Writer: Barry Lewin | barrylewin.co.za - My previous visits and experience of this majestic place in recent years have led me to develop a soft spot and a connection of sorts, for the venue of the ICF Surfski World Champs 2015. Check out my last blog on my path to Tahiti here.
The biggest most prominent questions I have gotten been asked from people over the last couple of weeks’ leading into up to the event has been: is “Where is Tahiti?” and another popular one (justifiably so): “Why are surfski world champs being held here?”.
So here is a little info on Tahiti and the French Polynesian Islands.
French Polynesia is a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean. Draw back on your memories of school days and the classic globe (which still had a use before Google Maps ), Tahiti is on the other end of the globe and exactly 12 hours behind South African local time. French Polynesia is made up of 6 or so bigger well known Islands, with there being 118 Islands in total. Tahiti is the economic steam train of French Polynesia, with the highest population in comparison to the other islands and forms part of the Society Islands, of which Papeete is the capital.
It certainly is the most beautiful place I have been to. Do yourself a favor and Google Tahiti (I’ll be sure to post plenty of pics as well) and it is a feast for the eyes, images of rustic wooden accommodation, hanging over crystal clear water, you’ll be packing your bags and booking a ticket (well, at least 3 if you’re flying from SA) in no time.
After having a bit of time to digest all of the above, you can only imagine the planning and the time that goes into getting to Tahiti. The flying time to Tahiti is quite crazy and it takes a couple days before your feet touch Tahiti soil. Now you can only imagine the logistics of getting surfski’s around the world for the race, no small feat.
There are a number of factors that contribute to a successful and enjoyable event and even more that go into hosting an ICF World Champs. The requirements would be a good downwind course, sponsors, support, funding and the manpower to administer the whole affair.
The big factor people won’t understand until they have been to the islands and this is the one I want to talk about as to why Tahiti is the Worlds venue. The Tahitian lifestyle is centralized around the ocean with kids learning to dive, fish, surf, paddle OC1 and Surfski’s in conjunction with learning how to walk. The ocean forms a part of their every day lives to such an extent that some of the Tahitian history, culture and legacy is founded on the association and importance of the ocean.
It is this cultural charm and Tahiti’s all round majestic beauty that etches such an impression on every visitor, all of which will be on display for the world to absorb at Surfski’s biggest stage. I cant wait for the rest of the world can see what blew me away 10 years ago on my first trip to the islands.
With growing up in the water, the Tahitians have evolved into skilled waterman. Their performance in Worlds is certainly going be something to keep an eye on. I was so blown away last year by the skill levels of the paddlers on the island I had to document it and made a video on one of my paddles with the local club, which you can find here.
Paddling is a way of life for the Tahitian people and I couldn’t think of a more fitting place to have Worlds, right in the home of a place where the ocean and paddling are entrenched in the culture of the people. I look forward to connecting with this phenomenal culture and the even more phenomenal Tahitian people.
Event website: www.tahitinui2015-icfoceanracing.pf