With the Billabong Pro Tahiti underway and the forecast predicting a great run of solid swell, we take an inside look at the world’s most infamous wave: Teahupoo.
Location: Teahupoo is on the southwest side of the main island in Tahiti, about an hour’s drive from the capital, Papeete. It is known as the "the end of the road," as it is the termination point of the only road that follows the southwest coast. The wave itself lies in a coral pass about 500 meters offshore of the main village, a five-minute boat ride or 20 minute paddle to the break.
The optimal conditions: To paddle out on a clean four- to six-foot south swell with the sun piercing through the lush mountain backdrop is close to surfing nirvana. The waves, while still packing the power of Mike Tyson on horse steroids, are predictably perfect and eminently makeable. It's almost possible to have fun out there.
Of course as the swell builds, the brown boardshort likelihood increases exponentially. At eight feet, it starts to double in thickness and from eight to 20 it starts getting into cartoon territory.
Julian Wilson, on his first time to Tahiti in 2012, witnessed the epic “Code Red” tow surfing session from the channel. "I had sore butt muscles from clenching them all day," laughed Julian. "And that was sitting in the channel. When I finally grabbed the rope, I was saying my goodbyes."
The catch: Well, the shallow, razor-sharp coral reef is the main issue. No matter what the size it still breaks in only six feet of crystal clear water. While surfing in the recent trials event for the Billabong Pro Tahiti, local Kevin Bourez, the younger brother of Michel and one of the best surfers out there, suffered a fractured skull and multiple facial lacerations following a wipeout. He was lucky to survive—his close call a brutal reminder of the power and danger of the wave.
Other waves: There are a host of less violent waves in close proximity. Little Pass and Big Pass are fun, rippable waves that do require boat access, while the town of Papara has mellow(ish) breaks over its black, sandy beach. Elsewhere the surrounding islands of Moorea and Huahine offer more Pacific paradise, friendly locals, and a huge variety of waves.
Accommodations: Check out http://www.tahiti-pensions.com for a range of cheap family run pensions. These are incredibly cheap compared to the resorts and hotels and come with the bonus of staying with local, friendly families that welcome you into their incredible ocean-based lifestyle.
When to go: May to September has consistent south swells coupled with light winds.
Airport: Fly into the Papeete (PPT)
Boards: As many as your airline will allow. Boards break all too often and are expensive to replace.
After dark: The honeymoon set don't tend to party too hard, but if you've surf and survived Teahupoo, a few cold Hinako beers with some fresh sashimi on sunset will have you as happy as any surfer on earth.
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