Dear Expat: French Polynesia

Everyone should live out a Tahitian Dream.

Michel Bourez warms up by running down the beach before he performs at the ASP World Tour 2013
© Hugo Silva

I was a kid. I didn't even surf. And back in the days before multiple in-house screens and a connected world, if you weren't privy to the ways of surfing, you weren't invited.

You could tell, of course, especially back then, before sun protection mattered. They were the boys, and always the boys, with peeling noses and lips and with dirty blond hair, even among those boys with the darkest brown crowns.

I was in a cinema. There was a short before Indiana Jones. It was called Tahitian Dreams and featured a boy with curly dark hair, blond at the ends, not that much older than me, paddling his canoe to a reef break near his house. It was called Taapuna. His name was Vetea David and, on the giant screen, I was moved in every single way at the life he led. The bluest water, the most bewitching of waves.

© Tom Carey

And I surfed. And I dreamed of Tahiti. Fifteen years later when I did land on the tarmac at Papeete, wrapped in the aluminium foil of an Air Tahiti Nui jet-liner, it was everything and then some.

The waves were uncrowded, mostly. It wasn't just Teahupoo, although that was fun six feet and under, but reefs and beachbreaks of a much friendlier hue all around the island.

I caught a ferry. I caught two planes. Huahine. Bora Bora. Moorea. Everywhere I was enchanted by the waves, by surfers who shook my hand in the water (Bro shakes! Like being a seventies blaxploitation movie!) and taught me fragments of the melodic Tahitian language.

Hiring little scooters. Riding in the back of pickups. Roadside stalls with freshly caught tuna hanging on racks. The best espresso served in wharfside caravans. 

And I found my Tahitian Dream at Taapuna. Turn right at the 7-11, jump off from the wharf. I kicked off my slippers, jumped into the pale blue water, paddled past all the modest waterfront houses and into a friendly, five-person lineup. Four foot cabanas. Easy in and outs.

And you wonder why Michel Bourez always looks so damn happy.