It’s a dream come true to travel aimlessly with your best friend to a place well known for producing the best waves in the world. Slyde Handboards recently sent Spencer McGrath and I to compete in a bodysurfing event in August, and might we say it was a completely different world from our Ventura home breaks.
It was an experience that was once stuck in the deepest recesses of our dreams and just recently turned into a reality that was so amazing we had to come up with a few moments and pointers for those who wish for the courage to get there too. Here are seven spectacular moments from our Tahitian tale that we couldn’t help but share and reminisce over and over again.
Our arrival into Papeete (Capital city of Tahiti) started out as an excerpt from a Steven King horror novel. Our camera bag was missing, our rental car wasn’t available and we had left our positive mindsets back in Los Angeles. It was close to midnight and we weren’t sure where to go next. Luckily, a local taxi driver hitched us a ride and by 3am we were stargazing at our bungalow enjoying chocolate croissants and coconut milk, all while overlooking the beach break a few yards from our toes. The tahitians didn’t have a relationship to time; it was sun up to sun down at the ocean.
2. Tahiti Pro, Teahupo’o
Luckily we were visiting Tahiti during the World Surf League’s Tahiti Pro at Teahupo’o. An hour drive from our bungalow in Papara, Teahupo’o was filled with any pro you could think of drinking beers and lounging around for the off day. Our recommendations; go during a competition day and rent a boat that will take you out to witness the beautiful left. The competition wasn’t possible to see from shore, but Peter Mel and the commentators were all walking aimlessly around the site during the off day, making for perfect small talk opportunities.
Papara was a small and localized town with unreliable public transportation. Busses were either 30 minutes late or didn’t show up. Luckily, Tahitians still drive on the same side of the road as we do here in America. Renting a car from a local shop was easy and inexpensive. It simplified our trip and made it possible for us to travel to the city for the night life and travel to different reef breaks multiple times a day. We even turned our car in a day late because we had a few more breaks to hit before our departing flight.
4. Tahiti Watermen’s Tour
Twenty men and three women filled the lineup at Papara’s beach break for the first annual Tahiti Bodysurfing Competition hosted by California’s own, Slyde Handboards. Both Spencer and I went head to head with local athletes from all over the Island. Our goal was to take home the top honors, but after spending a bit of time watching the locals shred the reef we started to think just placing would be an accomplishment. After an all day event and third place, we broke the language barrier and made a few friends that would later fulfill our Tahitian experience.
5. Traditional Tahitian Meals
Spencer and I befriended two local guys from the competition and after a few adventures with them we were invited back to their home for a traditionally cooked Tahitian meal. Fish wrapped in banana leaves, bread fruit, avocados, sashimi and coconut milk substances filled our plates. The food was cooked for a consistent 13 hours and roasted in a fire pit dug three feet underground. Initially we both thought “let’s get out of here” but couldn’t muster up the courage to say it. I’m not saying we’d make it again, but we were just stoked on that first time experience.
6. Boat Rentals
Thankfully, making two new local friends meant Spencer and I didn’t have to worry about renting a boat. Philippe and Simon both had access to small 10 foot dingies with a tiny engine to putz us wherever we eyed. At one point we were asked to just swim out to the reef; a solid two football fields away. Of course the swim was possible, but our access to boats added a full extra hour to our dreams of perfect left hand barrels. Later we learned it was just as easy to make a trip to the harbor and pay someone a few bucks to drop us off out passed the break.
7. The Perfect Left
It isn’t every day you witness a perfect pealing left that’s consistently hollow and breaking at the exact same spot every time. That’s why Spencer and I officially named one particular spot break the Perfect Left, only a few miles away from Teahupo’o. One second I was bobbing around taking in the incredible colors and life on the reef and mountain backdrops and the next moment I was scrambling to make it under a massive set before taking one on the head. No complaints of course, but the fear of getting thrown onto a reef was always in the back of our heads. We were able to float in the same spot, wave after wave, and catch the most perfect left hand slabs our bodysurfing lives had ever seen.
The reef breaks in Tahiti were definitely a step up from our local point breaks in California. The waves were the highlight of our trip, but the adventure was so much more. Eating local Tahitian food and traveling around the island in a rental car as two best friends was an experience of a lifetime and we’re already planning our next adventure back.