Teahupoo has gained a reputation for handing out some of the world’s best barrels and worst beatings—often you’ll find both in the same session. If watching the upcoming Billabong Pro Tahiti inspires you to test yourself at the ferocious wave, we recommend reading the following words of advice from local expert Michel Bourez first. If you’re still chomping at the bit, make sure both your SURFER subscription and life insurance policy have been renewed before you book your flight.
For your first time, try to wait for the most forgiving conditions possible. “A head-high day is the perfect way to start surfing Teahupoo,” says Michel. “It’s not too big, but you can still get barreled a hundred times out there. For the best conditions, Teahupoo needs a southwest swell and a north wind, which keeps it glassy. My favorite time of day to surf it is during the morning on a low tide. You can surf it all day, but I think it’s best around 5:30 in the morning to about 9 or 10. When I can, I’ll go surf in the morning, go home and rest midday, and then go for another surf in the afternoon.”
Paddle out from the point. Although you’ll undoubtedly see most surfers on the webcast paddling into the lineup from a boat anchored in the channel, according to Michel, it’s best to get the blood flowing with a paddle out from land. “I think it’s definitely best to paddle out from the river or up the point. It’s pretty much the same…no need to catch a boat. The paddle only takes about 10-or-so minutes and it’s a good way to warm up your muscles.”
Pay attention to the various lineups. Depending on what kind of tube you’re hunting, Teahupoo can offer up to three different take-off spots. “The lineup is pretty consistent out at Teahupoo. Whether it’s small or huge, there are three different spots you can sit depending on the swell direction. If you want to sit super deep, on the south peak, you could potentially get the longer barrels, but they won’t be as square and will be more technical. If you want to get a really square one, you’ll want to sit on the southwest peak. That’s where most people sit. But my favorite place to sit at Teahupoo is on the west end of the wave. It’s more down the line and less crowded. You can really backdoor those ones and get some mental views.”
Expect to bleed. The wave of your life, and the beating of your life are always only a step away at Teahupoo. “Believe it or not, I don’t think it’s really that shallow out there [Ed Note: Hailing from Tahiti, Michel has a very different definition of “shallow” than most surfers]. But the wave’s so powerful, it’ll send you to the bottom pretty quickly, so you have to be careful. Believe me, it’s easy to get cut out there—just ask my back.”
Be respectful and smile often, and you’ll get the same in return. “The locals at Teahupoo are pretty mellow as long as you respect them. As far as I know, there have never really been any bad incidents out there. The locals get all the waves they want and you’ll have to wait your turn, but if you’re patient you’ll get what you came for. Just don’t hassle anyone and smile a lot and you’ll be fine.”
If at first you don’t succeed… “You’re gonna hit the reef out there, but if it’s not too bad, you gotta just paddle back out through the West Bowl. If you did hit hard, you could always go back to the beach, regroup and grab a quick Hinano. Now you’re ready to get yourself back out there.”