WSL Competition

World Surf Competition: Teahupo’o

Tahiti was hosting the World Surf League competition at Teahupo’o.  We could not miss an opportunity to see professional surfers from all over the world attempt to tame some of the deadliest waves in the world.  Rachel and Josh (from Voyages of Agape) and Mike (from Easy) accompanied me on this adventure.  Matt stayed on the boat to fix a leaking water pump to our dismay.  We had rented a car to provision the boat and kept it an extra day to drive to Teahupo’o.  This town is located at the end of Tahiti Iti (the smaller of the two Tahiti islands) and is about a 90-minute drive.

The WSL event started at 0600 and we arrived around 0900.  We were stoked to be there, but many others had arrived before us.  The competition is located at the surf break which is about a mile away from shore.  You can either pay $25/pp/hr on a tour boat or you can go by SUP, kayak, outrigger, surfboard.  We went by SUP.  Mike is an Olympic medalist (snowboarder) and a big athlete.  Josh and Rachel are 20 years younger and in impeccable shape.  And then there is me.  I am not horribly out of shape, but I am “challenged” to keep up with these 3!  The photo below shows where we paddled to from shore (small boats on the horizon under the blue arrow).

Paddling out to the breakwater

Paddling out to the breakwater

We stopped half way at a marker to rest, thank goodness!  I was desperately trying to be cool and not act like a baby.  It took us about 45 minutes to paddle upwind, against the waves and current.  It was a workout!

At Your Own Risk – the Viewing Area

We finally made it to the viewing area which was ridiculously close to the breaking waves.  We were surrounded by lots of other boats, boarders, kayakers, floaters and swimmers.  The top photo shows you where the judge stand is on the reef.

Crowds at the Viewing Area

Crowds at the Viewing Area

The Safety Line

There is a safety line with little floats on it that surround the viewing area.  They are anchored with moorings that several small boats tied to.  We paddled up to the first spot in the middle of the safety line.  You had to hold on to the line to avoid being pulled back by the current.  It took me almost a half hour to calm my heart and nerves.  Just as I was starting to feel comfortable, we decided to move closer to the breaking waves.  We edged up, grabbed the safety line and settled in to watch the competition.  Safety line is purple.

Hanging with the Cool Kids

Hanging with the Cool Kids

Up Close and Personal

We were about 100 meters from the break.  We could see them drop in and come out of the waves.  Unfortunately, we could not see the center of the wave as it curved around hiding the rider from us.  We were so close that we often felt the spray from the larger waves.

World Surf Competition at its Best

World Surf Competition at its Best

Between us and the surfers were the rescue teams, surfers in the next heat and support teams.  The bottom left image shows my paddle board and the wave (no zoom) to give you an idea of our proximity.

World Surging League

World Surging League

We saw a few crashes, aborts and funny landings as well.  But, thank God, nobody was hurt.

Surfing the Big One

Surfing the Big One

We walked ashore and found a picture-perfect opportunity.

Riding the Big One

Riding the Big One

Not sure I would have paddled out that far to land myself in the midst of those dangerous waves under normal circumstances.  However, Rachel has a way of convincing me I am invincible and can do anything.  She is encouraging and supportive throughout each of our adventures.  This was an experience of a lifetime!

The Exhilaration of Teahupo’o

Teahupo’o translates “to sever the head” or “place of skulls.”  It is where thrill seeking surfers go to experience the heaviest waves in the world.  It was first discovered as an underground spot for bodyboarders and surfers in 1986.  However, it took 12 more years before the world recognized it for its “thick” waves and named it as a go to surf destination.  In 2015, Nathan Florence further extended its reputation by setting the record for successfully paddling the biggest wave.

For my non native surf readers, you might be wandering what is a “thick” wave?  A thick wave is a large wave with a lot of weight behind it referring to how “thick” it is. In addition to having thick waves, there are several other characteristics that make this surf spot dangerous and challenging for surf enthusiasts.

Teahupo’o Reef Break

Teahupo’o is a reef break.  The swells mainly break left.  But the outer reef also creates right breaks that surfers must avoid when paddling out.

Unique Wave Formations

Teahupo’o’s reputation for wave riding is partly due to its unique form. There is an extremely shallow coral reef, which ranges up to 20 inches (51 cm) beneath the water’s surface. This is responsible for a very hollow-breaking wave. Due to the specific shape of the reef beneath the waves it almost force the waves to break below sea level.

The waves form in a semi-circular nature, which drops down sharply creating a ‘below water’ effect.  The extreme angles in descent create an instant instability to the wave. A steep wall of reef causes the entire mass to fold onto a scalloped semi-circle breaking arc. The wave bends and races along into a dry reef closeout and the lip of the wave is often as thick as it is tall

Barrels

Teahupo’o is also renowned for the consistent number of barrels it delivers. It is a rewarding location and is widely regarded as being on the ‘must-surf’ list of every enthusiastic surfer. However, only experienced surfers in peak physical condition should attempt Teahupo’o.

Dangers

The heavy waves combined with a shallow shoreline can result in serious injuries and even death in a wipeout.  Teapupo’o is one of the top 10 deadliest places to surf in the world.

WSL Promo

WSL Promo

Ilot Moute

Exclusively Taha’a – La Pirogue

Taha’a is full of sorts of hidden treasures and gems.  In this blog we will take you on our journey of the coral gardens drift snorkel and we will explore a small, private hotel called La Pirogue on Ilot Moute.  We swim in crystal clear waters and I get attached by a sea cucumber.

Among many other riches, Taha’a is famous for their coral gardens.  We have had the extreme joy of swimming the coral gardens several times.  We just can’t get enough of the unique beauty.  Our friends on Agape did not have a chance to drift the gardens so we encouraged them to try again.  We each left Bora Bora with a heading toward Taha’a and met at the Coral Gardens anchorage.

The current was pretty strong when we arrived in the morning.  We tied up our dinghies, swam to shore and walked the beach to the reef.  We waited for the tour groups to get started before we jumped in. The current is strongest closest to the reef so you have to maneuver yourself quickly to avoid hitting the corals.  In order to get photos, you have to gently grab a piece of dead coral to hold on while taking your photo.  It can be tricky but exhilarating.

We found lots of sea anemones with little fish including a clown fish.  It is fascinating watching the symbiotic relationship between the fish and the coral.  The fish get cleaned by the sea anemone and in return the fish protect them.

Sea life at coral gardens

Sea life at coral gardens

We also found a little octopus, but he would not come out and pose for the camera.  The top picture is his head sticking out, the middle shows him hidden from us with just his eyes and one leg showing.  The bottom photo is a giant sea cucumber

Octopus at Coral Gardens

Octopus at Coral Gardens

Rachel took some great photos with her fancy GoPro:

Coral Gardens Taha'a

Coral Gardens Taha’a

Beautiful corals in Taha'a

Beautiful corals in Taha’a

The colors on the corals are so vibrant and pure.

More beautiful corals at Coral Gardens

More beautiful corals at Coral Gardens

Sushi and Wahoo for Dinner

Agape (Josh, Rachel and Nicola) came over for dinner.  Rachel caught a tuna and made sushi rolls and then seared the Wahoo that we caught with John, Missy, and Carl.  We had a pretty sunset and a full moon.

Sunset at Taha'a

Sunset at Taha’a

Locals were burning trash on shore which always looks horrible from the anchorage (top picture).  But, the full moon came to brighten the night.

Taha'a

Taha’a

Ilot Moute and La Pirogue

Nicola has a flight out of Tahiti in a few days so our friends needed to get going.  The next day they headed out of the pass and were met with severe weather on the nose.  Not willing to put up with the boat bashing and slow slog, they met us at a new anchorage on the Northeast side of Taha’a.  This will be a good launching point for both of us to leave towards Tahiti and Huahine.  Another cruiser had told Matt about a little island called ilot Moute with a teeny tiny hotel called La Pirogue.

Ilot Moute

Ilot Moute

La Pirogue is situated on an island surrounded by jade waters.  It houses 4 bungalows and can accommodate 8 guests at a time.  The owners live on a boat moored in front of the hotel.  Cecile runs the day to day operations along with her husband and a maid.  Cecile was kind enough to let us come onshore and partake in some libations.

Approaching La Pirogue from the anchorage.  Don’t you love their welcome sign?

La Pirogue

La Pirogue

It is a quaint and peaceful setting, with thatched roof, raked sand, comfortable seating areas.  Their weather station warms my heart.  Life is so simple here.

La Pirogue

La Pirogue

Gross Surprise!

It was pretty hot, so I soaked my feet in the clear blue water.  I was running my feet along the sand when I unburied something. A rock, piece of coral, wood or treasure?  No!  A sea cucumber who was so agitated from my rubbing that he launched his defense mechanism.  What do you ask is that?  He spits out his guts and intestines.  White, noodle things. By the time I realized what was happening they were wrapped around my toes.  I was horrified!  Rachel came and helped me out, but YUCK!  I can’t look at sea cucumbers the samw way and just did not want to touch them anymore.  After a dip in the waters, Rachel rinsed off under the coconut shower head.

Coconut Shower at La Pirogue

Coconut Shower at La Pirogue

We so enjoyed our time at La Pirogue.

La Pirogue Celebrations

La Pirogue Celebrations

We Celebrate Josh’s Birthday

The next day was Josh’s birthday!  We all went back to La Pirogue to park our dinghies.  Cecile had mentioned good snorkeling by the reef and we wanted to see it.  You could either walk in 2’ of water through the sea cucumber field or swim it.  Since my sea cucumber attack, I was hesitant to go anywhere near them, yet they were everywhere.  Thank goodness the corals were amazing or I would have climbed back on shore.

The corals were healthy and vibrant.  All inviting you to come closer and take a look at their little community.

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We found several Christmas trees nestled in the coral along with many gorgeous lipstick colored clams.  Check out this lizard fish sitting on top of the coral head.

Snorkeling near Ilot Moute

Snorkeling near Ilot Moute

After a great snorkel, we headed to another islet.  Matt and I explored this small islet the day before when it was packed with locals.  It has a cement slab and rebar arches and that is about it.  But, it was pretty darn cool to hang out on the rocks in the middle of the ocean.

Agape invited us over to celebrate Josh’s birthday.  Rachel made a really tasty turkey dinner and confetti cake with lemon frosting.  Happiest of Birthday’s Josh!

Josh's Birthday

Josh’s Birthday

Passage to Marquesas – End of Day 04 Anchored

Anchor is down, it’s 2am so we can’t appreciate the beauty. Or really see how close we anchored to our new neighbors. We are here safe and sound. Salty but safe.

About 550 miles as the sailboat flies, max speed 12.2k in just under 85 hours. Cold beer in hand, will probably sleep in and miss sunrise.

Cheers, All good #atanchor