Archive for the ‘French Polynesia’ Category

Air New ZealandAfter dropping off Eric’s wife’s surfboard and the hire car it was time to catch my next flight onwards to New Zealand.

I was without a board so wasn’t expecting any issues, but not even Bear Grylls safety film for the Airbus A320 (http://www.smh.com.au/travel/travel-news/air-nz-does-it-again-bear-grylls-stars-in-latest-comedic-safety-video-20130227-2f56h.html) could lighten my mood after I got stung for $100 by Air New Zealand in order to take two bags on the plane.

My request that my bag have a window seat seeing as it was paying for its own ticket fell on deaf ears!

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IMG_2815 IMG_3068 IMG_3085 IMG_3244 IMG_3324IMG_3430 IMG_3810 IMG_3844 IMG_4091 IMG_4094All credit for the following shots taken from our little aluminium boat must go to Giovanni Copello.

Please liaise with him directly if you would like to use them:

info@copello.it

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Sante's Boat 2Now I will be absolutely clear that I did not make any attempt to surf this wave at all. It was far too big for my fitness and / or skill level. In fact it was so big that the session was for tow-in surfers only, whereby they water-ski behind jet-skis to build up speed and then whip themselves into the action. As such it was a two man event and for all the above reasons I sensibly left getting in the water to the professionals.

I am however going to claim this break as one of my waves mostly because as will become abundantly clear taking on thirty foot waves in this small boat was as close to death as I have been since the huge waves in Santa Catalina.

Sante & Gio 1Myself and Giovanni had made every effort to get ourselves onto a bigger boat but the word was out that Tea’hupoo was going off and every boat was already booked up.

As a result our skipper for the day was a lovely local guy called Sante, who I suspect might have been a tad deranged because all I will remember of him is his deep booming guffaws every time he would gun the little engine because we were borderline caught inside one of the giant waves about to crash onto the reef. We spent six hours bobbing up and down in his little thin hulled aluminium boat which was clearly not ideal for the situation.

Flotilla 71Gio got loads of great pictures but they were achieved by him standing up in the back of the little boat with me then having to be spread out like a starfish across the front in order to lower the centre of gravity back down, with Sante grinning and laughing at everything that was going on. I will post some more pictures which Gio took with his professional camera later but these are some of my own and you can see some footage from the local TV station here: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x10gz2r_pour-les-amateurs-de-gros-tubes-direction-teahupoo-pour-une-session-100-adrenaline_sport.

There was an almost tangible energy there which everybody was feeding off, whether it be the pros pouting for the latest lens they had spotted looking their way or the enthusiastic fan like myself who would be going crazy for every monster wave that was ridden.

Surfer 25All the surfers were wearing full body armour and life preservers so this really wasn’t for the faint of heart. However we too were perpetually guessing whether we would have the best view for the next wave or if we had gone too close to the reef and were about to be obliterated by the sneaker set.

The ocean currents and just the amount of water moving around all the time onto and then draining off the reef meant Sante had to keep one eye on the horizon

Airborne BoatMore than once it was far from certain that we would get away unscathed and I was right behind the TV cameraman that filmed the boat coming vertically out the top of a wave and being within a hair’s breath of going over the falls backwards on a rogue set that appeared. Here is Gio’s shot of the action

I don’t know how good your French is but the lady doing the commentary for the TV show confirms that people got hospitalised just watching the waves here. How gnarly is that!

Boule 5Like I said more pictures to follow, but it was epic in every sense of the word and I don’t know whether it was not having my land legs back that was causing me to wobble all over the place once we eventually returned to dry land at the end of the day, or if it was just fear!

Top day all round and once on dry land we were delighted to find all the locals playing Boule in a festive atmosphere just down the road. Well it is FRENCH Polynesia after all!

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Bungalow gecko 5I arrived at the bungalow I have hired in Tea’hupoo. It is one of about half a dozen at a place La Vague Bleue run by a really friendly Tahitian guy called Warren and his family. It was already dark so there is little to do apart from settling into my place and think about what I might be taking on in the morning.

The bungalows are right on the shore and it is more than 2 miles from there by boat to get to the gap in the offshore reef where the waves break, but every few seconds you can still hear the rumble of the swell crashing onto the reef.

Gecko RelaxingAs is I don’t have enough on my mind my sleep is somewhat disturbed by geckos repeatedly falling from the roof to land on top of me during my sleep. Whilst my head is protected by a good mosquito net, the end result of discovering a lizard anywhere in your bed is understandably a huge degree of freaking out until you know what it actually is, followed by a prolonged period of distress whilst failing to get the gecko out of the bungalow.

Of course the lizards couldn’t care less about me.

I do get some rest and by the time I find a lizard in my wash bag in the morning I am almost untroubled at all by it because I know in daylight they are no real threat. I am a wee bit in two minds about brushing my teeth knowing that a gecko has spent the night being romantic with it though!

Shore ViewI go down to the shore to see what the waves are like. It may be far away but you can see it is enormous. Time to get in amongst it me thinks.

I meet a fantastic Italian bloke called Giovanni who runs the yacht club in Portofino and is staying in the bungalow next door. He is also keen so the two of us head down to the harbour to see if anybody is willing to take us out to the waves.

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Tea'hupoo shopTea’hupoo (pronounced Tcho-poo) is a very small town on the southwest coast of Tahiti which even to this day remains largely untouched by the hands of mankind.

It is literally the end of the road on the main island’s south eastern offshoot called Tahiti-Iti and to give you some idea of what a sprawling metropolis it isn’t, this picture is of the only shop in the town.

Tea'hupoo CrowdTea’hupoo was completely off the rest of the surf world’s radar until the story broke about a phenomenal wave that occasionally breaks there in the late eighties.

Since that time the break has been regularly making headlines, snapping boards, and hospitalising surfers.

It features almost every year in the XXL biggest wave wins contest is now one of the regular stops on the world tour. Pictures like this one demonstrate how badly the water drains off the reef that causes the wave to break (you can see it sloping downhill!) to leave anybody caught there in the impact zone where the wave lands with a more than thirty foot high water hammer heading their way and less than two feet of water between you and the reef anvil below. 

Mechanics of TeahupooIt is a freak wave that sometime doesn’t appear to follow the laws of physics because of how thick the lip at the top of the wave is.

This diagram explains it all far better than I can so I wont try to explain it. 

Teahupoo Forecast

Every once in a while the waves break here on an unbelievably  large scale, and as luck would have it I have arrived in time for one of these monster swells. This is a screen print of the forecast at the moment

Such waves cannot be guaranteed here and it may be only every few years that they break this big so I am incredibly lucky to be here. 

Tea'hupoo BackdropI’m not saying no to paddling out just yet, but I strongly suspect it might end up being a bit big for me.

It is an awesome wave and the backdrop is no less impressive, however whilst I am willing to push the envelope a certain degree I do not wish to throw away my life.

The top pros who live for this stuff will be flying in from all over the world just to try and bag one of the monsters that are going to be available this weekend, all of which makes me wonder if it will be above my pay grade despite the amount of practise I have enjoyed recently.

 Going BadlyFor some of them they will get the surf of their lifetimes.

For other things might not go so well…

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Papenoo 2The last you heard from me I was enjoying all the delights of the island paradise of Mo’orea, near Tahiti but as ever my time there was limited so I had to move on again and after completing a lap of the island to ensure that it was indeed perfect (it is) I made my way to the ferry.

There was a huge swell hitting the boat during the crossing and me and my hire car had to be strapped in, all of which meant that the giant swell predicted for the islands during my stay had arrived. 

Papenoo 10However I was keen to get another surf in before my trip around Tahiti-Nui and then onto Tahiti-Iti because it would more than likely be dark by the time I arrived on the south of the island.

I turned left off the ferry and drove around the coast road until I got to the picturesque beach at Papenoo which you see here. 

Papenoo 12The surf was far from epic on the sheltered northern beaches and there were mostly families in the water having fun in the thigh high waves, but I got in to enjoy some more surf in French Polynesia

I won’t pretend that it was an epic session because it wasn’t but I really had fun with everybody else in the water here. Every surfer on the island knew that the real action was going on around the other side and in all honesty I couldn’t wait to get there myself so after catching a hat-trick of fun rides I got out the water and went around the coast to check out the rolling thunder at Tea’hupoo.

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Time OutI am sorry but I am having too many problems with IT at the moment and it is costing me valuable time for enjoying myself in New Zealand where I am now situated.

I have loads to update you on but the final straw this morning was filling the hard drive of my laptop (with loads of great pictures) making it almost impossible to post because the PC is so slow as a consequence.

That BT have also decided to suspend my email account without warning just because I had the affront to log in somewhere new in world, using a perfectly good login and password combination is just an indication of the sort of stuff I’m dealing with. (The latter took a 50 minute international rate call to some fuckwit who didn’t have the first idea what was going on or how to fix it!)

I was going to replace my laptop anyway in Sydney where I arrive on 15th June and will have loads of time there to catch up. Consequently I am taking a time out from the blog until the new machine is purchased to make the most of surf opportunities and everything else that New Zealand has to offer.

I have been noting everything down, so you wont miss anything of what I have been up to. Massive waves, old friends, amazing wildlife and so much more…

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IMAG0249

After the epic surf session at Ha’apiti I went back to Mark’s Place where we had hired the kayaks and trolleys to get our boards and belongings to the break, to ask the owner if he had room for me for one night.

Mark is a lovely American guy who settled in paradise many years ago and will now do everything he can to help you out and make the most of your stay. He even gave me a special rate for the night in what he calls the Honeymoon suite. (www.marksplacemoorea.com)

Kayak Trolleys

You can see the kayaks we used to get out to the break here as well as the trolleys underneath them, which Mark has fashioned himself to make transporting everything the short ditance to the beach a great deal easier for his customers. 

Haapiti Church 4

Mark’s Place  is set in a stunning area and you find the turning for it very close to this beautiful little church in Ha’apiti.

I’m not religeous but am sure that few churches worldwide could claim to have a better setting.

My Place

I had been allocated the two buildings you see here with my bedroom being on the left and my kitchen and bathroom building being on the right.

It was a wonderful place and I’m kicking myself for not finding it earlier. I had a great chat over beers with Mark through the afternoon who showed me some of the other amazing carpentry projects he is working on.

IMAG0257You can see the bedroom of my shack here whose walls are made from the local coral stone and are interspersed with glass bottles to bring some funky light into the room.

I even treated myself to a massage under the stars in my little garden area that evening. It was excellently administered by a lovely French girl whose name I didn’t note while I had an interesting conversation with her, speaking some sort of hybrid version of English, Spanish and French with the occasional dash of Welsh for good measure.

Outdoor Shower

I really can’t fault Mark’s Place or indeed the local area, and am pretty sure I will be returning, however I didn’t go for a second surf at Ha’apiti whilst there, because I thought I would only damage the previous days oustanding memories.

The only other amusing thing to report is that mid way through heavily shampooing my hair in my open air shower as I got ready to leave the island I opened my eyes to see the female half of the Austrlian couple that were staying next door stood directly in front of me, staring at my efforts, whilst I was wearing nothing more than soap suds.

After stumbling into my garden having followed my path in error I clocked her looking at me for a little longer than would be accidental and had time to give her an equally inappropriate wink before she bolted. Very funny.

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Haapiti Lagoon Paddle

Myself and a Swiss guy called Christian, who was also staying at the Moorea Surf B&B, were itching for a surf, so we drove down to Mark’s Place (where I had originally wanted to stay, but failed to find) to see if we could rent some of his kayaks to take us the couple of kilometres across the lagoon to the waves you can just see breaking on the reef in the distance. 

Blacktip Reef Shark 4

Mark told us that if we were quiet when paddling across the lagoon, dolphins and reef sharks would come right up to and alongside the kayaks for the journey.

Making as much noise as humanly possible and towing my surfboard behind me I covered the distance in about 20 minutes, and whilst my racket kept the sharks away it did not put off the dolphins which were swimming around me the whole time. It was an outstanding experience and the most unusual start to any surf session that I have ever had. 

Ha'apiti Mooring

The next bit was a bit more sketchy because to secure the kayaks it is necessary to slip into the afore mentioned shark infested waters on the sheltered side of the reef then dive down and tie the mooring line of the kayak to the reef to ensure it was still there after your surf session. All this was achieved without any worrying incidents with angry fish, and I’m happy to report I didn’t even see one.

I unattached my surfboard from the kayak and paddled out. The surf was about shoulder high but apart from my usual fears relating to angry fish I was also worried about the coral reef. It was the first time I have surfed over the edge of one, and because I was using Eric’s wife’s board the last thing I wanted was to return it damaged after bouncing across the reef during a wipeout. I needn’t of worried though because I was all over it having a blast in the predictable waves.

Moorean BeautyIn the water there were five stunning Hawaiian girls on an assortment of surfboards, boogie boards and longboards. They had sailed into the lagoon on a catamaran to take advantage of the waves, were in their twenties and all were wearing thong bikinis for their surf session. As you can imagine I was having a ball bantering with all of them in between the many excellent waves I caught, and was delighted that my chat was being so well received.

I am without my gopro during surf sessions at the moment, so sadly have no pictures of the ladies concerned, but found this shot online which gives an indication of both the views I was enjoying at the time. The back drop to all this was the stunning island of Mo’orea. (I do realise the mermaid in this shot appears to be au naturel, but given the difference was only about 20cm2 of fabric it is a pretty accurate depiction of the scene I was enjoying.)

Dolphin 2Not to be outdone however the dolphins I had seen on the way out to the reef had never really left the scene, and were enjoying themselves by flying out the face of waves all morning, doing backflips, spins and somersaults. There was even an occasioal rainbow seen through the spray off the back of the waves!

I am half way through my trip now and think I may well have enjoyed the best surf session of this trip and possibly even of my life here at Ha’apiti. I think only discovering Alantis during the second half of my travels could top this! You have no idea how big my grin is right now. Stoked doesn’t come close to describing it.

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moorea-islandI have hired another car and the first thing I do with it is catch the catamaran ferry over to Mo’orea. It is only half an hour away on the boat and the management of the crossing is really efficient so it is painless too.

Tahiti and Hawaii are gorgeous but Mo’orea is as close to paradise as I have ever seen. Every corner you turn around produces a vista even more pretty than the last. Nothing I say will do it justice, but here are a few snaps to give you an idea:

Beautiful Moorea 2 Beautiful Moorea 1 Beautiful Moorea 4 Beautiful Moorea 3

 

 

 

 

 

Moorea Sunset

With finding a board and lots of driving around it has been a trying day and I opt for a room at the Mo’orea Surf B&B largely due to the sunset which is happening when I am scouring round for a place to stay for a couple of nights.

As well as an adorable puppy that lives at the B&B there were also some friendly people staying from Canada, Switzerland and Brazil and it was good to have some company for a while. However there was no electricity in my bungalow which is just an aggravation, because blogs camera, phones, are pretty useless without it, and the surf taxi to the local break was also not going to be available tomorrow so I will push on in the morning.

I am in paradise however so rather than get worked up once more about the never ending frustrations I abandon posting anything (which is why I am now so far behind!) and just soak it all up. I really can’t recommend this island enough.

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