Surfing is also a woman’s affair in Tahiti. Vahine, the Tahitian word for women, also have a special relationship with the ocean and nature. They are becoming more numerous in surfing, even if they have a preference for spots on the beach. Stand up paddle boarding is extremely popular with women. Local competitions are slowly starting to take place. The image of a vahine on a surf board or on a stand up paddle board is somewhat of a dream…
Tahiti is also the place where the stars of women’s surfing come to train, and they do not lack for anything. Hawaiian surfer Keala Kennely is seen as a distinctive surfer. She took a fall on a medium wave at Teahupo’o in 2012 and injured her face. She took a photo that created a buzz on the internet. This didn’t stop her from coming back to Teahupo’o in 2013 to do tow-in surfing…Another figure out of the norm of women’s surfing is Hawaiian Bethany Hamilton, the great promise in elite level surfing. She lost an arm in a shark attack in Hawai’i and still continues to surf with one arm.
On the competition side, Marie Christine Sanford shone during the 1990s in international challenges, then Patricia Rossi during the 2000s. Today, the next in line to these pioneers is assured by Lanikai Maro and Karelle Poppke. They want to stake their place on the international competition circuits, but competition is tough, because women’s elite level surfing is very well advanced. However, we must remember Karelle’s excellent performance in Nicaragua, when she recently finished second in the junior world championships.
In April 2013, the Vahine Pro Junior, an international competition, took place at Taharu’u beach in Papara. The Tahitians were up against the Australians, and it is the Australians who had the final word. Outside of competitions, the vahine can be seen at the surf spots. They definitely have the intention to make their place in this world, much to the admiration of male surfers. Michel Bourez tells us what he thinks about women’s surfing: “There are more girls surfing now. Back in my day, there were only about five. It was considered more of a masculine sport, and now local girls are killing it. They have more of a desire to succeed since the women’s surfing tour has become even bigger, and now they know they can make a living of it. I think they want to succeed financially, but I think it is harder for a girl coming from Tahiti.” “It was hard enough for me being a guy…with the girls, there are fewer competitions, so they have a smaller impact on the world of surfing. This is just the beginning. It has only been five years since women’s surfing has increased in popularity and become more interesting. [The vahine] need to travel. They need to move around, for if they just stay here, they won’t make it [in the surfing world]. Lanikai is a very good surfer, and so is Karelle Poppke. These are two names that jump out at me. I wish them, and women’s surfing in general, a great future.”