Tales of Tahiti: The Grom Version
Slyde team riders Dylan Biggerstaff and Augie Cunningham took the grom adventure of a lifetime, exploring the awesome French Polynesia island of Tahiti.
We caught up with Dylan to tell us a tale, that will leave you frothing.
How did 2 fifteen year olds get to go to Tahiti?
My friend Augie Cunningham and I were gifted by our great friends Steve and Angela Watts of Slyde Handboards to go to Tahiti, late June early July of 2016, together and compete in the Tahiti Waterman Tour.
Our purpose to represent Slyde in one of the top handboarding competitions in the world.
Who went on the trip with you? Did you have a chaperone?
Our parents were gracious enough to pay for their own tickets themselves, so that we could go together and share this amazing experience. Both of us, beyond stoked, could not wait to get on the plane and step foot in the waterman’s paradise known as Tahiti.
What happened once you arrived in paradise?
After searching for our lodge for over an hour in the pitch dark, we finally found it and settled in for a good night sleep. We awoke and found ourselves a three minute walk from the beach, which happened to be the contest site as well.
How did you prep for the Tahiti Waterman Tour?
After numerous sessions at Papara, the beach break straight out front, we both felt very ready to compete in the contest. This wave actually breaks over reef, about 7 feet deep, and it is a nice long barreling and sectiony corner.
When contest day arrived we both signed in and got all of our information from Jean Lucchini, the local ripper and Slyde Ambassador, many thanks to him for everything!
Tell us about the contest:
Augie’s heat was first and he did great, taking first place. My heat came up next, but unfortunately I did not do well enough to move on, I was completely stoked for Augie though. He got second in his next heat and advanced to the finals, which were held the next day.
One thing to note about the contest is that the judging and scoring was phenomenal and so was the organization. The live time scoring brought a whole new element to the heats that I had never experienced before. They really have it dialed in over there.
With so-so waves for his last heat, Augie pulled away with a third place finish! Both of us, super stoked, went for a celebration bodysurf at a spot on the east side Jean had taken us to a couple days before.
Any other Tahitian adventures?
The very next day the manager of the surf lodge told us that there was a boat going out to Teahupo’o and it had room for us. We just had to take this opportunity to bodysurf this legendary wave. Driving up to the dock we saw the boat and its driver waiting for us.
He immediately asked us, “Where are your surfboards?” to which we kindly replied, “We are actually gonna bodysurf.” He chuckled and gave us a funny look, but knew we were serious.
How was bodysurfing Teahupo’o?
We pulled up to this reef pass and the boat driver stopped, but there were no waves. Me and Augie looked at each other for a second and finally snapped back to reality that Teahupo’o isn’t always perfect. We watched a five foot set roll in and immediately jumped in. Swimming out to the takeoff zone we saw a set approaching.
Already caught too far inside we had no choice but to dive under it, both of us opening our eyes… that was the most amazing and surreal thing I have ever seen, opening my eyes under a seven foot Tahitian wave to see one of my closest friends and brother enjoying it just as much as me, perfect crystal clear water covering this perfect reef with a cylinder of energy just behind us, nothing other than this amazing scene was in our heads, no responsibilities, no nothing, just this; perfection.
I caught some of the best waves of my life that session.
Hit up any other spots?
After getting our fill, the boat driver took us to another spot called Vairao. The tide was high and it was only about 2 foot, but it was this perfect left bending across this reef into the channel. This is in my opinion is the best handboarding wave in Tahiti, maybe the world. Augie made it out of countless barrels on his Karma Wedge. Riding my Bula, I too was making barrel after barrel.
After about two hours, little had we noticed, the tide had dropped about two feet from when we had got there, turning it into a five to six foot hucking barrel that detonated in less than three feet of water. Augie luckily got out of that session unscathed with me only getting a minor cut on my left arm from getting dragged across the reef. Needless to say we slept well that night.
How’d you spend your last day?
It was our last day, and we knew the swell was the biggest it had been the whole trip, and we got a call from one of Jean’s friends Phillip that he wants to take us out on his boat to Vairao. So we meet up with him at Papara and drive down to the boat launch to get going. He pulls the boat off of the roof of his car and pulls out a 50 cc motor out of the trunk and assembles this “boat”. So we finally get it launched and me and Augie are both unsure but trust him and know we’ll be fine.
About halfway out there we all see that it’s pumping, it was at this point that Phillip told me and Augie to” hold the sides of the boat in, it will make it more stable.” We pull up and it is the biggest reef waves I have ever intended to ride, double-overhead and bigger. Tying the boat up to the channel buoy we start swimming out. After we had settled ourselves in the lineup Augie and I got our first taste of real Tahitian reef break power.
What were the sets like?
Massive double-overhead sets roll in with the channel closing out, nowhere to go. Don’t get me wrong it was beautiful, but I have never had that feeling to just survive before. It was a little scary. We both catch a couple bombs and as I am swimming back out the set of the day comes in.
I was swung a little over to the shallower end of the reef and I see this wall of water rising right in front of me sucking off the reef and pitching so far and so heavy that as I swam under I felt the whole ocean pulling me backwards towards the energy.
Augie came over to me and said, “I thought that thing was gonna kill you, (chuckling).” After “surviving “for about two hours and Augie having the worst beat down of his life, we had had enough and started the boat ride in. I will never forget that session, and I do not think Augie will either.
Awesome you survived in epic fashion what happened next?
After packing our bags and having only about a half an hour before we had to head for the airport, I went to the outside patio of the lodge, pulled up a chair, and watched the rain while contemplating the trip; couldn’t help but cry a little that it was over. Got to the airport, returned the car, and waited in the terminal to get our seat assignments.
Little did we know that the whole airport actually closes when there are no flights coming in. Finally we got in to the airport and boarded the plane, a little homesick, but saddened to leave this paradise. We both could not wait to share our stories back home to our family and friends… and in this blog.
As a waterman’s destination I simply cannot think of a better place than Tahiti. Perfectly crystal clear water, more world class waves than you can count, beach breaks, reef breaks, point breaks, super friendly locals, great food, stunning mountains and jungles, landscapes that take your breath away, people doing wheelies on their motorcycles and bikes, you name it and Tahiti’s got it.
I am so blessed that Steve and Angela chose me and Augie to have this once in a lifetime opportunity when we were just fifteen! People dream of this for their whole lives and we were experiencing it now! I would not have done anything differently that trip and I cannot thank my parents and Augie’s parents enough! Big shoutout to Jean Lucchini as well, couldn’t imagine that trip without him.
I’m counting the days until I get to set foot on Tahitian soil again, I cannot wait to get back there, it feels like a second home and I love it!
Originally published at www.slydehandboards.com.