Stand Up Paddling round Tahiti in Polynesia… Between the crystal clear water of the lagoons, the exceptional wildlife and the incredible Polynesian culture, it must be most paddlers’ ultimate dream. Our brand ambassadors Jeremy and Ludovic Teulade, plus Agathe Rodier, lived the dream and went to Polynesian paradise at the beginning of this year. Something to bring you some southern cheer as the autumn weather settles in.
We’ve always travelled during winter, to get away from the northern cold and grizzle, and to find great training conditions. And then there’s the simple pleasure of travelling, sampling new cultures, new stretches of water, and meet new people ! So this year it was French Polynesia, Tahiti to be precise. We’d been thinking about it for a few years, and all the Tahitian paddlers we’d met on our other travels had more than whetted our appetites with their stories. And anyway, it’s one of the birthplaces of our sport.
After spending a few days training and getting used to the conditions in the lagoons at Papeete, the capital, then with Georges Cronstaedt, internationally renowned SUP man, and his group in Mataiea, we decided we’d like to explore the south of the island. The first week was very wet, it was the height of the rainy season. Happily, all the same, there were enough breaks in the clouds to show us the potential for this to be the island paradise it is. We were travelling with Ben Thouard, a renowned photographer who knows the islands well, they’ve become his outdoor studio.
First stop : PK 0, the legendary destination for surfers from all over the world for its famous wave and WSL surf competition. We approach the village of Teahupoo, so symbolic with it’s famous wave. Nature is lush, dense, and wrap-around, it’s magnificent ! We’re alone at the spot this early in the morning, which is not the case when it’s the swells season, in May. A few minutes’ walk along the coast we find a perfect little beach, just right for the all-rounder SUPs we’d brought with us.
With the sun beating down hotter and hotter and after a morning on the water, we head for a local snack bar for some much-needed refuelling. We love checking the local delicacies while we’re away. Polynesian cuisine is delicious and we all go for the raw fish option. Tender morsels of tuna with lime juice and coconut milk, not forgetting the obligatory local beer, Hinano. We listen as Ben tells us stories about his experiences as a photographer. About seeing whales and sharks just off the peninsula…
We set sail on a boat called “THIS IS LIVING”, skippered in expert style by captain Cindy. The early afternoon session will be dedicated to finding a great surf spot. With the swell oriented wrongly we can’t actually go and test our mettle at the infamous Teahupoo (translation : “the head crusher”) but we manage to find a spot a bit further along where some tasty-looking lefts are unrolling themselves. Nothing gigantic, but absolutely perfect for surfing an SUP.
The wind turns offshore so we decide to go and have a swim in the lagoon. With goggles and face masks on we can go and observe the corals. Sadly, no sign of any sharks, but we do eventually see some, hanging out with some manta rays, later on in the trip. What we do see though is a group of paddlers in a Va’a, a Polynesian canoe, having some fun on the smooth bumps of gentle swell. And we also encounter Matahi, practicing his prone-paddle. It truly is a dream spot for mixing all kinds of board/water sports, which of course is why you find so many watermen here.
In the evening, after packing up all our gear and tucking into a fantastic banana cake, we re-live the day’s events, full of incredible experiences, eyes twinkling…
Photo credits Ben Thouard