Our network manager that USENET messages have not been going out for the last
couple of months !!, so this probably wasn't posted the last time. Apologies
if you've seen this before.
Last year a couple of New Zealanders went on a windsurfing holiday to Tahiti
and raved about the consistant trade winds, fun little waves, and friendly
locals. Inspired by this my girlfriend Kim and I joined a package tour with 13
others to get away from the extremely cold winter that NZ is experiencing at
the moment. The party was made up of sailors whose abilities ranged from very
good to a couple of guys over 65 years old keen to master their waterstarts and
Tahiti is the largest island in French Polynesia and is very mountainous. It
is about a four and a half hour flight from Auckand, NZ and about the same from
Los Angeles. We stayed at the Hiti Mahana Beach Park which is situated
10 km north of Papeete, the only city in French Polynesia. The NE trade winds
are strengthened by the mountains so that when the trade winds blow Hiti Mahana
will receive winds of at least 15 knots. We stayed in an old run-down house
100m from the beach which used to be owned by a wealthy French family last
century until the local Polynesians rebelled one night and killed them all.
Nobody was too keen to live in the house after that and it fell into disrepair.
Day one was hot, sunny, and no wind. Still it was good to relax and recover
from the late night flight. All flights arrive late at night in Tahiti so that
they will arrive during the daytime at LA.
Day two was pleasant with about 15 knots of wind. I had bought only a wave
board with me and the largest sail that I had was a 5.0. We swapped our gear
around a bit and had a good time. The local windsurfers introduced themselves
to us and proved to be very friendly. Their two most prominent sailors was a
very BIG and very talented sailor called Pierre and a very friendly French
Polynesian called Jean-Claude. They told us that a very big storm was on its
way and they would take us to their southerly wave sailing spot tomorrow.
The next day we awoke to rain and clouds speeding over the mountains. We piled
into Pierre's truck and heeded south of Papeete. Pierre had five boards of his
own in his truck. He said that he felt cold and we went to his place to pick up
a shirt (normally he never wears one). We NZers were amazed at how warm it was
considering that the rain was pouring down. Pierre's garage had four more wind-
surfing boards and a brand new BMW in it. We asked what he did for a living
and he told us that he managed his parents property. His parents lived in the
huge house next door.
Their southerly windsurfing spot is near Musee des Tahiti et des Iles, the
Tahitian museum which I can recommend a look through. It was blowing over 35
knots where we were standing and the locals assured us it would be at least 10
knots stronger off shore. The inner reef had 6 ft peeling waves with one
section looking very hollow and very shallow. The outside reef, about 1 km
off-shore, had huge waves at least 3 m (12-20 ft) breaking on it. With the
cross-offshore winds if you got into any trouble the main reef would be your
final destination. We agreed that this spot was just too dangerous and headed
for the boat marina were it was a bit more sheltered. Because it was sheltered
it was very gusty and most sailors including myself could not come to terms with
the wild variations in wind strength. The exception was Pierre who pulled off
some nice flat water loops and jump gybes for those on shore.
The next day the storm had switched to a NE direction and we woke up and had a
quick zoom around in 20-25 kt winds. After breakfast the wind had increased to
30-35 kts and wee played on the reef jumping on the way out and riding the waves
back in again. The better sailors pulled off some impressive loops and rolls
and surfed close to the shallow part of the reef. Occasionally rain squalls
would come through with the wind increasing to 40 knots and dying temporarily
as the rain passed over. One particularly heavy squall flattened those even on
3.5 m sails as it passed over. I had seen it coming and had got back to the
beach before it hit.
The next four days were fine, sunny with 20-25 knot winds. We played in the
small 3 ft waves and only once did I stuff it up, taking the board with me over
the reef. Fortunately there was no damage, only a few scratches on the board
Kim and I headed over to Moorea, Tahiti's nearest neighbour, for a spell on the
white sand beaches and shallow lagoons which are a feature of the South Pacific.
The gun sailors headed over to Tetiaroa, a series of islands 60 km off-shore
owned by Marlon Brando. A slalom competition was held over there organised by
Mike Eskimo, the wave sailor, who now lives in Tahiti. Some of the New Zealand
ers who met him said that they had never met a guy so permanently out of it.
The event was easily won by Robert Terihiiteu (sp ?). He dominated the
competition so easily that he would often through in a forward loop or sail the
last leg clew first to keep his interest up. Pierre was second and Russell
Carlyon of NZ was third. Russell was the only person to beat Robert in a race.
Then the trade winds died. The slalom racers were going to sail from Tetiaroa
to Hiti Mahana but the wind was not strong enough. As we had done most of our
sight-seeing already we sat twiddling our thumbs. A couple of us hitch-hiked
down the coast to do some surfing. There are very few good surfing breaks on
Tahiti and most of these are river breaks where there is no coral. Incidently
Moorea has a superb surfing spot near Haapiti which has a long barreling section
and is supposed to be excellent.
We went home happy that the amount of sailing that we had done but a little sad
that the last couple of days were windless.
So for those interested in a windsurfing holiday in Tahiti here are a few
points of note:
1. Tahiti, like all French colonies, is expensive. There is no income tax in
French Polynesia so all taxes are loaded onto consumer items. However if
you shop and eat at the right places it is not too bad. Most restraunts
serve excellent food and some are very reasonably priced. Buy plenty of
*** duty free.
2. Hiti Mahana is the best spot for wind but note that it is only budget
accomadation. The American woman who runs it is a bit of a dragon. If the
trade winds don't behave themselves you might need a vehicle to find wind.
Hiti Mahana is in a bit of a slum district. One thing that I noticed was a
large disparity in living standards between Polynesians and the local French
3. The local windsurfers are very friendly and most speak excellent English.
Introduce yourselves to them. They import their gear at horrendous prices
so you may get a good price for your gear if you wish to sell it. Don't
tell customs though.
4. The wind is not as consistant as Maui, although I hear the wind hasn't been
blowing much this year :-), and the waves are not as big, but the conditions
are excellent for anybody trying to learn new skills.
| my employer, after all they even think that I'm
-----------------------------| working at the moment.
Simon Papps |
Forest Research Institute |
Private Bag 3020 |
New Zealand |