Actually our Mexican immigrant Domenic, “Natty M’s” new photographer was quite legal, but getting the French government to grant him legal status for entry was no simple task. It was the biggest bureaucratic pain in the ass on this journey yet; trying to get Dom’s Mexican/Kanuck ass approved, so he can pollute the pristine waters of French Polynesia with his brand of Puerto/Canadian funk.
The story goes like this, we had been hanging around Morea, waiting for our new camera pro to leave his life of yacht photography in the BVI, and get his ass over here. All the while extensively taking in all the activities the blissful island has to offer, or more specifically surfing, surfing, surfing and more surfing. The island is perfectly sized to go from one side to the other by boat quickly, as the swells from various parts of the world reach the island’s reefs and detonate with regularity on one side or the other, or often multiple sides simultaneously. We had just been keeping ultra mobile, often heading to a different anchorage or two every day, chasing the wind and swell angles for not so elusive liquid perfection. All while enjoying the company of the many new friends we have made there, both in the water and out.
The other thing about surfing Morea besides its convenient size, is there are numerous reef passes dotted all over the place. This provides potential setups everywhere you look. Each pass has two sides, and the reefs unique angles to each other, so if you’re on it and can put 2+2 together, you’re going to score good waves often. And, like everywhere else in the world there are the known spots and ones not so renowned and if you search in those dusty corners of barrier reef, they are just lurking for some lucky/prepared surfer to score those forgotten corners.
Well, we stumbled across a perfect slabbing left, that no one really surfs, for good reason and its super fun if ya got the skills. Swells hit the top shelf straight on and you sit inside there, too deep on the reef to ever feel comfortable, then chuck yourself over the appearing ledge, behind the bowl, as water just drains off the now dry reef, this usually involves a grabbing airdrop on your backhand, landing just feet from the dry coral, as the bulk of the wave hits a corner pocket of reef, jacks up and the wave just bends 90? and heaves a perfect, thick bubble and spits you out, every time, like a mini Teahupoo. Maybe you got time to bust one turn at the end of the wave before kicking out becomes a necessity and if you blow the drop or tube, you’re on the reef for sure, been there done that one.
Then when the winds got weird, blowing northerly, ruining the island’s bread and butter spot, it was back to searching for alternatives. But, wouldn’t you know it they exist. In the form of a fun left, that can get fat or a little racy, depending on the swell angle, but the real gem came in the discovery of a super sick, right-hander. It takes the swell and just bends it into multiple waves, over a long stretch of reef. The top wave is fat, go grab you longboard kook, middle wave is fun, rippable and mostly tame, ending in mush, and backing off into deep water, but here’s the rub.
You catch that mush as it pushes through the deep water pocket, you’re usually up and riding as it hits the inside reef and just tubes down the line as your race it and then it lets you rip turns until you have to kick out as the wave ends its life on almost dry reef. Basically, like a tropical version Cowboy Corner on crack rock and coral instead of smooth sand. This discovery was all the better, as it let me surf the inside barreling wave and Tina could surf the middle wave with out too much reef risk (shit still happens), and everyone could surf some fun waves together for a change.
This discovery was made just a short time before we were forced to leave our island paradise. We needed to head back to Papeete a couple days in advance of our Mexican’s arrival, as I had to organize all the necessary paperwork for his planned immigration. Now, I was planning to leave Morea on Tuesday, as Domenic arrived on Sat. and whenever you are dealing with immigration you should give yourself one day for crap, another day to fix the crap, and figure they don’t work on Friday at all, because of some obscure holiday, you ignorantly didn’t know existed. Well, the surf was too fun and empty to leave on Tuesday, so screw immigration; we left Wednesday afternoon for Tahiti.
Thursday, starting bright and early, was spent hectically running from one immigration office at the port, back via dingy and leg power to the immigration office at the airport 4 times or so. Not being EU citizens, we have to post bonds equivalent to an ultra expensive airplane ticket out of here ($1,500), so if we don’t leave, the authorities all ready have our money to ship us deadbeats out. Dom, had a 1-way ticket here, only round-trip tickets get you out of the bond and airlines will not even let you on the flight without proof or a bond or exemption.
So, I go to the port office and the authorities say Dom needs be here in person with his passport to post the bond. Or else we needed to use an agent, if we have crew showing up, this agent assumes Dom’s immigration risk. Too late for that one. We wanted to just leave the country basically right when Dom showed up, but we couldn’t add him to our crew list without him physically being here. It was one ridiculous catch 22 after anther and I was now laughing by this time. So, the port immigration office said, “You need to go to the airport office and they will sort you out. The airport office told me to write a letter explaining the situation. That we were leaving just two days after his arrival, asking them to wave the bond, that repeated officials said he should have purchased from his home country before he left. Oh yea, where? But a nice lady was insistent immigration just needed a written letter explaining our situation and it would probably work, but of course you need proper forms that the port office has, so go back there first. So, back to the port office, before it closes for lunch from 11-2, whoo, make it by the skin of my teeth, grab the forms, back to the boat, write a letter and bring it back to airport immigration before it closes for the day at 4pm and I better have some time to spare. I made it, but DENIED! The big French head honcho (really a little man) says “Two days is it too much time, one day between the day he arrives and your boat leaves is the most time we could make an exception for, without him posting a bond.”
Well that just isn’t happening, “Can’t you just please let me post the bond for him? I ask again. “With the copy of his passport and not the original, just in this one case, SVP.” A conference occurs, sectaries, bosses, random Tahitian people that I thought were just in the waiting room with me are all in on the conversation that is just French gibberish to me. The boss then reluctantly makes a phone call, as I thank them for their “Wonderful help” and they tell me to go to the bank downstairs. Not much time left in the lengthy Tahitian workday now, as I run downstairs. Only to endure a plethora of phone calls for help by the confused bank teller, countless forms filled out in triplicate, my credit card eventually swiped, cash advance cleared, receipt in had, run back to the immigration office upstairs and give em the bond receipt. They tell me to hold on while, they OK the paperwork and call the airline letting em know it is now ok to let Dom on the plane. Its finally all done and only one whole day of bureaucratic crap and some money to get a Mexican into a country legally and the sad thing is, that’s really not too bad, probably.
Its 9am Friday, I’m sipping on coffee, waking up, the immigration stuff is just a leftover bad dream from yesterday, replaced by blissful dreams about frolicking, flipping dolphins, I just got to chill until Saturday morning when the Mexican arrives. With clouds still in my eyes, I glance at my cell phone. 18 missed calls! WTF! Then the phone rings, I must have really been asleep dreaming, I never heard the phone ring once. Its Dom’s friend Joanna from Tortola calling to tell me they will not let Dom on the plane, as he has no official document in his possession, only an e-mail from me titled “Hey your Mexican/Kanuk Ass is Finally Fucking Approved.” This however makes his first set of airport officials laugh, at least enough to allow him on the first leg of his flights from BVI to Miami. Luckily for him, his layover is three hours and Joanna catches me in time to go make a copy of the bond, scan it, and pdf. it to him, in an e-mail. And the officious, US officials let him through customs and onto his next flight to L.A.
In L.A. he is greeted by a warm welcome from Air Tahiti Nui telling him to enjoy his flight to the waiting “Natural Mystic” and Tahiti. The airline was already informed, I guess they just didn’t feel the need to inform the American Airlines portion of his flights. Oh well, just like Tina, Dom arrives in Tahiti excited, with surfboards, but missing his luggage and the airline representative is telling him, “The missing bags will be on the next flight.” “Yea right” I say “Four more days and maybe you will see them again.”
Following Dom’s arrival came the arrival of a new toy for the boat. I know, I have given “sweepers” a lot of shit and still do. Our derogatory name for stand up paddleboarders or SUP for short, as back in California they just look like a bunch of old ladies sweeping the flat ocean clean of pesky kelp and riding tinny, mushy waves. But, here there are SUP guys out at Teahupoo charging and the protection of barrier reefs make for a perfect way to get some exercise on a flat day or an ideal vessel to paddle out to the reefs and spearfish from, so I capitulated and bought one. There is not much of a selection of SUP boards to choose from in Tahiti and we were also restricted by the width of our spot to store the board, so we only had one option. A bright red twelve foot long board to match Red Rocket, but with a giant, flaming red sperm on the front. I guess the board was shaped by a French shaper named “Fire Ball,” but some one should tell him his logo looks like a flaming sperm, not a fire ball. Killer hot! I can’t wait to start offending people in lineups across the world, with my extra kooky SUP flaming sperm board.
So, with a new giant red board, some catching up, waiting for rain to pass, a little restocking, refueling and Dom with no clean underwear (typical Mexican) we head back to Morea in the middle of the night, throw the hook in a now familiar anchorage and all quickly pass out to sounds of thundering surf on the reef.
Dom, wakes up to his first sunny day in French Polynesia with perfect pumping surf and offshore winds. The left across the pass from the boat is as good as it gets, double overhead cylinders spinning down the reef, but crowded with 15 guys out. So, we load up “Red Rocket” and head out to the left slab a short drive away. No one’s around, its mean, pumping with double overhead sets greeting us and we’re hesitantly out there, triple checking the dink anchor, as the current out the pass is like an angry river, complete with rapids, as the lagoon tries to empty all the excess water out of the 25 foot wide, very narrow opening, as the new swell surges huge volumes of water over barrier reef.
No need to paddle out, the current sucks you right to the peak, as I watch Kahlil airdrop, to a tube smack down pummeling on his first attempt. I grab a few sick ones, its fucking real and dangerous. Dom’s no stranger to big, powerful waves. He grew up in Puerto Escondido, the “Mexican Pipeline” its called, but proclaims, living and surfing in the Caribbean for the last three years just doesn’t get you ready for Tahitian waves.
He and Christiano are finding it hard to just commit to the drop, as you stare from 10 feet above, looking straight down through the crystal water at jagged reef, just waiting to do its best human cheese grater imitation. I selectively pick and choose a few gems over the next hour or so and then the wind switches and its over. But, all we have to do is pull up anchor and head over to a right, which is mostly offshore now. Fortunately for everyone, its an easier wave and now everyone is getting some waves, having a blast and Dom’s first day in French Polynesia is full of stoke and adrenaline.
Monday dawns with shitty winds, and small north waves, but a chase of offshore winds brings us to find a new SE swell has hit and the right Tina and I discovered is offshore and firing. Tina paddles out, but the wave she was surfing before is now super solid, too big for her and she is forced to sit in the channel and just watch. Dom shoots some of his first water shots of the trip, its just me and Dizzy surfing on a cloudy day. Some fun, dimly lit tubes go down and we surf all morning by ourselves.
The afternoon is still pumping, with a couple of friendly locals out and all the boy’s share a fun surf together, as Tina kept an eye on the “Natty M”. The evening session finds me on anchor watch, as I let Tina and the boys go and surf Haapiti. When they arrive back at the boat, just past sunset, I haven’t seen Tina smiling so much since her dolphin orgy. The left was smaller and fun and Tina caught her first real reef wave. Taking off on the peak, even grabbing a rail through the bowl and making it out the end. She was super stoked and everyone was stoked for her too. I wish I had been there to witness it firsthand and snap a photo to show Sandor (he hooked her up the board).
It basically goes like this for a couple more days, until we hear of Dom’s luggage arriving four days later than it should have and have to entertain thoughts about heading back to Tahiti to pick it up. But, not before Tina gave the middle right one more try on a little bit smaller day. Only to pick one off, but unfortunately the first wave, of the set of the day and she is washed onto the dry reef by the ensuing ten solid waves. There is nothing I can do, as I don’t have booties on either and just watch as she figures out how to extract herself and slowly makes her way down the reef to paddle back out the inside of the pass.
But, not before a bootied Dizzy tries to help way too late, and well after a local fisherwoman lent her some flip-flops to make her reef stumble a little easier. Tina is one tough cookie and isn’t even worried about the cuts to her feet, leg and mildly shredded hands that are now rougher than mine, but that I think is more my problem though.
Well life ain’t always easy and only one of Dom’s bags made it, one is still missing some where in airport baggage purgatory and all the new movies and goodies Dom brought us, are probably long gone. I guess we will just have to keep watching the same old movies until we have all the lines memorized, not just the good ones and enjoy the girly TV shows that Jill bestowed upon us, like Gossip Girl, The New Beverly Hills 90210, and America’s Next Top Model. Like the Kool-Aid man says, “OH YEA!”
And now one finds us back at Marina Taina, near Papeete, on the dock, the same exact spot where P Kiddy disappeared, just fixing a few more things on the “Natty M”, busting out some more projects, doing some spring cleaning, getting her ready to get out of here, and scoring some more sick ones at Taapuna, as south swells are still hitting. We were planning on leaving for the Tuamotus, then Christmas Island this Thursday, but now the wind forecast doesn’t look quite so hot and the south swell is forecast to come back up for a week straight, with no north swell for a while. North swell is necessary for the Tuamotu spots, so now maybe it is back to Teachuoo instead or maybe Morea once again. Who knows if we will ever leave French Polynesia, maybe the government is smart about making surfing slackers like us post bonds, guaranteeing our eventual departure, because why would anyone ever want to leave this paradise, none of us do! Cheers – Kyber