Having spent most of my adult life living in Taranaki New Zealand and chasing waves around the planet, one of my favourite trips is definitely Tahiti. With a flight time of 5 hours and escaping a wet and cold New Zealand winter, the French vibe and clear waters of Tahiti
were a welcome tonic to the winter chill.
This trip was with my ex flatmate and now Cardiologist, Dr Guy Armstrong, and biochemist Ray Dolan. It’s fair to say that our academic credentials don’t quite match our surfing ability and we were about to get tested against some serious Polynesian swell. Having been the camp doctor at G- Land in Indonesia and having to suture up dozens of people hitting the reef or their boards, I was not unfamiliar with the risks of the reef or your own board as the scar on Guys face was a testimony to.
It was with a sense of relief that we all did the 40 minute paddle across the lagoon at Haapiti to perfect 4 to 5 foot hollow clean waves with only 4 guys out. Being older and wiser now, I would suggest taking a boat to the pass, as the paddle back after 3 to 4 hours of non- stop surfing and paddling leaves you a little tired and harder to get two sessions in a day. Not only were we greeted with world class uncrowded waves, the locals were friendly and one of them was legendary Tahitian surfer Vetea David, or Poto as he was known in the world professional circuit who had won the world junior surf title before turning pro. As we took our respectful place in the lineup we watched the locals rip it up and get so deep in the barrel their flashing smiles almost lit up the tube.
Having surfed in many countries and witnessed ‘ localism’ at my own break, respect is a key word and once the locals can see you are polite and take your turn, generally you can get some waves, especially if it’s not overcrowded. The surf gods smiled on us and after witnessing the world’s best at his home break we were given the local Tahitian handshake on our boards, and it was time to get some waves.
After the warm welcome I didn’t want to kook it and go over the falls in front of the locals or my mates, so put in the extra necessary paddles you need in the islands as the waves travel fast and they pitch quick. The board was moving, I resisted the urge to stand, 2 more strokes then I was up and dropping into a clean perfect wave, I survived the bottom turn and pulled up and set my line before the lip pitched over me and I was in the famed green room, the
barrel. It seemed like time stood still as I saw the reef speeding under me, the wave pitching over me and my Seasons surfboard shaped by BJ, humming, and Poto grinning at me down the line, I felt like I was in a movie. What seemed like forever in the tube, is still forever in my mind and easily replayed, that’s the joy of travelling and those special moments.
The barrel became a surfable wall and our we were blessed with a week of uncrowded waves and an epic surf adventure. The last day a new swell arrived about ten foot and it was not the same place when it got big and raw, definitely need a boat in those conditions and local knowledge, not for the faint hearted or inexperienced. A guide or a local is a great idea anywhere in the world you surf if you can afford it or have friends who are locals. Let them see you surf and find waves and conditions to match your ability if you aren’t a hardcore surfer that can cope with all conditions.
We set sail on an overnight freighter to the island of Huahine. While the others slept I was entertained on the deck in a rolling swell and warm wind by a local who told me of la grande vague, which means the big wave, on the nearby island of Raiatea. There is a saying, only a surfer knows the feeling and no translation was needed as this locals eyes lit up as he described this big wave. He was vague on location and I was happy for that, as we headed for the quality waves of Fitii and Fare.
The vibe on Huahine in the water at the time was not as friendly as Moorea, due to ex pats rather than locals, but the waves and swell were epic and as a goofy footer the left at Fitii had three barrel sections and a fun wall to carve and being a pass breaks into deep water and a channel. It was serious fun and seeing your average mates surf like pros, ( well it felt like we were all surfing like pros) as the water is w warm, only board and rash shorts, a and we were living the dream.
Staying in pensions and hotels, g great food and French influence m makes Tahiti one of my favourite and m most memorable locations. There a are waves for all abilities and many is islands to choose from including th the main island. Armed with a big s smile, a good attitude and some lo local knowledge, you can make your o own surf video and have the trip of a lifetime, it’s a quality place and p perfect in the New Zealand winter. Ta Take plenty of sunblock, and respect fo for the locals and you will do well.