my chronicles

Tahiti, Teahupoo

Tahiti, Teahupoo

Last minute info: Benjamin Thouard, the photographer of this travel lost all his camera(25000$) on the water, crashing on a wave, so if you like those picture, you can help him here and give a bit of money here thanks for him.

The Appeal of 18 June

(You can watch the movie Tahiti story here )

“Did internet change the way of thinking ?” was the title of an article of the newspaper “Le Monde”. A crowd of scientists, researchers, considered the question, a real subject for the High school diploma in which I shall have told this story.
There’s no doubt, internet has changed my way of thinking, and especially my lifestyle :
On the internet, we can pursue storms, we can forecast for the next 6 days the waves which will cross the ocean, a dream for storm hunters, no need to wait for days and weeks on a spot to hope to ride beautiful waves which suddenly arrives one morning…
Tahiti, Teahupoo - photo -> 3
I am not generally a very big fan to travel according to the weather report, I do not like to go off one week to the end of the world only to “score” and to set off again without discovering the country, the people. No, thank you !
Nevertheless, when Benjamin Thouard the photographer blew up my Skype icon at the bottom of my screen, my schedule of the next month was fast cancelled.

“You saw the swell for Tahiti? ” (Translation : “there is a big swell which arrives, you come ?”)
I look at maps, 3-4 weather websites, it is red in the Pacific ocean, a storm arrives from Antarctica since the Furious Fifties, and is going to distribute big waves before 4 days on the French Polynesia.
The swell of the year maybe, and wind is planned !
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I look for excuses. That made a long time I did not go to Tahiti, since 4 years when I lived there. I’m itching to go back to Teahupoo since a long time.
Two days later, we meet in the Air France plane, upgraded to business class with Benjamin heading for Tahiti.
In Los Angeles, the Air France flight is cancelled for a technical problem. We have to stay a night in a hotel, a little offended. We should have arrived the following morning at 3 AM in the morning, to go to Benjamin house who lives in 4 kilometers of Teahupoo and to leave directly to the spot. We are in tense flow and a grain of sand came to ruin our plans.

We spend nevertheless one good night, we manage to catch a flight on Air Tahiti Nui, and we land in the evening, we missed the Saturday day.
We quickly hear that we lost nothing, rain all day long and no wind.
Tahiti, Teahupoo - photo -> 1
In my bed, it’s hard to fall asleep. Ben’s house is at the edge of the lagoon, the waves crash in a Hubbub booming on the reef, I have a little the impression of reliving the last night, in the hotel at the edge of the Tarmac. Planes here do not take off, but it’s some liters of water which crash in a deafening din.

The sun shows up, I’m already up, Ben leaves with his jet to go to shoot some surfing, it is glassy, the wind gets up generally towards 10 or 11 AM.
Finally, here, you never can tell, that is what makes the peculiarity of the spot. Teahupoo, you have to deserve it ! Of the wind of planned, of the sun of planned, waves of planned, and it can be flat, not a breath of air, with the rain all day long.
You have to cool off your excitement, and to pray the elements gather together.
I make a round trip by car to see the spot of the beach, the waves are there, the spit (breath of water which goes out of the tube) goes up more than 5 meters above the waves and gobbles up the boats of a drizzle which would make any self-respecting Breton happy.
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I am impatient, of course ! I stamp, connect my lines to the kite, re-verify, no right to make mistakes to take off from the boat, tighten my fins, pulls 20 times on the leash, verify I have my knife in the pocket …
I find Julien Sudrat with his boat, in the marina of Teahupoo, he lives here since 4 or 5 years and we did not see ourselves since all this time. I try to forget nothing, it happens sometimes that the wind are blowing during 40 minutes, and suddenly nothing more, a knot in lines, a problem during the takeoff and the session is ended.

On the spot, there are approximately 5 teams of Tow in (towed surfing) Laird Hamilton, with Baptiste Gossein, then Teiva Joyeux, Raimana Van Bastolear, the brothers Walsh from Maui …
I watch them charging bombs which pass one after the other.
The wind begins to arrive with small light breezes, “one and off” as we say here. Not enough wind to raise my kite but enough for ending up, the wing in the water, in the worst place.

I just have to wait, pray the wind takes up. I scrutinize mountains in search of the slightest indication, a cloud which moves fast, a sheep on the open sea.
And little by little, on the way, the wind established.
The excitement is at its maximum, everything can stop again, all these efforts, these hours of planes, this suite of events, finally without excess of pitfalls, make that I find myself there, at this moment “T”, with all my stuff, ready to go.
Tahiti, Teahupoo - photo -> 6
My kite flies away finally in the sky, I breath again, it’s the beginning for a session I hope memorable.

I try to find quickly some marks. In the first place, I have to read the swell. If the wind comes too western, the wave is going to close very quickly, it is thus necessary to choose above all waves which come from the South is. Secondly, I have to manage the priorities with jet-skis, and surfers. Thirdly, I have to aim the beach with the board to avoid the risk to be embarked into the wall, and fourthly to be placed with regard to the boats which are in the pass and to avoid them in case of an too fast exit off the wave. Here are the main rules you should adopt.

I take intermediaries to put myself in the bath little by little, some bombs pass but with 5 teams of Tow, you have to negotiate your place.
Julien takes himself the wipe out of his year. His lines, which were taken in the lip, give to him no chance, he went to clean cobwebs of the ceiling of the tube, back to square one and a beautiful fright in the passage.
Tahiti, Teahupoo - photo -> 14
The waves link together and I try to find step by step my marks, although the wind is a shade too much side off. I constantly have to prevent that my lines cross each other into the lip, without which it is the correction.

The exit of the wave is also precarious, I arrive at Mach 2 in the group of boat gathered in 30 m2, where the fault is at the most close to the heart of the action. I pass several times above boats, and avoid of few an aluminium hull, the passenger will get out of it with a good fright.

What a pleasure! The way down is vertiginous. This real hole, where you have to dive inside, is totally exhilarating, I have good visions of a green tube around me, I have fun !
This wave is a wall of water, a wall … Sometimes, the water goes up so upright that we must stay at the bottom.
Tahiti, Teahupoo - photo -> 16
I did not remember any more this total abstraction of the noise, the speed. Concentrated, we quickly select the essential information. I just hear the shouts which come from the boats at the end of some waves, what gives necessarily the smile. We do not see what takes place, everything goes very fast, the only mark are these shouts “cool it’s not that bad !”

Then, the wind decides to go looking at what takes place behind the mountain, I call the boat, release my kite and go back up with my 5st line.

In the evening I collapse in my bed, the jet lag, the wait, the journey, the day in waves, a compilation which finishes me and sends me in Morpheus Arms.

The next day, the weather is beautiful, the waves are smaller, but always with this continual humming coming from the reef, a little as a thunderstorm which dispatch constantly its lightning, that’s how I have breakfast.

I prepare my 9 meters in the garden, re-connect my lines, verify my fins, the usual check up.
This time, the wind comes up to the shore, I take off from the beach….easier ? Not so sure ! A soft wind going down throws me outside the channel and I break directly my fin in the high-powered current of the lagoon.
The surplus of water, brought by the waves, evacuates here, and it is thousands of m3 of water that take off, a marine torrent in more than 12 knots.
I leave all the same to the wide to find of the fresh wind, and wait for a boat for the provisioning.
Meanwhile the wind fell again, or rather it hides behind the mountain and the only thing to do is to swim …
Tahiti, Teahupoo - photo -> 17
Back to square one, I change my fin and I resign myself, on the beach, during 1 or 2 hours.
I am approximately to 600 meters of the spot, difficult to see if it is windy into the wave, the only valid indication is the spray which flies away.
Impatient and tired to look at perfect waves unrolling in front of me, I imagine the laughingstocks so I decide to return to it.

This time, I avoid the wind going down, I get back on the channel, and the open sea is mine.

The wave is less impressive than yesterday.
The weather is beautiful, the colors are much more welcoming, the environment is definitively less hostile.
In front of the spot, three pyramidal mountains throne ! It is funny to note that Teahupoo means the wall of skull. At that time, they erected low walls with the heads of the defeated fighters, an absolute no-go area ! And I cannot refrain from making the link of these three natural tetrahedrons with these graves that are the Egyptian pyramids.
But contrary to Egypt, here, they are constantly sprayed by the rain and they are fully green.
Then there is a multitude of blue, “Harpic” blue as we say at home in the North of France for the lagoon, midnight blue for the abyss, and sky blue for all which is above my head, except my kite.
Tahiti, Teahupoo - photo -> 15
The waves are smaller, but some bombs still pass.
The wind is side off, at the bottom of the wave, my kite is always behind the lip, and here it’s impossible to get through the thickness of water.
The purpose is to place the lines just in front of, where the lip stands out .
On certain photos, we see lines in the lip, creating stalactites of a new kind.
Most difficult is to place themselves and slow down at the good place, the wave pushes you, the kite pulls you, it is necessary to slow down a maximum to position ourselves in the good place, neither too late, nor too early, otherwise either one is completely in front of the tube, or we get smashed.
Tahiti, Teahupoo - photo -> 11
I would like, so much, a wind more side, which arrives regularly nevertheless, but often with a lot of rain (a little like the beginning of a depression in France).

In the end, I have fun, even more than yesterday, the spot is much more readable, I stick myself to 3 or 4 really nice waves. I do not want to stop anymore.

The next day, the swell fell, there are still some waves, Benjamin takes advantage of it to put itself in the heart of the wave and shoot photos in the water. The landscape always brings out on this kind of clichés. The mountains, which fall in the water, contrast with these mountains of water, which unroll themselves around the reef.

I will have had to leave after this intense week, but according to windguru and forecasts websites, an even bigger swell with just this wind of depression, the famous “Maaramu”, which is planned with more than 25 knots, forces me under duress and under multiple violence to stay.
Tahiti, Teahupoo - photo -> 12
In the meantime, the East wind, the Polynesian trade wind, (the anticyclone) are going to blow ceaselessly between these two peaks of swell. To the program, big sun, regular wind, and navigation on flat water.
We packed suitcases with Benjamin Thouard the photographer, Domi his future wife, Marco “omicro” the cameraman and we embarked on the ferry for the opposite island.

Polynesian postcard cliché, the lagoon, the mountains, the coconut palms and the white sand beach.
Boring landscape, synonym for idleness, for honeymoon for some people, but for everyone who likes the sea, the Mecca of the contemplation, the best alive museum of seascape.

The postcard does not move, casually stick on the refrigerator of the neighbor, the sand is always white, the blue sky, and the green palm tree. Sorry to disappoint some of you, but in reality, it is not like that.
It’s full winter, and as in Brittany, the colors take the palettes of the chromatic circle and are fully devoted to repaint all this infinitely.
Ephemeral work, I can spend hours in front of this picture, a little like an art lover who can spend his life in front of a work to hope to discover all the time a new detail which only him would have seen.
Tahiti, Teahupoo - photo -> 7
To fly on this lagoon, pulled by a kite, it’s like to be a child in a huge fun fair. We feel free, excited, we try to capture every moment, while stamping with impatience to try a new game.
I go to the right, to the left, I go down, go up, fly away, just limited by the coral reefs which mark out the limits of the merry-go-round.
It’s only in this place that I feel this kind of emotion, normally I need wave, fight, foam, and here I content myself with plain water.

The number one attraction, the highlight of the show, the roller coster of the spot, is the show that the rays and the sharks offer to us.
That I like the most on this spot is to navigate a little and to go on the spot of the rays and the sharks, to attach my wing with my 5st line on a buoy, to put my diving mask beforehand attached to my harness and to go to swim with these marine animals, and then go away just like that.
We spend a few days like that, the wind gives to us the rhythm, the contemplation, and the ballet of the rays.
Tahiti, Teahupoo - photo -> 10
I take Domi with me to kite, I connect 2 harnesses and let’s go for a beautiful slide on the lagoon. Individual sport which we share between buddies, this technique allows to share our sensations with somebody of totally novice.

The weather report gets into a panic, we receive a phone call from the Hawaiian Islands, “Ben, you think that it is good ?” It is Jason Polakow who call every evening to follow the evolution of the weather report. We return finally on the peninsula of Tahiti.

I take advantage of our return to make a tour in floating ULM: a Zodiac boat with a delta wing. The landscapes are so grand here that we always want to go up to appreciate this environment’s true worth.
Georges Riou, the neighbor of Marco, settled a kind of canvas hangar in his garden, a rail allows to put quickly the ULM into the water and you just have to turn the helix to fly away.
Tahiti, Teahupoo - photo -> 8
In flight, it is impressive … We are sitting into space with the impression that everything is going to turn over like a pancake in case of the slightest turbulence.
Georges drives me above a spot, and makes an hedgehopping near surfers surprised by this not identified flying machine. He flies masterfully his aircraft and takes me to glance through more than 300 meters the lagoon, the reef, the waves, then the mountain. I was flabbergasted.
Go Pro are installed on the wings and shoot at full capacity. The videos will be used for my next episode Make my Day in Tahiti. (Http: // makemydayepisodes.com)

The next day is Saturday, the first day of the much-touted swell, no announced wind, but sun and big waves.
I accompany Benjamin on his jet, we are going to spend the day just in front of the wave. Benjamin drives the jet, and parks in the heart of the action where he will be able to shoot. It is rather physical, because you have to remain concentrated all the time too be best placed possible and accelerate at the last moment to pass. The slightest error and it can have rather dramatic consequences.
Tahiti, Teahupoo - photo -> 13
Behind, I was blown away, the series swell up hour by hour. It is not the first time I see the “Teahupoo” show when there are big waves. When I ride, I do not really have time to look at what happens, but I always hallucinate on this mass of water.
I just want to press the pause key of the remote control to see again the action in slow motion. Everything goes so fast! The wave swells up, a rider towed by the jet drops the rope and accelerates in the slope. The wave digs, it is more a hole where you have to dive into it than a wave which we rush down. Then everything speed up, the rider takes place and settles comfortably to take a linear trajectory, and in an hallucinating crash, the sea falls down !
Several times, we felt shocks on the jet, as a real earthquake.
The riders arrive at full speed from the exit of the wave in front of all the boats, eyes wide open, the body loaded with adrenalin, so much that some do not manage any more to talk.
Tahiti, Teahupoo - photo -> 9
There is a fault at the exit of the wave, on this fault agglutinate about ten boats. Forward gear, reverse to settle comfortably all day long, and not to make the error to face with the wave. It happens sometimes, and fortunately every time, everybody went out of it safe.

As for the surfers, the safety is assured by the jets. As soon as a rider falls, everybody scrutinize the water in search of a board or of a head, sometimes it takes several seconds before the one or the other one reappears.

When a bomb rushes, we hear the shouts from every boats. But you should not forget that everyone plays with his life here. I saw incredible bad falls which push away the limits of the human body resistance. The surfers are often pushed inside the lagoon, two jets arrive quickly, what does not prevent anyone from drinking some water, from spitting all that they can. Several surfers took time to surface, everybody worries, we even tidied up bags with Ben ready to go and get in the foam a rider who did not reappear.

Nobody was hurt but it was frightening, except for new scars, for this one, as soon as he will be calmed, he will go to settle down on a boat, before taking on, a few hours later, other monsters.

The day ends, the smile on the lips, everybody go home, the bombs go away, new heroes have excessively exceeded their adrenalin rate, and nobody was seriously injured.

Tomorrow, wind is expected, with bigger waves, but perhaps Maaramu will also bring some rain or not !
Once again, I prepare conscientiously all my stuff, I even have difficulty to fall asleep, aroused by the desire for going back there.
During the three following days, the rain did not stop one second, we looked for some others spots, we even had a nice session on a spot which goes only one or twice a year, but nothing comparable to Teahupoo.
Tahiti, Teahupoo - photo -> 18
People comes from the whole world like myself, to ride this wave, according to the weather forecast. This spot is practically unpredictable, the luck factor is the main thing. The hilly landscape stops the clouds, increases the rain, cuts the wind. I consider myself happy to have had three days, at the beginning of my stay, on this mythical spot, and also to share the session with people whom I appreciate (Baptiste, Teiva, Laird, the brothers Walsh, Ben, Julien, Marco, Tim, Greg…)
For sure, I’ll be back, especially for riding the wave with a wind more side, for going with my kite more in front of and deeper in the tube. Farther, stronger, faster, I am definitively a member of the internet generation.

Road Book Tahiti:

THE FLIGHTS :
Several routes are possible to go to Tahiti.
The simplest is to leave from Paris via Los Angeles for Papeete with Air France or the local airlines Air Tahiti Nui.
It costs between 1400 and 2500 euros the ticket, the prices vary according to the season, for a 11 hours flight for Paris / LAX and 8 hours flight for LAX / PPT.
Tahiti, Teahupoo - photo -> 19
For those, who’d want some more flights and stopovers to liven up their trip, there is also a possibility to leave from Madrid, to fly directly for Santiago in Chile with LAN Chile, then from Santiago you take the flight for Tahiti which stops in the Easter Island.

Other possibility, Paris/Tokyo in Japan in a direct flight for those who’d like to discover the Japanese culture, and a Japan/Tahiti with a direct flight and you will arrive finally in Polynesia.

HOUSING :
On the spot, you have many opportunities regarding spots, housing and means of transport.
The life is expensive in Polynesia but it is always possible to find attractive offers.

For the nature lovers, they will be welcomed, directly, into the peninsula of Tahiti by a many pensions as “Pension Chayan” and ” Vanira Lodge”.
For those who want to be in good hands, Baptiste Gossein, who is completely settled in Tahiti, rents a magnificent house in seaside, maybe some will be lucky to stay there !
It’s hard to rent some stuff in the peninsula. So, you will have to tote your board bags.
Tahiti, Teahupoo - photo -> 20
For the others who would prefer to keep a link with the civilization and the modern world, there are lots of pensions and hotels around Motu Martin, the Tahiti spot of kite not far away from the mouth of Papenoo which can turn out to be a very good spot of waves for any level !
There, you will be able to rent gears and also take kite lessons.
Contact Manutea contact@expair-tahiti.com it is the school of kite of Tahiti, he got his BP in France to Quiberon.
There is a small pension on this motu or the Radisson hotel in seaside.
Located just at a few step from the city, you will take advantage of the night life of the island.
Tahiti, Teahupoo - photo -> 22
But there are so many others places to discover in Polynesia, you will have the possibility of taking the ferry for Moorea, the sister island of Tahiti, still very protected, even if it’s situated just in front of Tahiti and Papeete. The life is quiet and pleasant and it’s one of the most beautiful windsurfing spot of the world without wanting to overdo.
The beach of Tipaniers ! A pension in seaside in front of the spot waits for you there (Les Tipaniers)
Contact David Bourroux, well known in the world of the kite, he takes care of the local kitesurf school Lakana fly bdflyfr@yahoo.fr
Tahiti, Teahupoo - photo -> 21
I have to stop otherwise the list would be too long, Polynesia counts about 120 islands whose majority are tourist.
For the most curious of you, I invite them to look at the maps of the various archipelagoes.

Oh yes ! I forgot, you have another last and ultimate solution for your dream journey : the boat !
Several rental boat companies in Polynesia among them the leader “Moorings” propose some stays on a catamaran, for sailing through Tahiti and its islands.
It’s up to you, all I know is that you will not be disappointed by the journey !

Kitesurfer, Surfers, Windsurfers, SUP’ er, divers or walkers, all will find what they are looking for…
Then try the experience !

Well OK…. you want more ?
You want a hint ?
One of my precious contact for those who want “to be in the heart of the chicken” as they say here, is Rodo VINH-TUNG in “tahitimyconcierge.com” who will propose you his best plans and will organize you the journey of your life !
Then more excuses??

Jérémie Eloy

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