After we left Southern California we flew to Papeete and joined a week long cruise heading for New Zealand. We had a one day to fill in Tahiti and it is no secret that French Polynesia’s best beaches aren’t on this island. There’s obviously some good ones but they’re mostly taken by big resorts now. We were not staying in a big resort so we decided to rent a car and head out to world famous surf spot, Teahupo’o. We knew we wouldn’t see much, Teahupo’o is a surf break and is way, way off the coast but it seemed as good an activity as any so off we went.
Teahupo’o is a village on the south-west coast of the island of Tahiti known for it’s glassy offshore waves which often reach 7 to 10 ft and sometimes up to 21 ft. First of all, Teahupo’o is kind of pronounced Cho-po so you can imagine how I, someone who had never seen the word in writing, had some difficulty finding it on the map. Not that that actually meant much! The only map we could get our hands on wasn’t great and the street were not well signed. Eventually, with just a couple of wrong turns, we made it.
Bodyboarding pioneers Mike Stewart and Ben Severson were the first to surf Teahupo’o in 1986 and it became a bit of an underground spot for adventurous bodyboarders. It wasn’t until 1998 at the Gotcha Tahiti Pro that Teahupo’o became widely recognised as having some of the heaviest waves in the world. On 17 August 2000 Laird Hamilton surfed the heaviest wave ever ridden, documented in Riding Giants.
It’s also pretty dangerous. Teahupo’o was included on Transworld Surf’s list of the ‘Top 10 Deadliest Waves’ and is commonly referred to as the “heaviest wave in the world”. The name Teahupo’o loosely translates to English as “to sever the head” or “place of skulls” but on this day, from the beach, it was just beautiful.
We stopped at a beach park on the way (after collecting supplies in Papeete) and had a little picnic of salami and cheese baguettes right next to the ocean.
We got around in this good ol’ Duster! An unreal day, quite imperfectly perfect.