Deep Blues and Downwinders

Given that 2020 has been a year that most people will probably be happy to put behind them, it’s heartening to see that for some it’s been an absolute banger at times. One such case-in-point is Paul Serin, who not only managed to check off a dream trip, but also didn’t get eaten in the process. Bonus. 

Words Paul Serin
Photos Hivanui Regaud

This trip was on my bucket list for ages. Then this summer, with my girlfriend Hivanui, the dream became a reality. And what a reality it was…

As we left for Tahiti, my boardbag was full of all the watersports gear you could possibly use: foil, wing, kite, surf… I was ready for anything. I met up with Patrice Chanzy (F-ONE teamrider) for the first time when I got there. Before that I only knew him from social media. He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, and the best guide out there, it turns out. Tahiti has so much to offer, it’s just insane. You can foil or ride the wing like everywhere else in the world, but it tastes and feels so much better in Tahiti…

I surf foiled for the first time on a reef in Taapuna with Patrice. He told me where to wait, where to take off and when to paddle. It was pretty tricky at first, but with him next to me it took me about half an hour to understand it and to nail my first take off. Then I pumped all the way back out and caught my first couple of waves. What a feeling it was to see the reef under your foil, with the water so clear that I was constantly scared of hitting it! After a while I got used to it, and I quickly learnt that you can’t sit on your board with a 75cm mast and hope your foil isn’t going to get scratched… But hey, those scratches are the proof that you rode a reef break, right?

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After that session we drove to the east coast for some foil downwinding. It’s pretty much never windy on the west coast at that time of the year, but the east coast gets windy every single day, and there are some really nice swells in between Tahiti and Moorea, the island next door. 

Like any good Tahitian, Patrice has a jetski and a pick-up truck (I told you he’s the best guide ever…), so we took the 4’2 Rocket and the 1480 Phantom surf foil setup and went upwind into the middle of the ocean, where the water is dark blue and makes you think that you’re not alone out there. I was a little scared, especially after seeing the story in this magazine about Michel Bourez and the hammerhead shark. But it’s best not to think about it and focus on the ride. 

We launched ourselves into the swell and rode downwind for about an hour until we reached the harbor. Alongside me was the downwind crew, Heimoana, Alexandre and Tamarua, just cruising at full speed, sitting or lying down on their boards. I was just amazed by the power of the swell and the skills of the locals here, I’ve never seen so many people hooked that much by downwind foiling! It’s like riding a wave but reading the ocean at the same time, and with the jetski next to me, I felt safe the whole way. We did lose Patrice at one point, because he went off to the right on his own. We found him 20 minutes later, lying on his board because a grey shark had checked in on him when he’d fallen off… I guess from underneath the foil looks a little like a fish? But everyone was safe, and we all made it to the harbor in one piece. On the way back, the tradition is to eat at the local restaurant in Pointe Venus, Mama’s Beach House, where pretty much all the local shredders work. And nothing beats some red tuna sashimi after a good day’s riding… 

To mix things up a bit, it was then time for some wing foil action, and the wind direction was just perfect for the lagoon in Teahupo’o. The scenery is wild, with the blue lagoon surrounded by the green mountains giving it such a unique contrast. The session was just insane… I was mostly focused on the surroundings rather than on my wing. The water went from greens to blues and my red wing gave it all a crazy color mix. I tried to teach Patrice some little tricks, like changing feet or tacking, but he’ll need more than one lesson, ha!

It was another amazing day in French Polynesia, and on the way back we stopped by the famous wave at Teahupo’o. In the water Matahi and Kauli were taking barrels one after one on solid 2-3m waves… There is something mystical and terrifying about this place, it’s not your usual left break with a pass next to it, it’s a part of the reef where the waves open up a little. I was safe with Patrice driving, as he’s a water patrol rider during the WSL event, but I was always looking to the horizon to see if a set was coming, just in case… 

This was pretty much my routine every day for one whole month, surfing or surf foiling in the morning, then getting on the wing or a kite in the afternoon. I realized real quick that life is better in Tahiti. For now I have to go back to France, but you can be damn sure I’ll be back soon. Real soon. 

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