wel­come to the car­ni­val

Adventure - - Xposure - Words and Images by Steve Dick­in­son

No cir­cus is com­plete with­out its clowns, its dare devils, its high wire trapeze artists; those that risk it all with no net, and of course the beau­ti­ful ladies rid­ing bare­back. But what makes a cir­cus? What makes all the fun of the fair is the crowd. Those that go ‘ooohhh’ and ‘ah­hhh’ at the spec­ta­cle. The WSL surf event in Tahiti at Teahupoo is just the same, it’s a car­ni­val. Be­cause of the way that the fresh wa­ter of the lo­cal river flows into the sea and around the edge of the coral reef at Teahupoo it has cre­ated a very pit­ted coral for­ma­tion, a for­ma­tion with huge crevasses. Those aquatic val­leys within the coral reef make it pos­si­ble for the au­di­ence to sit in deep wa­ter and get so close to the ac­tion. The waves can be 10 foot plus and you can be close enough to here those out in the wa­ter com­pet­ing talk to each other. Although in front of you is the most mag­i­cal of waves, pos­si­bly the most pow­er­ful wave pound for pound in the world, and on that wave the worlds best com­peti­tor’s go­ing head to head to prove who is the world cham­pion, at least fifty per­cent of the at­trac­tion at Teahupoo is the set­ting and those watch­ing. The pro surfers have their en­tourage with them; their coaches, man­agers and spon­sors and be­cause of the unique set­ting of Teahupoo, which is also called the End of the Road, a lot of pro surfers bring their girl­friends and fam­i­lies be­cause it is like be­ing at the cir­cus and they are all there out on the wa­ter be­ing part of the pa­rade.

The crowd gets con­tin­u­ally topped up ev­ery half hour by the taxi boats fer­ry­ing tourist out to see the com­pe­ti­tion, these boats are full of an as­sort­ment of old and young from afar and wide and the only uni­fy­ing thing is the awe at the waves and the iPhone or GoPro all pointed in the same di­rec­tion. One thing you get to re­alise about Tahiti is that the lo­cals are re­ally wa­ter peo­ple. They live on or very near the wa­ter, it’s their food, it’s their play­ground and their sports field and any time Tahiti or a Tahi­tian fea­tures on the world stage they are na­tion­ally fo­cused. So, while Teahupoo is in the world spot­light amongst the surfers and their clip ons, amongst the world me­dia and the taxi boats, there is ev­ery type of lo­cal wa­ter­craft you can imag­ine; from blow up li­los to sixty-foot yachts, from pad­dle­boards to tin­nies, all full in of yelling Tahi­tians and their dogs in some cases. The road out to Teahupoo is world renowned and an ex­pe­ri­ence in it­self; the ca­sual ap­proach of the pedes­tri­ans, those car­ry­ing baguettes weav­ing in and out of dogs and kids and pot­holes on bikes, not only do you have the peo­ple to deal with you have amaz­ing scenery that is a con­stant dis­trac­tion. There is a clar­ity of light and a colour of the wa­ter in Tahiti that makes it so unique. Ev­ery­thing seems to have a sharp­ness and a vi­brance, whether look­ing down from the moun­tain tops or sim­ply driv­ing along the road, it’s mes­meris­ing. Teahupoo is re­ally about economies of scale, when you are out on the wa­ter ev­ery­thing is dis­torted I have al­ready men­tioned the clar­ity of the light and the vi­brance of the colours but sim­ply the vol­ume of what your eyes can take in, the wave it­self is a mag­i­cal thing of beauty but its pure vol­ume of dis­placed wa­ter can be both breath­tak­ing and ter­ri­fy­ing. Yet if you sim­ply turn around and look in­land, there by con­trast to the blue of the wa­ter are the mas­sive green moun­tains that make up the in­te­rior and these are sep­a­rated by deep ma­jes­tic val­leys and often even on the hottest of day the moun­tain tops are cov­ered in whisps of cloud to make the whole vi­sion sur­real. Teahupoo, which in Tahi­tian means some­thing like “the place of bro­ken skulls” is ref­er­ence to a much-feared an­cient king who col­lected his en­e­mies’ heads. It’s a spir­i­tual place yet it does not have a feel­ing of fear­ful­ness – sure the waves are big and scary, and peo­ple have been hurt but it’s seen as one of the most pow­er­ful waves in the world yet there has only ever been one death here. I spoke with De­nis Gros­maire, our boat driver and the bother of Tikanui Smith, pos­si­bly Tahiti most pres­ti­gious big wave surfer, and asked did he fear for his brothers safety here when it’s big and he replied quickly, “no never – it can be hard but she won’t kill.” It maybe once again those mas­sive tran­si­tions of wa­ter which rather than hold you down sim­ply blows you through to the la­goon, or maybe the amaz­ing abil­ity of the lo­cal surf pa­trol.

Tahiti gained fame in 1789 when the Bounty ar­rived af­ter it had been at sea for months – it is hardly sur­pris­ing the crew never wanted to leave and even­tu­ally mu­tinied. The Tahiti peo­ple are friendly to a fault, ac­cept­ing, slow to anger, happy to share and be­ing such a small place, ev­ery­one know ev­ery­one and, in most cases are re­lated to some­one. As the boats jos­tle for po­si­tion in the chan­nel at Teahupoo watch­ing the event, the boats con­tin­u­ally bang and col­lide, in any other coun­try there would be ‘boat rage’ like car rage but on the wa­ter, here in Tahiti apolo­gies are made with a hand wave or a smile and they bring that friend­ship ev­ery­where. Wher­ever you drive peo­ple are wav­ing to you and call­ing out often to the con­fu­sion of the tourist as its like be­ing greeted by a long-lost friend. Peo­ple share food and drinks and you get in­vited home to meet fam­ily and friends; they have a real feel­ing that they are blessed to live in Tahiti and they want to share.

The mages­tic back­drop to the Teahupoo stop on the World Surf­ing Tour

ABOVE: 2018 Teahupoo Cham­pion, Gabriel Men­d­ina, en­joy­ing a free surf dur­ing a con­test lay­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.