Tavarua's Chief Druku Dead at 63

Anna Dimond

Opening ceremony Chief Druku plays for the crowd.  ASP/ Kirstin Druku at the Volcom Fiji Pro in 2012. - WSL / Kirstin Scholtz

Chief Druku Lalabalavu, the leader of Fiji's Tavarua Island, died this week. He was 63.

According to a GoFundMe page for his medical care he was with his wife, five children, and 14 grandchildren when he passed.

Before his death, Druku's family posted the following statement on his donation site: "Many people worldwide have been touched by the broad grin, the cheeky laughter and the generosity of spirit that Druku has. He is well known among many including the very best surfers in the world -- and is their welcoming host when the WSL comes to Fiji for their competitions. He is the heart and soul of the island and patron of the Tavarua Island extended family."

Druku was instrumental in Tavarua's transformation from a sleepy island to a premier surf destination, reportedly embracing resort founder Dave Clark's idea in the early 1980s. Not only did the chief welcome the WSL and athletes with open arms, but he was also a pioneer, becoming one of the first Fijians to learn to surf.

Clark told Surfline, "Even though Druku had never been on a surfboard, he took to surfing like a fish takes to water, charging Restaurants and Cloudbreak.

"Druku became Tavarua's ambassador to the world," Clark said, "sharing his incredible spirit and hospitality with everyone who visited the island."