Tahiti is paradise. Amazing scenery, incredibly friendly locals and some of the heaviest waves in the world, no wonder why it’s on the bucket list for almost every self-respecting bodyboarder! Bodyboard-Depot team rider, David Speller, travelled to the French Polynesian Island of Tahiti for the first time for two weeks in April. We caught up with him to see how his trip was.
What’s Teahupo’o like in the flesh?
Unfortunately I wasn’t lucky enough to score the perfect Teahupo’o we all see in photos and videos. Most of the time it was 3-5ft and the biggest day I had was 6-8ft. Most of the time it was breaking on the inside ledge. Small Teahupoo is great fun and although small it still packs power and consequence! I was happy to leave without too many reef scars but every session I witnessed at least one person coming up after hitting the reef bleeding and in some cases groaning. It happens and it’s something we all have to expect if we want to surf these amazing reef breaks around the world. When the swell is really small there is a section of reef about 100 metres deeper than the normal take off point, which provides some really fun barrels and air sections. I had some great sessions in this part but be wary, it’s very shallow!!! When Teahupo’o is big it feels very similar to how we see it in videos, it’s heavy and very exciting! The only thing I’d note is to watch out for the westerly sets, they bowl hard and sometimes straight onto dry reef, you’ll know what I mean when your there!
Apart from best barrels of your life, everything about Teahupo’o is amazing. Just paddling in and out to the wave is an adventure. The water is incredibly clear, every time I paddled through the deep channel I’d see something interesting. One of my favourite times was the paddle in from a late evening session twenty minutes after sunset. I was having a chat to a local bodyboarder when he suddenly said ‘oh look, shark!’ I turn my head and glance at a dorsal fin, which raised about half a foot out the water. Of course it’s just a reef shark but as I started to look around I noticed even more dorsal fins swimming calmly through the channel leading to shore. I'm going to estimate upwards of a dozen reef sharks. It was pretty wacky swimming in with all these sharks only metres from us. If that was in Oz I wouldn’t have been so calm, ha!
What board did you use for Chopes?
I’m using a Core Barber 42.5 PP with a Crescent tail. I actually like to use this board in really small conditions in cold water as it’s stiff and goes very fast down the line, which makes it perfect for hitting end sections. In Tahiti and in 30-degree water it became the perfect warm water machine. I think this is a board I could use in almost any condition. The flex is perfect for heavy slab waves and it recoils exceptionally well to provide speed and drive through critical sections. If I was to go back I would take a 41.5 as well, as I like a smaller board for when it’s big but at the same time the 42.5 was perfect for the conditions I had and I’m really happy with how my board felt and performed. It’s so good to know you have a board, which is going to work in every condition! I’m also stoked with how well this board has lasted after five months of intense surfing!!! I’ve had other boards where after a few months of no-stop waves the nose corners have creased in half and it’s lost all its life! So yeah, stoked!
How are the locals?
I’d heard ample stories of how the Tahitian locals were very friendly and welcoming, although, I still wasn’t sure what to expect. My first surf at Teahupoo was with two Tahitian bodyboarders, not knowing what to expect I paddled over and tried my best at speaking French, they quickly dismissed my attempts at one of the local languages and started talking to me in perfect English. These chaps were really interested in where I was from and what wave’s my home island, Jersey, had to offer.. This was the norm for every session I had in Tahiti. I wouldn’t like to say that this would always be the case and it’s certainly not something to take advantage of. Respect is a two way street. Overall, Tahiti has to be the friendliest place I’ve ever been. The local bodyboarders and surfer’s re-define how to treat other people in the line up. This is a place home to some of the best waves in the world and the locals have exceptional talent and set a prime example of how we should treat one another in the sea.
What’s the best way to get around?
Rent a car! It’s expensive but if you really want to experience the most of what Tahiti has to offer it’s necessary. The roads are pretty safe and I found driving around and finding the other spots easy. If your French or Tahitian is up to scratch then getting the bus is a good option, but you’d probably struggle getting anywhere before the wind came up.
We all know about Teahupoo, are there any other good waves around the island?
Yes! Tahiti is encircled by an outer reef and good waves are to be found almost all around the island. There are a few amazing spots towards the main city on the northwest with air bowls galore:)! Every time I drove the west coast of the island I found myself pulling over to look at a different spot! Be prepared to do some long paddles to the outer reefs and also be ready to put the time and effort in to driving.
Places to stay?
Depends on your budget. If you have a wedge of money for a Tahiti trip then there are some amazing places to stay, however, for us bodyboarders, AirBNB has some great value options too. I stayed with a local family in Taravao, half way between north and south. The room was nice and the house was very clean. The best thing was the amazing Tahitian meals they cooked.
Did you have swell throughout or was there some flat days? And what is there to do for flat day fun?
In a total of 14 days there were two where I didn’t surf, so I was really lucky! The other activities the island has to offer is good too. Snorkeling is a must. I spent so much time swimming around the reefs checking out the under water caves. It goes deep very suddenly and in some areas I couldn’t see the bottom 10 metres from shore. Bear in mind that the visibility was over 30 metres. Tahiti has a load of bridges to jump off too, which is great for back flip practice ha! One day myself and a few other bodyboarders I’d met during my stay walked up the river that flows out at Teahupoo. It takes about 2 hours to walk up and en route there is numerous places to stop and swim. After about 2 hours you reach a waterfall and some plunge pools. It’s really worth doing if you want to see some amazing views. The river is also home to some huge eels.
Another really cool place to go is plateau de Taravao. It’s a high point at the join of the two islands where you can see almost the whole of the north island. I’m barely touching on the things to do whilst there’s no waves, as long as you’re motivated and are willing to spend a little money you wont end up bored!
Any Sketchy experiences?
Well not really, I felt that Tahiti was really safe. The only spot of bother was when me and my mate PJ Tartek did a U-turn in some lady’s drive (to avoid a really long reverse down a skinny road), it was raining and I didn’t see her neatly displayed tree trunk/boulder in the drive, which I completely ran over. She immediately came out and went quite crazy! Thankfully I diffused the situation well by rebuilding her boulder/tree trunk display and driving off quickly…
What’s the plan now your home?
I have a summer of working for the RNLI as a beach lifeguard. I’m hoping it’s going to be an opportunity to get fit over the summer and help keep the beach a fun and safe place to be. Hopefully us UK residents get a summer of waves!
- May 23, 2016
- Guy Sowry