The last time I was in Tahiti was in 2014 during the three-day paddle and tow swell. It was the last time I went for TransWorld Surf, and sadly, we printed our final issue—a Teahupo`o wipeout photo of Australia surfer Laurie Towner on the cover, a way to say goodbye to the readers.
Well, five years later, I hear about a swell coming. My nephew Brent calls me up and says “Let’s go, Uncle Brian! It’s the biggest in years and conditions are going to be awesome.” So I hopped on a flight the next day. To make a long story short, I found myself in the same tropical paradise I remembered. Everything was just as I remembered it: beautiful, clear water, happy people, and cold beers.
I wish I could have stayed there forever.
Then the swell arrived. It was pumping and perfect. The level of surfing was impressive. All the little keiki had grown up and were ruling the lineup. It reminded me a lot of what I saw in Bali. The best waves were caught by all the best local surfers, and almost all of the remaining waves were spoken for by the locals; not much was left for traveling surfers. It’s their wave and they wait for it to get good, so I guess that’s the way they look at it. Everyone in Tahiti is super nice and it might not affect me as a photographer, but I could sense a lot of frustration with visiting surfers hoping for scraps and sometimes not even getting that. I think the days of going to Teahupo`o and getting it perfect and pumping to get your dream wave might be over. Time to search out something a little more remote…
Teahupo`o is as breathtaking as ever, but there’s been a whole new crew of young rippers in just the five years since I’ve been there, and they’re tearing it to shreds.