Why you should go:
Perfect left-hand barrels. Tahitians are some of the coolest people in the world. The water is so clear, you feel like you're hallucinating while immersed.
Located deep in the South Pacific, Tahiti is the name of the main island of the archipelago known as French Polynesia. There are over a hundred islands within French Polynesia, so Tahiti is just the tip of the iceberg–a very warm, surf-filled iceberg. Even more tropical and lush than Hawai'i, Tahiti receives abundant rainfall and bakes in high temperatures year-round. Tahiti is actually two islands linked together by an isthmus, resulting in Tahiti Nui (Big Tahiti) and Tahiti Iti (Little Tahiti). Both Tahiti's are blessed with numerous reef passes and several beachbreaks–a rarity in this corner of the world, and much appreciated after being dragged across razor-sharp reef a couple times.
Teahupo'o isn't the only place to surf. There are other waves on the island that are world-class, too. Ta'apuna is a left that throws over an extremely shallow, sharp reef a half mile out to sea. Fortunately, it's so perfect that you can get ridiculously deep in the tube and still come out. Papara beachbreak is a good respite from the tolls the reef-pass breaks take on your body. It's also fun to bust some airs without fear of getting cheese-grated by a coral head. The surf can get crowded at the more popular spots, but a shaka and the mandatory handshake will get you more than you can imagine. The natives are friendly, but if crossed, tradition has it you must fight standing up, not on the ground, or else everyone watching will kick you.
When to go:
Tahiti has surf year round. But north swells aren't why surfers dream of Tahiti. April through October is when swells generated by massive Antarctic storms hit the perfectly positioned reef passes, resulting in everyone's wet dream.
Where to stay:
If you're thinking of tackling Teahupo'o, Le Pension Bonjouir is the place to leave your will and belongings. For around US$80 you can rent a private bungalow with room for five, or for ten bucks you can pitch a tent among the orchids and fruit trees. Le Pension also provides a boat to take you out to the renowned break as well as other less-threatening waves. Contact them at bonjouir.com. The Taaroa Lodge is run by local surfer Ralph “No Problem” Sanford. Within striking range of Taaroa are Ta'apuna, Papara, and other less-crowded breaks, and the view of neighboring Moorea is breathtaking. Visit their Web site at taaroalodge.com. If you're willing to blow $300 a night, go to the Sofitel, located on nearby Moorea and enjoy the over-the-water bungalows with glass floors.
Where to eat:
Tahitians love to eat. A favorite amongst the locals are les roulettes–trucks converted into restaurants that are located throughout the island and serve dishes such as steak frite (steak and fries), poisson cru (marinated fish salad), and decadent chocolate crepes. A magasin (small market) is a good place to get 40-cent, government-subsidized baguettes, fresh island juice, and cold Hinanos. The most popular eating establishment in Tahiti? McDonald's in the capital city of Papeete.
*Check the free cement skatepark in Papeete.
*Go party and dance with Tahitian girls at Mana Rock, also in Papeete.
*Go to Moorea for a couple days via the ferry that departs from Papeete several timees daily
*Snorkel–the underwater world will blow your mind.
*Above-average surfing ability.
*Several thick leashes.
*Shake hands and greet locals with “Io orana” (pronounced yo-rana) when you paddle out at their spots.
Look out for:
Don't get sucked out to sea. You will end up in Chile or somewhere else far away if you get swept away by the powerful currents. Clean unavoidable reef cuts thoroughly–Tahiti is staph-infection central. Don't leave belongings unattended. This signifies you don't want them, and they will disappear.
Excluding bread, cheese, and wine, prices in Tahiti are generally high, although you should be able to find a ticket for the eight-hour flight from Los Angeles to Papeete for around $800. The dollar is currently strong in French Polynesia, so your money will go a bit farther than you might expect.
Tahitians love a good wipeout. So don't get all bummed out when you get pitched onto dry reef, and a bunch of kids laugh like it's the most hilarious thing ever that you think you're going to die. When paddling out to faraway passes, look for sticks coming out of the reef that indicate channels–dry-docking onto coral sucks. Catch a ride on le truck to any surf spot on the island for a buck or two, and take in some local culture while you're on it. Trade your boards for pearls; they are spectacular gifts, and you can spin extraordinary tales about how you came into possession of them.–Justin Cote