"It's the first time I have had time to prepare something for the Tahitian surfers," explains Michel Bourez. "The president of my club, Teva Zaveroni, and I wanted to create an event which had never been seen around here before, one that could soon become a stop on the WQS circuit. The aim of our association is to open a surfing school for young people from Mataiea and nearby."
The one-of-a-kind Rautirare Open, the first of what Bourez hopes will be an annual affair, falls somewhere between an between an international gathering of top-rated surfers, a showcase of Polynesian traditions, a full-on party, and of course, a dream surf trip. And while many had come from as far away as France and Europe to compete, the winner of the inaugural Rautirare Open was homegrown local talent Hira Teriinatoofa.
Held in fun-sized surf at Tahiti's Taharu'u, the competitor's list included 2008 European Champion Tim Boal, two-time Euro champ Joan Duru, and their good friend Hugo Savalli. Their mission: to challenge the local surfers in their home surf in a competition open to any that wanted to enter. There was no entry fee, and in a rarely seen occurrance on the island, there was a bounty of prize money up for grabs.
In Papara, the importance of this national sport was soon clear to the European visitors. Frenchmen Charly Martin and Naoum IlDefonse were knocked out from the very first round, while Boal was the last representative of the Old Continent to stay on his feet, managing to reach the semifinals. He was eventually upended by Teriinatoofa in a close heat.
"The youngsters here are good," tells Bourez. "They already have an international level. They just need better teaching and sponsors to help them travel. For now, the surfers can't afford to challenge the pros abroad, so the pros have to come to them."
And for the pros, they show at their own risk, because as the first Rautirare Open proved, victory is no guarantee.