The Maraamu Surf Ski Race, a major event on the World Surf Ski Championship circuit, gathers the very best of the world’s kayakers in a thrilling 38km dash in the world’s best down-wind blue water ocean race.
Run annually, the 2014 Championship marked the 6th running of this prestigious event; a spectacular outing starting at Tahaa’s Paipai Pass passing some of the world’s most stunning ocean scenery to finish at the magnificent Motu Tapu in Bora Bora set in the world’s most beautiful lagoon backed by Mt Otemanu where god is held to have descended on the island atop a rainbow. Bora Bora – paradise on earth.
Motu Tapu, the forbidden island & a beautiful spot is well equipped to receive such an event. Notice in the photo below how the coconuts have been removed from the trees – a warning to visitors of the dangers of resting under coconut trees. Couronnes & leis hang from the branches awaiting the arrival of competitors:
Maraamu, the southerly wind that blows consistently at this time of year was pumping a 3-3.5m swell with 2 days to go before the start. Then the toerau (northerly wind) set in within 24 hours of the event starting! Surf skis as their name implies are built to surf ‘with’ the swell; today’s Maraamu Surf Ski Race with little, if any, favourable swell & a strong head-wind would be a true test of endurance, perseverance, courage, commitment & brute strength.
Sixty eight competitors greeted the starting gun & despite the prediction of cloud cover a 15plus knot head-wind ensured that hot & humid tropical conditions would need to be endured for an extended period – participants would be looking for a Hinano or ten upon arrival!
The only advantage, if any, in these conditions would be a knowledge of local currents; the stronger international kayakers would stay close to the leading local competitors for any ‘home advantage’. An hour into the event the Tahitian Hiromana Flores led the leading bunch with the three favoured Australians Clint Robinson, Mark Anderson & Joey Hall right alongside, two further local Tahitians, Tauiri Teiti & Jonathon Savigny, the South African Barry Lewin & the Tahitian Champion & multiple former winner of the Maraamu Surf Ski Race, Lewis Laughlin made up the leading group.
Shortly afterwards the Australians would soon feel sufficiently ‘comfortable’ as to make their move; after 2 hours only 5 of the above 8 made up the leading bunch – Clint, Mark, Joey, Tauirai & Hiromana. Lewis had been forced to retire having aggravated an old shoulder injury.
At the 25km mark Clint made his move & opened up a substantial lead so as to win by a comfortable margin approaching 500m. On arrival Clint’s first words were: “That was hard; brutal!” Clearly ‘spent’ it was some minutes before the blood-flow to his legs permitted him to walk ashore. Clint was home in 3hs19mins1sec almost 4.5minutes ahead of second; in favourable conditions with the swell powering him home all the way Clint seized victory in 2013 in 2 hours 33 minutes:
It’s the Tahitian Tradition for the sound of toeres to greet each & every competitor at the completion of a competition & in the case of the Maraamu Surf Ski Race paddlers were encouraged by three tamure dancing beauties:
Clint is not just another champion – he is the current World Champion (Open) in 5 separate paddling disciplines, has competed in 5 Olympic Games & won medals of all three colours & he has won a staggering 68 Australian Surf Lifesaving & Canoeing National Titles. Some shots of ‘the man’ savouring his victory:
Second home was Australian Mark Anderson with the third place being filled by Joey Hall, an Australian paddler who at only 18 years of age has a massive paddling future in front of him:
The first three placegetters still visibly wearied by the ordeal, cool off & regain their legs after the gruelling test just completed:
The toere & tamure would continue through to the last competitor; the shot here taken from a different angle showing Mt Otemanu in the background:
Fourth overall & the first Tahitian home, Tauirai Teiti, seen here being congratulated by Clint Robinson immediately after his arrival:
Sixth home this year was a double surf ski paddled by Julien Terregrossa (on the left) & French Polynesia’s leading ‘paddling lawyer’ Gilles Guedekian, a former French Age Swimming Champion & now surf ski fanatic. Gilles was 5th in this year’s World Veteran Championships – can you believe he faced Clint Robinson in those Championships too! Interesting for followers of va’a (outrigger canoes) & of rowing is that fact that the tempo for a 2 man surf ski is set by the paddler at the back of the paddlers & not the paddler (or oarman as the case may be) in front of all the vessel’s paddlers/rowers:
The 2014 Maraamu Surf Ski Race marked another first – two ladies, South African Michelle Eray & Tahitian Hivalani Tetuamanuhiri made history in being the first women to compete in the race. Here’s a couple of shots of Michelle taken as she arrived (unfortunately my camera lens jammed after I took these shots):
The breakdown in the camera means I was unable to record the ambience of the tamaara’a (Tahitian feast) that followed. The paddlers are a great group & a great sense of comradery operates between them. They were mixed with Tahitians who simply love a party, love to play music, to sing & dance. It was an afternoon charged with warmth & colour!
A few shots to give you a feel, to background the gathering – firstly the group of musical friends that greatly animated the occasion; truly wonderful local entertainment, followed by a shot of the tamaara’a laid out ready to be served, 2 large containers of fafaru (see below) closest to the camera:
This taken from the Bora Bora Insider ‘Restaurant & Dining’ Page:
Maa Tahiti is the traditional Tahitian food for feasts (tamaara’a) & eaten by many every Sunday. It is cooked in a himaa – an oven made by digging a large hole in the ground into which stones are piled & heated by fire. The food is wrapped in banana leaves and placed on the hot stones then covered by a blanket of purau & banana leaves, then hession sacks & finally dirt around the sides before being baked for several hours. Dishes include chicken & pork with sweet potatoes, breadfruit, tarot, fafa (a type of spinach), po’e (a sweet fruit – usually individually papaya, banana, tarot & pumpkin – puree mixed with starch, sugar & coconut milk) & fei (a type of banana). The food is served with miti hue (lightly fermented coconut milk), miti haari (coconut milk diluted with water & lime) & taioro (thick fermented coconut milk). Local fruits such as papaya, mangoe, pineapple, grapefruit & banana adorn the table. Meals are eaten with the fingers & accompanied by fafaru – fresh fish dipped in sea water fermented for days with fish & prawn heads. Yes, you can smell it for miles!
Dinner & prizegiving would follow at a great night’s entertainment at Bloody Marys.
An event not to miss next year.