only the best watermen, a test of skill and determination that demands the utmost respect from even the most seasoned riders. Its inner section, aptly named 'Shish kabobs', has earned a reputation for its ability to leave riders scarred, both physically and mentally. The energy at Cloudbreak is palpable, raw, and unforgiving.

Just four years ago, the idea of tackling Cloudbreak on a hydrofoil seemed like a distant fantasy. The performance levels of production hydrofoils were still in their infancy, and few would have entertained the notion of riding such a formidable wave, especially in the aftermath of a cyclone swell boasting a staggering 21-second period. However, with the release of the Armstrong foils HA v2 & MA range in 2023/24, a new era dawned in the world of hydrofoil design and performance.

Armed with the latest equipment from Armstrong Foils, Jeremy Wilmotte and Oskar Johansson embarked on a trip to Fiji. What awaited them was nothing short of extraordinary—a clash with a cyclone and the opportunity to ride perfect Cloudbreak on their last day. Jeremy Wilmotte offers insights into his Fiji trip and recounts his experience of this monumental session, including the gear and preparations that made it all possible.

Can you walk us through the build-up to your recent tow foiling session at Cloudbreak in Fiji? What were the key preparations and considerations?
The day before, the cyclone hit Fiji and that killed our photoshoot at Tavarua. Dylan the manager at the time mentioned something was coming and to be honest long range forecasts always fail so I kind of kept the froth and stress to a minimum. The swell was forecast to hit the day prior to our flights home so we just had to wait the storm out and see what happened.

Two days later and the true signs of a big swell start showing with whispers of pros flying in from across the globe. The problem for Oskar and myself was that the swell moved to a day later. This meant we would only have a morning out there. This turned out to be my biggest stress for this swell as I really did not want to miss out, but I had to juggle family and work commitments. As it turned out there were no flights available for another 2 days and it would cost a bomb so the decision was made based on this.

Cloudbreak for those who don't know is a wave that loves long period swells. 16 seconds is good but when it gets to 21 seconds as the forecast was, that's when things start getting extremely hollow, irrelevant of how tall. If you're after a tube - look at the swell period.

Fortunately for us the biggest period always comes at the start of a swell so we had a good chance.

In regards to preparation the night before I went to sleep early and made sure we had 2L water each, sunscreen, a tow foil set up and a surfboard each. Prepared for everything and we would leave at first light!

Most of the focus and stress that night was packing bags so that we could literally come off the ski and jump onto our boat for the mainland 5 min later at 11.30 and not miss our flight.

Who joined you on this epic Cloudbreak session? Could you share some highlights or memorable moments from the trip?
Oskar Johansson was with me for the whole trip and we both got to share the session together. Adam Bennetts also turned up a day early for his Namotu foil week and also got a couple tow waves, including getting cleaned up by a proper Cloudbreak bomb that broke the internet as he always does.

You can't spend a week in Fiji and not have a few memorable moments. For me the highlights would have to be the first day when we got the ski and towed Cloudbreak alone, then winged it all day.

I also experienced my first ever Cyclone, as it turned out it hit during the night and it was not as strong as predicted but I do remember waking up in the middle of the night when it peaked and being shocked by the noise and fearful sensation generated by such strong winds and rain. It was also fascinating seeing how prepared and experienced the hotels are at dealing with the cyclones that hit yearly. 

Then of course towing sheet glass 10ft cloudbreak. How can you forget that?

In all honesty we only towed maybe one hour. 

Dylan, Stu, Oskar and myself arrived at Cloudbreak at first light and the swell was only roughly 4ft. The tide was quite high and to be honest it was not even close to the forecast. So we surfed it with a bunch of others. We both got a couple of tubes but it was definitely not classic Cloudbreak and there was a crazy current ripping up the point. We talked about doing something else but decided to just wait it out and stayed out. 

Sure enough at about 9.30-10am a few sets cleaned out the lineup and the crowd started to thin. 

That's when we decided to give towing a try. The plan was to whip into the wave from WAY out, so that we would be no-where near anyone. 

As the video shows the wind dropped off to absolutely nothing and the swell just kept getting bigger. 

Oskar and myself pushed the session as late as we could and had to leave Cloudbreak as it kept getting bigger. 

Fortunately for our sanity the wind went West (onshore).

Adam, Oskar and myself all got some waves to remember that session and definitely left me wanting more.

Where did you stay during your time in Fiji, and what draws you to this particular location when you’re there for foiling adventures?
We stayed on the mainland for 2 nights at Sugarshack. It's a great affordable place to stay. Then we transferred to Tavarua Island for the booked Armstrong photoshoot for the newly released HA. Due to the cyclone that hit, all the videographers, photographers and team riders from America got cancelled. Luckily for us, we had already checked in and the return flights to get out prior to the cyclone cost more than the accommodation. No complaints. 

Reflecting on your history with trips to Fiji, how have your experiences evolved, and what keeps bringing you back to these waters?
Fiji. It's incredibly special and beautiful, I have never been and not had some sort of life long memory.

There is one thing that has come to mind over the last few trips though is that as good as it is to foil there I believe it's more of a slowboarding (surfing) destination. 

The reason I say this is that the waves are crowded when they are good and the waves are generally only best on the high tide for foiling.

Maybe a better way to explain is if there is ever a good swell in Fiji it's best for slowboarding due to the crowds and also how steep the waves are. But as soon as it gets smaller or windier there is no doubt that foilers get to enjoy the water exponentially more. The exemption of this is if you have a jetski, then the world becomes your playground out there, having access to places others don't and being able to manage currents better.

How has your association with Armstrong Foils supported your foiling career, especially in tackling challenging conditions like those at Cloudbreak?
Moving to armstrong foils was honestly one of my best decisions yet. I'm not going to lie, it was not easy at the time but looking back now I feel it has immensely improved my abilities. The range of products is absolutely huge and there is something for every single condition when I want to hit the water. 

It might be a surprise to some but these conditions at cloudbreak were not actually that challenging. The reason I say this is if you have a look at the waves there are no water disturbances anywhere. All i had to do was keep the foil from breaching and try to get deep without obliterating myself.

In your view, where do you see the future of foiling heading, particularly in terms of technology and innovation?
My predictions are generally not as refined as the head designers of the major brands but I'm definitely noticing how specialised the equipment is becoming. Unfortunately it means it is more cost prohibitive for some, but the enjoyment is better for the customer. 

Something that is always interesting is how much everything goes in cycles. What's old becomes new again. (look at boards and HA/ MA foil battles).

The biggest innovation jump in my opinion has come from the electronic foil accessories such as Foildrive, Flite-lab and even the Towboogie. All of these products are helping people do what was previously not possible. 

I'm certain with some practice all 3 of these products would have had me going in this swell. There is no way I could paddle in prone. Maybe that’s my next project :)

Can you give us a glimpse into any exciting developments or projects Armstrong Foils has in the pipeline?
This is always the question everyone wants to know and I can honestly say that I don't know of any further foils coming out after these newly released HA. We are testing new foil sections already and one in particular feels ridiculous however this is more research than a product line to be released.

Hopefully there should be some prone boards coming out this year as we have tested a few of them and they feel like a big step up from previous model.

I am keen to see some new rear wings tested.

What’s your favourite setup currently for towing big waves at Cloudbreak and what specific features make it ideal for those conditions?
Board:           Under testing, 3ft 8

We used Oskars prone board to test this day. Smaller seems to be better when in big waves. But be careful not to go so small that it makes getting up hard, there is a balance to how much energy you should spend each pull up. And there is no point going so small that you fall off occasionally and potentially miss that one special wave.

Mast:             Performance 865 
Normally when towing big waves I'll use the 935 but we did not have one this day. Also I'm a big fan of not changing too many things particularly when the pressure is on. If it works don't change things.

Fuselage:      T60
Very rarely do I ever change this.

Front wing:   625 MA
There is a smaller version that I would have used if I had packed it, I always use the 625 from 2-6ft generally towing.

Rear wing:    140 Dart
This is the rear tail wing I use for nearly everything.

Among all the foiling disciplines, which one stands out as your favourite, and what aspects of it appeal to you the most?
I think it’s best to say that the list goes prone, winging, towing etc. I do need to stress that too much of any one of these and you start getting bored. 

Prone is good as in one hour I can catch a bunch of waves, challenge myself with a few turns and have a good cardio workout.

@armstrongfoils -


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