How To Survive The End Of The Road
Tahiti, the right way.
The wave is a beast unto itself, but as far as a marquee travel destination goes, Teahupoo is a hard one to wrap your head around. It’s not the North Shore of the South Pacific or anything like that. It’s wild and raw…though, in general, nobody wants to kick your ass.
It’s obviously called the End of the Road for a reason. An hour’s drive out of Papeete gets you to Teahupoo. When you get there, you’re either staying to surf or flipping a u-turn. There’s no other real reason to end up this far off the beaten path.
Besides the main two-lane “highway,” there aren’t really any paved roads. There is limited to no cellphone reception. The number of internet cafes total zero. There’s one restaurant that’s intermittently open (which serves an insane poisson cru). You can’t book a hotel room because there aren’t any hotels (in the traditional sense).
For all the attention the break has gotten over the last 20 years, it’s incredible that the infrastructure has remained more or less unchanged.
The assumption is that you gotta be some kind of badass to surf Teahupoo. Spoiler: you don’t.
If you’re competent and know what you’re doing, when it’s three to four feet and the west bowl isn’t sucking dry, it’s actually a pretty fun left-hand runner. Good for a few turns, maybe a little cover up. Yeah, it’s shallow, and you’ll probably end up with some form of Staph after you kiss the reef a couple times, but you probably won’t die. Photographers and filmers just don’t waste their time on the small days, which is why you don’t see much footage from it when it’s shoulder high. But it can be absolutely delightful, and sparsely attended.
It’s easy to forget Tahiti is a wave-rich island outside of the reef of Teahupoo. Here’s Michel Bourez in the warped sea glass of a dreamy right.
As far as where you’re going to stay, for once they’re not speaking in hyperbole when WSL webcasts note how everyone there “stays with local families.” That’s actually exactly what happens. There are no 5-star accommodations in the area, just loving local families with a spare bedroom that are happy to rent out their extra space to wandering tube hounds.
These rental spaces are often referred to as “pensions.” They allow families to earn a little extra coin and the surfer gets a roof over their head, while wi-fi, hot water and screens on the windows are a huge bonus. Everyone wins.
Once you find a family that will take you in, you’ll have a friend and place to stay for life. Loyalty runs deep at Teahupoo. It’s all about good, honest living at the End of the Road.
However, recently a few more conventional places popped up, the most visable being the Bungalows Havae Teahupoo, located right on the point at Teahupoo. They’re utilized by contest personnel when the Tour comes to town, serving as both contest headquarters and production center.
Down the road, past the boat harbor, is the Vanira Lodge. It’s not on the water and is relatively secluded. It’s where John John Florence has stayed the last couple years. It’s about 2km from Teahupoo, so if you plan on staying there, you’re going to need to rent a car. Come to think of it, if you’re staying anywhere out there it’s probably a really good idea to rent a car. You’re going to want to get out of town when it’s flat and explore the island—the public transit leaves much to be desired.
On the drive out to the End of the Road, you’ll pass driveways with stands selling fresh produce and fish, and a number of fruit stands and roadside grills that fire up when the demand is there. Stock up when you can. The goods are as pristine as the Earth makes ‘em, plus, supporting the limited local economy is always the right thing to do as a responsible traveler.
Jack Freestone and ultra lux scope of Tahiti with his CoCo Chanel handshape… Who said the tropics and black boards don’t mix?
Time really slows down out at Chopes and it can take a bit to adjust to the meandering pace. Last year during the contest, someone joked that the locals at Teahupoo love it when it gets really windy because all of the leaves blow off the trees and cleaning them up gives them something to do. Teahupoo certainly doesn’t have the hustle and bustle of other surf meccas. It’s as sleepy as sleepy gets.
The closest proper shopping center to stock up on food and supplies is about a 30-minute drive away in the booming metropolis of Taravao. Beeline it directly to Carrefour for Hinanos and baguettes. Don’t forget the limes for reef cuts. (Pro tip: Carrefour also offers free wi-fi for guests. In recent years more than one Stab contest update has been sent from Carrefour after a quick sprint down the beverage isle.)
In Taravao you’ll also find a few restaurants, which tend to change ownership and cuisine periodically. Last pass through town there was good Thai and Italian, and of course there’s a McDonalds if you have to break down and get greasy.
Other than that, if you’re looking to do anything other than surf, all roads lead to Papeete. It’s where you’ll fly into when you first arrive in Tahiti. Upon landing, if you’re not down to sprint out to Chopes, the InterContinental Hotel is just a couple minutes from the airport. Enjoy the air conditioning and amenities, take a long, hot shower and get your wits about you before heading out.
While in Papeete, indulge at the famous evening food trucks, which set up shop at Place Vaiete, and are where you’ll find fresh Mahi-Mahi, barbecued steak, chow mien noodles, every evening starting at 6 pm the trucks start cooking, and every evening there’s a little bit of magic in the air.
The paddle wave by Nathan Florence has stood as the heaviest wave paddled at the Chopes since 2015.
Beyond Papeete, if it’s a quick South Pacific adventure you’re after, jump on the ferry to Moorea. There’s a little slice of paradise to be found there, especially if you have a vehicle and come armed with a shortboard and perhaps a bottle of rum. Huahine is also worth a trip if you have the time and the means. That’s all we’re going to say about that.
Because of where it is and how little there is out there, a trip to Teahupoo offers the opportunity to see a lot of Tahiti. From the exquisite heavy reef breaks, to the small communities and hilltops in the outlying areas, to the other, less scary breaks, to the cultural hub of Papeete, to the outer islands, there’s a lot to see and do…just don’t get stuck at the End of the Road.
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