Flow State

After Victor Hays’ trip to Tahiti was curtailed in 2021, he intended to make his return visit something pretty special. With the combined in-water skills of photographer Andre Magarao, and the intuition, instinct and watercraft accessibility provided by a few key locals, it was a mission accomplished…

Victor Hays: Tahiti is basically on the bucket list for most of the athletes I know through different water sports. Riding in perfect blue water with an insane backdrop is always going to be exciting. After my 2021 trip there, when Covid cut things short and prevented us from making the dream trip, I really wanted to come back in 2022 with an even more ambitious plan, and more focus on foiling.

With everything booked, accommodation sorted in Puna’auia, and having been in touch with our local friends out there (without whom it’s basically impossible to maximize your water time), the mission began.

At the beginning of the trip, the wind was great, but the waves were not that good, so we mainly focused on stacking flat water wing clips and shots with photographer Andre Magarao. It was amazing to ride in such clear waters, with perfect steady winds, but our minds were on the waves to come.

Andre Magarao: Going to Tahiti as a photographer is probably the ultimate dream. The perfect clear water and the crazy untouched jungle backdrops are amazing. The first few days were pretty mellow. We did some flat-water winging that was fun, beautiful, and relaxed to shoot. Most places had zero currents and were easy to read and navigate.

“I literally had to swim the whole time to keep myself in a good spot otherwise the current would pull me completely past the wave to the outside. I don’t remember swimming anywhere ever that had a situation quite like this.” Andre Magarao

Victor: Luckily the forecast changed, and we were finally able to enjoy some tow-foiling in different locations, most notably one close to the famous wave at Teahupo’o, that offered some fast waves that would peel all the way to the reef.

There were four of us on our friend’s jet ski, watching the WSL event, then we decided to move to the channel upwind of the event. There the waves were breaking far outside, and gave us some epic runs, with Andre floating around taking shots with by far the most beautiful backdrop I’ve ever seen.

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I should mention that riding foils in Tahiti is challenging. Throughout every session you need to be super focused on what you’re doing, as every wave is so powerful that your placement, the way you ride, and your mindset regarding crashes has to be prepared.

Andre: Shooting at that spot past Teahupo’o was insane. All you can see is untouched jungle and no other humans in the vicinity, other than us. The spot was actually pretty chill to swim in. The current wasn’t that bad, and the guys were able to keep on finding nice rolling waves. The weather kept on changing every minute basically, so by the end of what felt like a quick session, in the photos it looks we spent the whole day in the water.

Victor: Tahiti kept delivering some crazy days, but in summer the swell can get very big very quickly, which doesn’t help when planning which spot to choose next. We took the decision to move to Mo’orea, to experience the wilder lifestyle and try out some new waves, and hopefully score some wing surfing sessions. Having booked everything again, and after moving a ton of gear, we made it.

On our first day in Mo’orea we got in touch with local rippers Fred Morin and Swan Habelt, who knew exactly where to go and when. Fred took us to a little motu for a tow/wave session with some overhead sets. What a dreamy location that was. We spent the whole day towing amongst those beautiful waves until our ski ran out of gas. Epic!

Andre: The first spot we shot in Mo’orea felt more like shooting surfing to me. We actually had to wait for the better sets. There were some crazy currents and I had to swim pretty hard to avoid getting caught by a few rogue sets. The spot was insane of course. Super beautiful water and backdrops. One thing that makes it pretty tricky to shoot from the water there is that you are pretty far from the land so it’s hard to have reference points other than the wave itself.

Victor: Day two on Mo’orea, and although wind was forecast on Windguru, just like every island out there, there are so many parameters that can affect the conditions. We were praying to finally align some good wind, sun, and waves.

We drove to Ha’apiti, a famous left hander wave, and the wind was blowing at 15-18 knots with some decent shoulder to overhead sets. Lucky enough once again, our friend Fred was able drop off Andre in the channel to be able to shoot the action from the water. The current wasn’t easy for Andre, but his talent and experience of being in critical places like this helped him to get the job done. I was out there on my 5m FreeWing AIR v3 for over three hours, in this absolute dream location, wave after wave. We were completely cooked.

Andre: That day in Ha’apiti was one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had shooting in the water. The current was nonstop. It felt like I was doing a marathon and not the usual sprints that you have to do to avoid a wave or two on the head. Tahiti has a really small tide coefficient, so I wasn’t expecting that at all. I literally had to swim the whole time to keep myself in a good spot otherwise the current would pull me completely past the wave to the outside. I don’t remember swimming anywhere ever that had a situation quite like this. But of course the place was incredible, and every time I had to go under a wave the water was just so blue and beautiful. It was hard to get out of the water when the time came.

Victor: This Tahiti trip just could not have been better. From dream location to dream location. The foil scene in Tahiti is at the highest level of the sport. From surf foiling, tow foiling in big waves, wing foiling… every discipline of the sport has been pushed to the highest level by the local riders.

Tahiti can provide you the most unbelievable foil ride ever, but you’ve got to be aware that it’s not an easy place to shoot. The fact is you need a lot of help from the locals, and they are the key on making any project happen out there. I am super grateful for them.

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