Under Pressure

Faced with a fast-approaching deadline within which he had to pull together an entire product photoshoot to do justice to the merging of Fanatic foils and boards into Duotone, the last thing Klaas Voget needed was a hitch in his complex and multi-layered travel plans. Unfortunately, his chosen airline had other ideas.

Photos: Ben Thouard

The Mission

Words: Klaas Voget

Early afternoon on June 12, the dream to get to this place had been crushed for the second time. Our videographer Jakob and I had just spent seven hours in Hamburg Airport discussing the situation with ground staff, calling the Air France hotline and moving our nine bags of equipment from A to B. And the crazy thing is – we had tickets and reservations for every single one of our bags. It was day two of three attempts to take off and it was a moment of resignation.

Our first attempt to take flight was on the previous day. We showed up at the airport with our luggage three-and-a-half hours before our flight and having written reservations for everything gave me the confidence that we’d be done with check-in quickly. After about 30 minutes it was clear that it wouldn’t be such a walk in the park. Our gear reservations didn’t show up in their system and the lady at the check-in had to make some calls. The line filled up and the two people behind the counters started to get stressed and left us waiting. I pulled out my laptop and showed them the reservations for our excess baggage, as I realized they hadn’t achieved anything with their calls and were now just taking care of other clients. More phone calls and more time ticking away – it was 30 minutes before take-off now – I started to raise my voice as we were simply being ignored with our 270kg of baggage lying in front of the check-in. After handling the last of the other passengers, they finally took care of us – surprise, it was too late to check us in. With a slight sense of guilt, she then tried everything to make up for this mess, rebooked us onto the next flight 24 hours later and mentioned there would be a rebooking-fee, which we should then claim from Air France and which we shouldn’t pay until the next morning when the gear would be in the system. Thankfully, my friend and his van had been waiting this whole four hours, and he drove us the 100 kilometers back home with all the gear, and then back to the airport again the next morning.

“Sir, there’s no ticket in your name.” When the guy at the counter said these words the next morning I was like, “You’re kidding right? Where’s the hidden camera?!”. Apparently our tickets had been deleted as we didn’t pay the rebooking fee on the previous day… Ground staff told us we could only solve that with the Air France hotline, so that’s where we spent the next seven hours, sitting on our bags trying to find whatever option we could to make it to Tahiti. Ultimately, we were finally re-booked another two days later, knowing we would have to reserve all the luggage again and it would be the same situation as on day one. Meanwhile our team was already in Tahiti without gear and conditions were firing…

When the decision was made to merge Fanatic Foils and Boards into the Duotone family and bring it all under one brand going forward, I knew we needed something special. Not only would that shoot be important for the launch of Duotone Foils and Foil Boards, but basically every single product was new and needed to be shot for both stills and moving images.  Initially I was planning to have boards, foils and the new wings ready for shooting early May to have all of May and June to shoot, but it didn’t happen. Delays in the production made our time slot smaller and smaller and, ultimately, we had a window of two weeks to shoot everything, before we had to present the new range at our Distributor Meeting in early July.

From some of my friends in Hawaii I knew that Tahiti was starting to light up with wind and waves. From Hawaii, it’s the equivalent of heading to the Canary Islands for us Europeans, with a non-stop connection of less than six hours from Honolulu to Papeete. Three of our top foilers are based on Maui, so that part of the crew had the quick and easy trip. I had contacted Ben Thouard earlier in the year to check what he thought about the idea of us coming over to shoot winging, prone and downwind foiling and he was all fired up and said the timing was perfect, we should just make sure to come with a compact crew, as everything needs to be done by boat. During the following weeks he pulled all the strings for us in terms of accommodation, boat service and once everything was lined up and I knew the gear was going to make it in time, we got our tickets from Europe and Hawaii for our crew of six, plus Ben, and Tim, our additional local film guy. Olivia Jenkins, Finn, and Jeffrey were coming over from Hawaii, plus Clement Roseyro, Jakob and myself were heading over from France and Germany. All was lined up so that we would arrive roughly at the same time. Jakob and I bringing all the equipment, the others basically bringing a surfboard and a pair of shorts.

It turned out the Hawaiians had to wait. Three days after our initial departure we gave it our third attempt and finally the gear went onto the belt and into the plane (not without “discussions” – the excess baggage didn’t show in their system again, even though we were promised it would…). Roughly 30 hours later I sent a picture of all the bags loaded on two trolleys to my wife with the words, “Made it, now just out through customs and onto the trucks with this mountain!”

Well – I jinxed it. After almost four hours in the customs office they let us out with three of the bags and kept six bags there. I had to wait for Ben to drive an hour-and-a-half to visit the customs head officer at the harbor with me, then we had to wait another hour-and-a-half for Finn, Jeffrey, Clement and Olivia, and together we were able to receive the rest of the bags at the airport. By the time we made it to the end of our journey, it was dark and another day was lost.

We were understandably a little stressed with all the gear we had to shoot after being four days late… so the next morning at 7am we got straight on the boat and started our mission to look for the best conditions. And as if someone wanted to make up for all this stress and trouble to get here, the following days turned out to be the most amazing wing and prone foiling conditions you could ever imagine – and all in a magical light. We shot all products in just a few days, had a day-trip to the incredibly beautiful island of Mo’orea, swam with sharks and stingrays and towards the end of the trip we got some bonus shots of epic surfing and winging at Teahupo’o, bathed in golden light, with just us in the water. I think I can say it’s been the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to. Mauruuru (Thank you) magical Tahiti for this wonderful experience.

The Location

Words: Olivia Jenkins

We stayed at the incredible home of Cindy, sister to pro surfer Matahi Drollet. She runs the “Teahupo’o Tahiti Surfari” at the end of the road. The house was located right across the street from the ocean with a dock where her two boats were moored up. Every morning, we walked across the street with a mass of gear for the day, loaded up the boats and went off in search of wind and waves up and down the coast. There are various reef passes within an hour of one another down the coast, and each day we would choose an area depending on the conditions we were searching for.

There was a wave directly out front of Cindy’s that was incredible for surf foiling. One morning we arose at the crack of dawn. It was still glassy, so we rushed to the reef pass with our surf foil gear and traded off tow foiling each other into the waves. It was around head high, glassy, and empty – we were the only ones out for some time, until three local surfers came with their canoes which they tied to a buoy to paddle into the break for surfing. There were plenty of waves for everyone and towards the end of the session the boys took some endless rollers into the lagoon with the glide foils.

All of us were really excited to work with Ben – as we had all previously seen and highly admired his work. It was awesome to have him on board. As a local for many years, he pretty much knows everything about the conditions, locations, and photographic spots in this area. He acted as both photographer and guide. So he also knew the best window for us to have a shoot at Teahupo’o. It’s tricky to find the right moment when there are no surfers, it’s windy enough, and there is sufficient swell. But we scored two wing sessions there all by ourselves.

The first session was around head high with pretty steady wind. We were all getting our bearings of the wave, since this was the first time for all of us wingfoiling out there. It’s a tricky wave, because if you fall, it is likely that you will be washed over the reef, unless you get lucky and there is no set behind you! If you take waves that come in from a certain swell direction, it can wrap wide, and you can get caught a bit too deep. So there is definitely quite a bit of thought that goes into wave selection and positioning. Thankfully, everyone got some fun waves and no one ended up over the reef.

The second session came on the last day of the trip. It was much bigger, lighter, and rain squalls were intermittent, shutting off the wind. There was a really special moment in the middle of the session where a whole rainbow lit up the sky. There were some incredible photographic moments that came out of that day.

In the middle of the week, we noticed that the waves were going to die, so we decided to do a day trip to Mo’orea. Finn, Klaas, Ben, Jakob and I woke up around 5am and hopped on board the first ferry of the day. After an hour’s boat ride, a 45-minute taxi, and another 30-minute boat ride, we finally ended up at the location for the day. It is one of the most spectacular places I have been to in my life. All day we were surrounded by crystal blue water, stunning landscapes, rays, and reef sharks. We shot some of the beginner gear and some of the lighter wind boards and wings. At one point, Ben and Jakob were in the shallow water shooting water shots, surrounded by the rays and sharks, and we carefully foiled by them.

On the last day of the trip, Finn took the new downwind board for a pretty incredible downwinder along the coast. It had to have been some of the biggest ocean swells I have seen someone go on any SUP foil downwinder. The Teahupo’o backdrop is an absolutely insane view to have whilst gliding down the coast. Mid way through, Clement made a bet with Finn that he would give him $1000 if he ended the run on a set at Teahupo’o. We all laughed it off, thinking it wouldn’t happen as he was on the large downwind board and the high aspect foil. However, at the end, he got on a bomb from the outside, and rode the wave into the channel, all of us screaming from the boat. It was a pretty hilarious end to the trip.

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