Waterman Tahiti Tour ........
Sitting at the bar table under the third confrontation between the Warriors v Cavaliers, we collectively gathered for the first time to start the Waterman tour to Tahiti 2017. The muscles in the team Peter and Jo, partners in crime and surf-life saving legends Kristyl Smith and the bearded Zane Holmes anxiously awaited departure. Joining them at the table was popular top surf-life saving Australia champions Harriet Brown and Ali Day, with his generous smile. New Zealand’s surf-life saving power house Devon Halligan was patiently waiting, and sitting at the end of the table was myself, nervously awaiting for the adventure to begin. Fan favorite Andrew Newton was joining the team in Tahiti after sharing his love with his family.
Greeted by tuned ukulele’s, tropical temperatures and a night sky in Tahiti, we were set to start the adventure at sunrise.
When the sun rose, the realization became a reality. Crystal clear tropical water, dense lush mountains and a cheeky left hand break across the lagoon of Le Meridien Resort. An inclusive buffet breakfast was demolished before hitting the line up for a few cheeky waves that turned into a 3 hour surf and tan session for the willing.
That afternoon we met with Tahiti’s surfing legend and the king of Teauphoo, Maona Drollet who welcomed us to his country and home generously. Coconuts were axed from above and fell into our hands with replenishment and satisfaction. A cheeky wave was noticed rolling onto the beach by all and noted for the following day.
Day two dawned on us in a different manner. We fell into routine like clockwork, up early for a solid training session on the DEEP 12’ Ocean Boards outside the lagoon for the athletes while Kristyl and Zane enjoyed the afterlife of what they would've once grinded out in fashion. The boards were then loaded onto the ferry in preparation for the next adventure.
The buffet breakfast was once again capitalized on before heading back around the coast to Manoa’s homestead where we surfed the beach break with views of his balcony. Hours in the water were accumulating rapidly for the team and there was no sign of it slowing down. As the sun slowly sunk into the horizon, we shared stories around the fire that provided the light to continue conversations before we left for home. Awaiting us was a buffet dinner to die for. Fresh seafood, a choice of meats and salads had everyone chomping at the bit, however the entertainment and the highlight of the night was a Polynesian performance from Ali on stage who showed us how not to do it. Votes were high to encourage Ali to stick to paddling as he couldn't seem to wiggle his hips like the locals.
The third day of the trip was the start of the next adventure. It involved a change in location and new racing experience. Saturday dawned with Harriet and myself waking with the roosters and catching an early ferry to Moorea where the Tahiti Waterman Tour event was to be kicked off. It was a strong start with Harriet claiming her first dose of victory in the Tahiti Waterman Tour by taking out the women's combo event, a swim, prone paddle and a sup paddle, all of the same distance in an ironman like manner. I disagreed to agree that all components of the combo should be the same length, especially the swim component, however participated with my competitive edge, relying on my prone to carry me through. We eventually met with the team later on and adventured back to our new accommodation to get some sleep before a big day of racing the following day for all of the travelling team.
Sunday was dancing day, the day team mates became rivals, cob webs were cleared, fears were overcome and pineapples were in stock. The morning was broken with a mandatory plank competition at the Tahiti Waterman Tour event. A compulsory 5 minutes had to be achieved in the position before competitors could stop to think about the next event, the 4km swim. The photos said it all for this part of the competition…
Ali took a convincing win in the Tahiti Waterman 4km swim with Harriet continuing her winning form taking out the women's swim section. Honorable mentions go out to Zane and Kristyl who tied up their bathers, slipped on their yellow caps and put the goggles on for some impressive swim performances that put them in the top 10% of the field. The prone race followed an hour later with this the main focus for us as a team at the Tahiti Waterman Tour event. After the first buoy turn, we had a race on with Ali and I battling it out for the entire 12km downwind-headwind paddle. Ali claimed the line honors and added to his collection of winners pineapples at Pineapple Beach. Andrew came across a few problems with some bits of coral and ultimately lost some beef to the reef, crossing the line in a bloody 3rd. Harriet claimed another set of pineapples while Devon impressed in a gutsy performance for second.
We enjoyed a local Tahitian hangi before heading round the coast to spend some more time in the water. This saw everyone in the water, including Peter who showcased his own paddling prowess as we went to swim with sharks and stingrays. Some were more comfortable than others with Jo giving one lucky stingray a kiss. Andrew and Ali overcome their fears and touched a stingray however, kept their distance on top of the water for majority of the time. Swimming with sharks and stingrays was an amazing experience for the entire team, with multiple years of experience in the ocean and some of us never getting as close as what we did.
Monday was day five. A day of recuperation and re-location back to Le Meridien Resort. The ferry back, transportation of the boards back and a day by the pool to read a few words as we recovered from the weekend of racing we had just experienced. The good news had came through and there were signs of celebration from Ali as the Golden-state Warriors trumped the Cavaliers and pulled out a championship win in the NBA finals.
Monday afternoon we spent some time with the locals to share some advice on tips to help grow the sport in Tahiti as it sets to grow around the world.
We analyzed the forecast and prepared for a jam-packed day at Tahiti’s famous Teahupo’o for our last day of the trip.
The last day of the trip brought red backs, dehydration and hangry team mates. Some shade was provided by liters of overhead water out at Teahupo’o for those lucky enough. Zapper Holmes pulled out a near seven hour stint on the edge of the reef while Ali, Krystal and Devon joined him in attempt to try get their share of the shade provided, some more successful then others. I slowly built up the confidence with Manoa at my side to slowly drift out the line up and get a DEEP 12’ Ocean Board some protection from those harmful sun rays with the adrenaline pumping. Harriet got some productivity in with some amazing shots in the deep blue water of Teahupo’o, utilizing the most of having Dominic Mosqueira join us for the day. I’m sure he caught a few pictures that will say more than a thousand words involving barrels, bums and uninhabited scenery of Tahiti that I'm sure we will all see when the photos get released!!
The final morning in Tahiti saw suitcases piled up at the buffet breakfast as we enjoyed our last breakfast reflecting on our time in Tahiti. Energy levels were low and the desire to leave was minimal but the appreciation and the satisfaction of spending so much time in the water, achieving so much and experiencing such an adventure of Tahiti is something the we will all hold on to as a highlight in our careers. A massive thank you to Waterman Store NZ and Australia, and DEEP Ocean Boards for making this such an incredible adventure. I'm sure the next one will be just as exciting.
Also special thanks to Air Tahiti Nui, Le Meridien Resort and the Waterman Tour Tahiti, especially Stephan for your hospitality.
- Sam Shergold