Island time

19 Aug 2011 0

Report, photos and video by Nick Gregory

Three days into my Tahitian adventure I’m getting used to this island life thing. Time has pulled the metaphorical hand brake. Take Alexi, the owner of the house where I’m staying. Alexi possibly has the slowest walk in history. He doesn’t have financial issues. He doesn’t have girl problems. Heck, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t even like girls. Life looks simple for Alexi and his family. I am convinced that their only job is to smile.

For a tourist, life is expensive in Tahiti. Everything except fish and fruit has to be brought in from offshore, and during the Tahiti Pro massive price inflation earns local families enough money to breeze through the rest of the year.

Valpori

Small swell and gusting winds prompt a mission to a place called Valpori. Teahupoo is the end of the road, so if you want to venture further south you have two options: foot or boat. I jump in a boat with the Billabong crew. We weave through the shallow reef surrounding the island. Clouds cling to the mountains, adding to the dramatic landscape.

“Doesn’t it look more prehistoric with this lighting like this,” says Brian Bielmann. The American photographer, “It’s like King Kong’s gonna be coming out at any moment!”

As we motor south, I learn of the stonefish that lurk around the shallow shores of the island. Apparently if you get stung by a stonefish the first reaction is an intense pain and a great deal of rapid swelling. Stings can be fatal, I’m told.
“So, do they look like?” I ask.
“They pretty much look like a stone with flippers,” says Dean Bowen. Stupid question I guess…

After a an extended 40 minute journey - after for Dylan Longbottom dry docks the tinnie and the skipper gets lost four times - we arrive into Valpori. We drive the boats up a freshwater stream until it gets too shallow and we can go no further. We continue on foot, trekking up stream through the dense jungle until we get to a cave at the base of a massive cliff. Venturing down into the cave we find an underground lagoon filled by rain spilling over the cliff.

It’s pitch black and I have no light of flash for my camera. Fail! Due to a steady watering over the year the wilderness is alive with colour. It’s a photographer’s dream but the boys seen bored so we jump in the boats and head back to Teahupoo.

With plenty of daylight left, I grab my board, tie it to the back of the canoe and paddle out to the reef at Teahupoo. The wind is still into the small swell,  but there’s the odd three-to-four foot set and no one is out.

Chopes is an extremely short wave so in conditions like this isn’t ideal, but I surf by myself for about two hours until a couple of locals paddle out. One after the other they come up to me and shake my hand. No words are exchanged. They know I don’t speak Tahitian or French, so we just a smile and a nod. My faith has been restored in humanity again since the London riots.

Surfers start to arrive

It is now only a couple of days before the waiting period begins and the line up is slowly filling up as the world’s best surfers warm up in one of it’s heaviest waves. With the likes of Cory Lopez, Jordy Smith, CJ and Damian Hobgood and Dusty Payne bobbing off the back of the reef, I head out to film some free surfing from the scaffolding constructed specifically for the event.

The building swell is set to peak on Friday and Saturday for the start of the main event but Chopes is already starting to show its colours with some solid westerly slabs. With a lack of swell over the last few years for the Billabong Pro Tahiti lets pray this year will be one to remember. Here is just a hint of what’s to come…

- Nick Gregory


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Tags: tahiti , teahupoo , valpori , billabong , pro (create Alert from these tags)

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