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© L.A Rudzinoff

Ambassador No’oanga: chief’s stool from Rurutu

24 July 2017 in Culture

Ambassador No’oanga: chief’s stool from Rurutu
5/5 - 3 vote(s)

Present all over the world, Polynesian works of art expose our culture and allow it to shine far beyond our islands. Discover this chief’s no’oanga, a superb 19th century stool from the island of Rurutu. It was recently sold at auction at Sotheby’s Paris for a million Euros!

Recently many people have asked me, how is it possible that somebody, in their right mind, would pay ONE MILLION EUROS for a small wooden stool from Rurutu? For those of you, who do not know what I am talking about; on June 22th 2016 Sotheby’s, Paris, sold an early 19th Century no’oanga (a chief’s stool) coming from the Austral Island of Rurutu in French Polynesia. This piece was estimated 500,000-700,000 Euro. The hammer price was 900,000 Euros plus Sotheby’s commission, which brought the total price up to 1,083,000 Euros. I personally thought that it would sell for more…

Joseph Banks, the young very wealthy English botanist, paid 10,000 pounds to sail with Captain James Cook on his first voyage of enlightenment to the Pacific. In 1769, Cook and Banks discovered the island of Ohitiroa (long side), which the indigenes and their neighbors called Rurutu. Banks wrote: “Of the few things we saw among these people every one was ornamented infinitely superior to anything we had seen before.”

But, what are the important factors which determine the price of an object? First, the rarity of the piece in question: this is one of only seven known no’oangas. Second, the quality of the piece: this most elegant stool was cut from a solid block of wood. The legs have hemispherical feet and the ends of the seat have a most elegant everted curve. This masterpiece was carved with stone tools and shells. To accomplish the magnificent reddish brown patina, the surface must have been polished with sand and oil. This no’oanga was sculpted out of Calophyllum Inophyllum (Guttiferae Family), the Polynesians call this tree either tamanu or ati. It’s totally modern design reveals the avant-garde Polynesian techniques for that time and the purity of its lines, this is what makes it so very special. Third, the provenance of the piece. In 1821 the London Missionary Society decided to send a Deputation of two (Reverend Daniel Tyerman and a layman George Bennet of Sheffield, England,) around the world to report on the progress made in the mission fields.

 

From 1821 to 1829, Tyerman and Bennet traveled an amazing 90,000 miles, passing some three years in Polynesia. On September 30, 1822, Tyerman, Bennet and William Ellis (a missionary from Hawaii) arrived on Rurutu. Having survived the dangerous landing, they were welcomed by King Teuruarii (” aged about eighteen “), his queen, and the infant, their son – and by all the people of Rurutu, about three hundred individuals. The Rurutuans gave Bennet this no’oanga. On October 4th they returned to their base in Huahine (Society Islands.) Two days later Bennet wrote on the underside of this no’oanga, “Geo Bennet, Oct 6 1822 Rurutu made” (Montgomery 1831) This proves to me that he wanted to keep this piece in his collection, permanently. In 2006 this piece was exhibited in Norwich, England at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Pacific Encounters, Art and Divinity in Polynesia. Than in 2008, this piece was exhibited in Paris at the musée du quai Branly, Polynésie, Arts et Divinités 1760-1860. This Polynesian Masterpiece was purchased over the telephone, by an extremely happy private European Collector.

Laurance Alexander Rudzinoff

Bracelet with Tahitians pearls. Necklace : Tahitian Pearls and diamonds. Tahiti Pearl Market Ring "You and I" : diamonds and Tahitian pearls (12,6 and 12,9 mm), Tahia Exquisite Tahitian Pearls © Kim Akrich

Motu

24 June 2017 in Fashion

Motu
5/5 - 1 vote(s)

Photos: Kim Akrich
M.U.A: Teura Alain
Model: Moehau Aumerand

 

 

Vincent Cassel in Gauguin movie - Voyage de Tahiti © DR

Vincent Cassel on location in Tahiti to film Gauguin

5 June 2017 in People

Vincent Cassel on location in Tahiti to film Gauguin

Actor and major star Vincent Cassel embodies the role of famous artist Paul Gauguin in the much anticipated film from Director Edouard Deluc that has an expected 2017 release. Most of the filming took place during September and October 2016 on Tahiti’s peninsula in the districts of Teahupo’o and Tautira. Here is an interview with the French star who tells us more about the filming and his experience in French Polynesia.

Is this the first time you have been to Tahiti?

Vincent Cassel: Yes. Before coming, I had lots of clichés about Tahiti running around in my head. I was also very excited due to the ocean and surfing. Obviously, I didn’t accept the role just to come surfing in Tahiti; however, going to a place with magnificent waves was extremely attractive to me. I came to Tahiti without any expectations and I must say, I fell under her spell. What I had heard about the local people is also true. They are all so attentive, kind and very generous. On the peninsula where we were filmomg, I was struck by this special spirit.

Did the setting strike you as well?

It is absolutely unbelievable. I don’t see how anyone can live on this island and not fully experience the sea. It is so wonderful with its lagoons, reefs, reef flats and all the marine life. You can swim with whales and rays. You can see them everywhere. One thing is for sure—I will be back.

You are a surfer?

Yes! Not the greatest, but I love to surf. Anyway, don’t they say that the best surfer is the one who has the best time? I have been lucky to meet great people. They showed me the passes, surfing spots and unique features. Hira Teriinatoofa, Matahi Drollet, Tikanui Smith and the entire Tahitian team that was featured in the film, la Nuit de la Glisse inspired me. It is somewhat of a dream to have access to this Polynesian surfing world and to meet people who are among the best in this discipline.

Let’s talk about Gauguin. What prompted you to accept this role?

I like characters that are somewhat murky. Since the beginning, along with the director, we said we didn’t want to just do a film about an artist. From my perspective as a viewer, a film about an artist is a little boring. During the scenario, we were constantly focused on Gauguin’s history and journey: his anti-conformism, his faith in himself, his will, his desire and his strength to be different. I admire these qualities. Afterwards, a big chunk of the character becomes much darker. He was someone who tended to make a scene. He came across as a rebel, much more virile that he should have been in reality. For me, it was important to allow this part of the character to be, to allow some of the disorder to linger. Gauguin was not a likeable guy. He was powerful. I find it interesting to reveal the strength of such a representative character. The question is to find out where people like him draw their power. It is often within their demons. He believed in what he was doing while no one even paid attention to his art. No one bought his paintings. But he continued to believe in himself. One of his sentences stays with me: “Why do you want me to follow the masters when masters became masters because they didn’t follow anyone?”

He had a very high opinion of himself…

It is the least one can do. Often when people dare to be themselves, they are accused of having too high of an opinion about themselves. The truth is one must have the courage to hold oneself in high esteem. It is often easier to give up and have a lower opinion of oneself.

How did filming in Tahiti go?

I will tell you: this filming went better than any other I have ever experienced. First of all, we are happy with the work we have done. Everyone is satisfied with the shots. The location is charming. The people here are charming. Then there are the fringe benefits. If you are willing to embrace a piece of the Tahitian art of living—and I truly describe it as an art of living—then I believe you can be very happy here. And that is my case, so I am very happy.

Interview compiled by Ludovic Lardière

© JMD Production

Pierre Richard “An Eden from all angles”

3 June 2017 in People

Pierre Richard “An Eden from all angles”

On the initiative of the Compagnie du Caméléon theatre company, French actor Pierre Richard came to Tahiti this past October for several performances of his play, Pierre Richard III. This big star of French cinema and popular comedies discovered our islands during his stay. He tells us about his crush.  

What are your impressions?

Pierre Richard: To come to Tahiti has been a longtime dream of mine. I have traveled a lot and I can’t explain why I waited so long to come here. Better late than never and now, my dream has come true. My best friend, a director, came here two years ago. He told me that I absolutely must come and whatever it takes, that I must go… to the Marquesas. However, I did come here to work and I am not on vacation. I am performing in Tahiti! So as far as going to the Marquesas, I will have to come back…

What did Tahiti evoke for you?

The same as for most people: Paul Gauguin, Jacques Brel, The Bounty, lagoons, the ocean, marine life, scuba diving…things that I have seen in photos. I knew there were all these things but I was still surprised by the beauty of the area, especially Tahiti. I was told to not stay here so that I could have time to quickly visit other islands, but I love this magnificent place. We did the tour of the island. We went to the peninsula, which is stunning and wild. You are truly in Eden from all angles. In Moorea, I swam with whales for the first time in my life. Dolphins came to play in the wake of our boat. I dove into the middle of a school of wild rays. The marine life is exceptional. The plant life is just as extraordinary with lush vegetation and flowers and delicious scents everywhere. Here, you find things you cannot find anywhere else. Especially difficult to find anywhere else and to this extent is the kindness and welcome. I expected popa’a (Europeans) to recognize me, but not Polynesians. However, this was not the case and I was gently approached everywhere I went. I was surprised by such a warm welcome, such kindness and cheerfulness.

Did these differences make an impression on you?

Yes, and at all costs, you must guard and protect this culture. I hope that Polynesians will know how to hold on to it and will manage to do so. I told you, I travel frequently and I noticed that in many countries, cultures have been lost such as with some American Indians and Inuit of the Great North. Here, you can feel the strong connection Polynesians have to their history and traditions. They are proud of it. However, I think I know that at one time, a lot was done to try and take it all from them. Perhaps they resisted Western colonialism better than others.

You are renowned for being sensitive to protecting the environment. Does this seem even more pertinent here?

Of course. There are so many resources here. Importantly, I think of the protection of whales which is a subject very dear to me. They come here to rest in your waters and I hope that when they return to Antarctica, they don’t cross paths with Japanese or Norwegian whaling ships. Here there are in a sanctuary and I noticed that people take care to not disturb the whales even if they really want to get close to them.

Now that you are here, do you have a better understanding of our how our islands inspired great artists and creators even though they are but tiny archipelagoes at the other end of the world?

But this is precisely why they are so attractive. On an island, there are no frontiers. The only one that exists is the sea. There is nothing like it to make your dreams come true. Without a doubt, Paul Gauguin came here to escape the emasculating elements of French society during his time. He came here to find great independence of spirit, which is reflected in his painting. On the other hand, I understand how one can be so inspired to paint or write because here, we live in a multicolored garden.

Do you plan on coming back to Tahiti?

Yes, that is all I can think about lately! I would like to come back to discover other islands that I have heard so much about, such as Rangiroa, Fakarava and of course, the Marquesas.

© DR

Élie Semoun “This is more beautiful than a postcard…”

2 June 2017 in People

Élie Semoun “This is more beautiful than a postcard…”

His provocative humor and numerous impersonations make him one of France’s favorite comedians. Élie Semoun was recently in French Polynesia for a show called À Partager (For Sharing). This performer, under the charm of our islands and Polynesian people, shared several videos of his stay on Facebook as well as a photo of his Air Tahiti Nui airline ticket. This was enough to make his fellow comedians in Paris jealous.

Is this your first time in French Polynesia?

Yes. I was anticipating a décor just like a postcard and I must admit that I was not at all disappointed. It is even more beautiful than a postcard since it is real.

What were your first impressions?

My first impression: sunburn! (He laughs). However, in Tahiti I was able to live one of my dreams, which was to dive with sharks. I also went into a valley with a kind of mini tropical forest and waterfalls everywhere. It was magnificent.

There are landscapes, but did you also have interesting encounters with the locals?

Yes. I find Tahitians to be super nice and friendly. The women are beautiful. Perhaps I am mistaken, but I felt that this was an uninhibited society, much less repressed than French society.

However, it is rumored that you were very stressed out with the idea of performing in front of a Polynesian audience?

Like all artists who perform in a foreign country or somewhere far from home, I was apprehensive. One thing I worry about is if we have the same references. However, things went by like a charm with two very successful evenings. I was freed up and relieved. My butterflies and doubts disappeared.

Why such pressure?

I was afraid people would not get my sense of humor. After all, it is a little trashy. Besides, humor is difficult to export. At the end of the day, when something is funny, it is funny everywhere. This is what I should have told myself before getting on stage! On the other hand, it is true that I allude to brands and logos with which I feel Polynesian audiences may not be familiar with. Everything else was great. Thanks to television, everyone knows what is going on in Paris and in Brussels. References to the news are the same everywhere. I have no idea why I was so anxious. Here, I sensed kindness and deep appreciation.

Did you bring a local flair to the show?

I put in a little bit of local material, but not too much. I had thought about it during my preparations for the two evenings. Finally, I told myself that if people came to see me, it was for who I was and what I had to offer: a little bit French and a little bit Parisian. Why speak to them of Tahiti, when it could risk coming across as not genuine? I preferred to stay true to myself with the show I performed all throughout France.

You spoke of a postcard-like decor and your performance took place on a motu (islet) under the open sky…

The Intercontinental Hotel is a magnificent site with a stage under the open sky; however, it was a huge challenge for me since I had to keep the audience’s attention. Everything seemed all over the place with all the senses, sounds and lights…it was a little complicated, but I managed to capture the audience.

Has this first visit to French Polynesia made you want to come back and explore this destination more?

Yes, of course…and I will return next time with much less apprehension. I purchased a black pearl. There you have it. I am touched forever now.

The show is called À Partager (For Sharing). What did you share with Polynesians?

My joy of living and I hope my generosity as an artist. However, it is especially the Polynesian public who shared their time with me. Just like I say during my shows: “it gives me joy to give and joy to receive.”

 

Interview complied by Alexandra Sigaudo-Fourny with Radio 1

© DR

Pep’s returns home with his head filled with sun

1 June 2017 in People

Pep’s returns home with his head filled with sun

The famous French singer Florian Peppuy, known as Pep’s, performed at several venues in French Polynesia, invited by Arnaud Bertrand from la Casa Mahina restaurant. Between concerts, bringues (Festive Tahitian parties that include lots of live music and singing) and encounters, Pep’s received a full eyeful. As songwriter and performer of the hit, “Liberta,” his stay in the fenua has already inspired him with lots of ideas.

How did you imagine Tahiti?

Pep’s: There are atolls, colors, coral and all the fish…and I thought there would be a jungle with wild animals…In my head, I had images of a tropical place. I thought it was paradise and I was not disappointed. It is idyllic. Bora Bora has an immense aquarium coast which is quite surreal. The problem is you never want to leave. The people here are very open and very nice. All of them are musicians with a musical culture that does not exist in France. The concept of a bringue is awesome! They never stop playing music for several hours, much like a musical marathon.

Did artistic exchanges take place?

Yes! Nonstop! During each concert, Polynesian musicians came to play with us. We also had a local drummer in the group (Frédéric Rossoni, who is also the drummer for the band Tikahiri), which allowed us to immediately make contact with the locals and become close. Polynesians brought me so many gifts. There was so much generosity.

How did the concerts go?

There was an amazing ambience in Tahiti and Moorea. In Bora Bora, it was different. There was not as much roots reggae. It was the people most of all who struck me with their concept of life, their serenity. Since I am a party animal, we had jam sessions every night! I never felt threatened. I never expected to meet people so welcoming and so well-versed in music and song. The athletic side of French Polynesia also appealed to me. I went diving but my session was too short and I had to come back to go hiking.

You tried your hand at ukulele

Yes! I must learn the hand positions; but I have already played a bit with the help of a Polynesian.

This trip has impacted you…

This is a trip that makes you want to come back. It makes you think about your life on a daily basis. I have just got back from being in nature and I have been living in Paris for the past two years for the music. It is the total opposite of Tahiti: it is grey. People don’t smile. It is hard. Before coming here, I underwent a major blow. Two days later, I arrived in Tahiti. This voyage happened at the perfect moment just when I needed to clear my head. They say you either accept or reject an island. I believe I have accepted it and in turn, it has adopted me. I return to France filled with good vibes.

This trip has impacted you…

This is a trip that makes you want to come back. It makes you think about your life on a daily basis. I have just got back from being in nature and I have been living in Paris for the past two years for the music. It is the total opposite of Tahiti: it is grey. People don’t smile. It is hard. Before coming here, I underwent a major blow. Two days later, I arrived in Tahiti. This voyage happened at the perfect moment just when I needed to clear my head. They say you either accept or reject an island. I believe I have accepted it and in turn, it has adopted me. I return to France filled with good vibes.

In your hit song, “Liberta,” you speak of a country of dreams. Is it like this a little here?

This is the country of dreams because I also got to see dolphins. I totally absorbed new perspectives and I took advantage of everything this visit had to offer. I found nothing negative at all. I love being in nature and here there are so many spaces that are still preserved. This song “Liberta” was conceived by the sea. Perhaps another hit will result from this trip…

© M.Mellone

M. Pokora: “Tahitians emit tremendous energy”

31 May 2017 in People

M. Pokora: “Tahitians emit tremendous energy”

It has been nine years since French singer M. Pokora has been on a stage in French Polynesia. Back to Tahiti for one concert on his RED Tour, he gave an amazing show accompanied by dancers and acrobats.

This is your first trip to French Polynesia. You have performed here more than most French singers. What will you offer to your audience here that is different from last time?

M. Pokora: I first arrived in 2005 for an NRJ multi-artist show. In 2006, I gave two concerts. This time, I face Polynesian audiences as an artist with more maturity and more life under his belt, as well as with a larger group.

People are talking about an American-styled show. Is this the same show you did in France?

Yes, it is exactly the same one we do at festivals all over France. There are 22 of us on stage, singing and dancing with acrobatics, brass instruments, musicians and backup singers. This is a big show that I wanted to share with Polynesian audiences. Just because we are coming to a faraway destination doesn’t mean we cannot do the same show. This was the reason I came. That way, nothing is fixed and formatted. As far as the audience goes, we can improvise yet the quality will stay the same.

After nine years, do you find that Polynesian hospitality remains the same?

Yes, absolutely. After such a long journey and arriving so exhausted, it is heartwarming to receive such a welcome. So many people were there to greet us as well as traditional dancers. There is always such positive energy and such human warmth.

Are Polynesian audiences different from French audiences?

As we are staying here several days, we have more time to meet the public and there is more proximity to fans. Plus, it is such a pleasure to realize that thousands of kilometers from where we produced our album, people are here to share moments with us. Our music traveled all the way to here. Polynesians are more reserved. At the airport, there were many people, but they were not like a mob. We feel they are thrilled to have us on stage and there is an element of respect. Tahitians emit tremendous energy and I am not talking about the physical. There is something quite tribal. I like this energy. Besides, coming to Tahiti, we are reminded of the diversity of French territories.

 Are you going to have a chance to explore Polynesia’s diversity with your band?

Yes. To come this far just to stay in a hotel room is not an option. Besides, I like to organize activities for my band. Some of them have never had the chance to travel so far away. They will have lots to talk about upon their return to France. We’re going scuba diving. We will see Hei Tahiti put on a traditional dance show at the Intercontinental Tahiti and go to Moorea to discover rays. I will walk through the streets of Papeete and perhaps buy some pearls. In 2005, I had my leg tattooed during my first stay here. This time, I think I will take back pearl jewelry. I also know that some of the musicians will be tempted to buy a ukulele.

And yourself? What do you expect from your trip?

 I love to get the feel of a place and a sense of the people. Trips are also a time to discover new foods. I love to try local dishes and discover new flavors. Here in Tahiti, I hope to eat lots of fish. Further, as an artist, it is important to become immersed in other cultures and to be open to other perspectives.

You’ll continue with your tour in New Caledonia. What would you like to say to the Polynesian people before you leave?

That I am thrilled to be here and I will not wait nine years before coming back!

 

Interview compiled by Alexandra Sigaudo-Fourny

© S.Girardot

Te Ma’o, the Shark: Lord of our Islands

30 May 2017 in Nature

Te Ma’o, the Shark: Lord of our Islands

Fascinating due to its wild beauty and feared for its reputation as a predator, the shark leaves no one unscathed. As a symbol of French Polynesia, this creature occupies a privileged space in the culture and coral ecosystems as well as plays a major role in high quality ecotourism.

In the beginning of time in traditional Polynesian mythology, the big blue shark, Te Ma’o Purotu, was the favorite shark of the god Ta’aroa, master of the underwater world. He lived in Purotu, the original sacred land located in the depths of the sea that gave the deep blue color of the ocean its Tahitian name. He had a habit of rising to the surface to swim close to the beach to feed on algae and play with children. However one day, alerted by the gods of the sea, humans started to fear Ta’aroa’s tame shark that could have the evil intent to eat them. During a hunt led by two courageous warriors who were out to kill him, the shark was injured then he appeared to die. Suddenly, the gods Ta’aroa and , angry at this injustice, lifted him into the sky. This is how the shark was brought back to life in the original sacred waters of Te-vai-ora, the celestial domain of the god Tāne. He became the guardian under his new name Fa’arava-i-te-ra’i. From this moment forward, he gained status as tapu (forbidden) to humans, which means he could not be eaten and in virtue of the restrictions attached to sacred words, his name could no longer be pronounced…. On the other hand, it is with a respect tinged with fear that the word Parata was pronounced during the 18th century to refer to the fierce warriors from Anaa atoll in the Tuamotu islands. These warriors ruled unopposed in the Tuamotus and even on the island of Tahiti. They were renowned for their attacks that were as sudden as they were violent. They often took advantage of storms that they battled for hundreds of kilometers in canoes before ambushing their unfortunate victims. They killed (and often devoured) the men and took women and children as slaves. These bloody warriors inherited the name that is no other than the local reo Ma’ohi term given to the Oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus). This is obviously due to the similarities between this shark’s behavior and these warriors. The whitetip shark is renowned for its mobility in the high seas, its tenacity and its aggression towards humans who have the misfortune to find themselves in the water after sinking. These kaito (warriors) wore armor made from sharkskin and reinforced with shark teeth. Even their knives and spears were made of these razor-sharp teeth. This is an incredible example of the behavioral and aesthetic convergence between beast and human.

A threatened but precious species

Even though the whitetip shark still lives in French Polynesia, it is still just as much at risk of extinction here as it is throughout all of Oceania. The whitetip shark is a target of overfishing due to high demands on the Southeast Asian market for its large pectoral and dorsal fins used in a prestigious dish called shark fin soup. Overfishing is also a result of thousands of incidental catches of this magnificent animal trapped on longline hooks meant for tuna. In 2006 this alarming decline in numbers, which also applies to other species of sharks, prompted French Polynesian authorities to decree a partial protection of sharks. By 2012, the law included total protection of sharks throughout the vast territory. All shark fishing is prohibited as well as the commercialization of any products derived from sharks, such as shark tooth necklaces. Buying these products, which are sometimes still for sale in French Polynesia, is a crime. This courageous move and vision to create the first shark sanctuary in the Pacific has since been followed by New Caledonia and Palau and has now turned French Polynesia into a privileged space to admire these magnificent animals. This is the reason why few tourists on Moorea and Bora Bora leave these dream islands without having rubbed shoulders with the vaki, the small blacktip reef shark (C. melanopterus) that swims in Polynesian lagoons alongside stingrays. This shark’s sensual movement through the water is often interspersed with dazzling starts. However, perhaps due to its small size, it is harmless to humans. Tourists who dive will have the opportunity to come across the ’arava, or sicklefin lemon shark (Negaprion acutidens), which can reach an imposing size greater than 3 meters/10ft. This shark is also impressive, yet reserves his sharp teeth for fish. Rare shark bites involve upper limbs and are often through human error experienced by people who had the poor judgement to try and feed the sharks by hand. The lemon shark is also present in diving areas around Tahiti, mostly in the “Vallée Blanche,” located near the district of Faa’a on the island of Tahiti. Although greatly outnumbered here by dozens of vaki and also the famous raira, the grey reef shark (C. amblyrhynchos) is the privileged host of the passes, such as the one at south Fakarava, where they assemble into a wall of sharks comprised of as many as 700 individuals.

Lucky divers will have a chance to be impressed by the size and imposing mouth of the toretore, or tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier). In fact, this species is a regular visitor to the Vallée Blanche. Some tiger sharks exceed 4 meters/13 ft. They are attracted by shark feedings conducted by some of the diving clubs when they send a cage containing pieces of fish to the bottom of the sea. The smell of the fish floats along the currents and attracts sharks so divers can view the tiger sharks at close range. Contrary to popular belief and as long as it is well-executed, there is no evidence to support that shark feeding poses any particular risks for divers or anyone else in the sea. If divers wish to witness another monstrous sea animal, they must travel to Rangiroa atoll to see tamata roa, the great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran). In fact, it is here, especially on the outskirts of Tiputa pass, that this majestic shark with its oversized curved fin can be viewed often with sighting peaks in December and January. Very little is known about this migratory species that can reach 5.5 meters/18 ft., except it has a voracious appetite for rays and smaller sharks, such as the raira. A study will soon be launched to identify individual sharks from one year to another through placing satellite tags to track their journeys once they leave Rangiroa atoll to return a year later to roam the immense lagoon, which is the second largest in the world at 1570km2/606 sq. mi. The vastness of the space probably explains why there are so many exceptional animals who usually prefer the deep sea. These types of studies led by the Centre de Recherche Insulaire et Observatoire de l’Environnement (Criobe – CNRS/EPHE/UPVD) is already in full swing with tiger sharks in Tahiti and the lemon and blacktip sharks on Moorea. The latter are studied with a slightly different technology that involves placing an acoustic transmitter on the animal. Receivers placed at the bottom of the sea in favorable locations around different islands emit regular sound waves. Studies over shark migratory patterns are an essential component of learning their ecology. These studies are combined with genetic studies to evaluate gene diversity among different shark populations. The greater the diversity, the greater the chances of resisting stress provoked through fishing or the destruction of coastal habitats necessary for young shark development, in particular in regards to lemon sharks and blacktip sharks.

Te ma’o, the key to balance within coral ecosystems

If man-induced stress towards this species of fish is occurring in high seas through fishing, it is even more insidious along the coast where real estate developments and deficiencies in waste water treatment affects the sharks indirectly through altering their living environment, the lagoons and the passes. Even though French Polynesia aims to pride itself as having the most sharks in the Pacific if not the world, the concentration of sharks along extremely anthropized zones (environments greatly modified by humans) has been greatly reduced over the past few decades. However, these animals play a key role in marine ecosystems in general and coral ecosystems in particular. We know of their role as trash collectors, which means their ability to rid the ecosystem of unhealthy or dead animals. However, this is but the tip of the iceberg. Sharks are true “motors of evolution” and “producers of biomass and diversity.” These two concepts touch on their daily ability to eliminate weaker fish and those fish not as adapted to the environment. They do this in large quantities, far more than the numbers of fish who are dead or ill. This chronic predation forces targeted fish to intensely reproduce, much more than if they were left alone. This is why in the presence of sharks, biomass (the amount of proteins represented by prey) is much greater than in their absence. This may seem paradoxical because one may think that since sharks feed off fish that with fewer sharks, there would be more fish. In reality, the opposite is true.

French Polynesia: a “shark” destination.

Today, other tourist destinations come across as privileged spaces to observe sharks in their natural environment. However, due to the diversity of visible species, their preservation and courageous political choices, French Polynesia is on the cutting edge. A major issue in French Polynesia’s favor is that there has not been a deadly shark attack in over 50 years. Without a doubt, some people will see this as a result of shark’s respect for humans; whereas in reality, humans respect the shark—which may be the opposite of what is occurring in other parts of the world. The French Polynesian ministry of tourism is aware of these attractive features. It launched a process to frame a shark-based ecotourism to meet the requirements of sustainable development in a way that combines ecology, economy and the human element. As far as ecological constraints, the ministry envisions suitable scientific support to ensure that ecotourism practices such as shark feeding do not alter the biology or the resilience of the animals, all the while guaranteeing visitor safety. Economically, innovative financial plans are in place so that the cost of management does not weigh heavily on public funding. Finally on a human level, training professionals and adding a strong cultural component that is essential in French Polynesia in regards to sharks, should allow for the development of an ecotourism aspect specific to French Polynesia and one of its kind in the world. Which other country in the world would be able to offer passionate divers the possibility of a high five with the tiger shark in Tahiti, the great hammerheads in Rangiroa, the wall of grey sharks in Fakarava and the lemon shark in Bora Bora? We leave you to select the latter…

Eric Clua & Frédéric Torrente

© J. Girardot

Tahiti Pearl Regatta border Edged by Dreams in the Leeward Islands

12 May 2017 in Events

Tahiti Pearl Regatta border Edged by Dreams in the Leeward Islands

Created by a group of enthusiasts in 2003, this sailboat race has become a major rendez-vous in the South Pacific. Foreign and Polynesian teams come together in good humor and friendship to cross and navigate the magnificent archipelago of the Leeward Islands. Again this year, for its tenth anniversay, the Tahiti Pearl Regatta was more athletically challenging than ever; but it was also an opportunity for festive, warm encounters.

In 2003, theYacht Club of Raiatea, the Moorings Society, and the Hotel Hawaiki Nui launched the Tahiti Pearl Regatta. The impetus for this decision came from a small group of friends and enthusiasts, including Henri Dejust, who created the Raiatea Regatta Association. Their first wish was to organize a yearly get together to sail from shore to shore on one of the most beautiful waterways in the world. Over the years, the challenge has gained notoriety in Tahiti and on the international stage, attracting teams to French Polynesia from abroad. The TPR, as it is known by its aficiandos today, has two atypical characteristics. Although it honors friendliness and fellowship, it merges true athletic challenges with festive islander encounters. It is the time for islanders to put culture and the richness of Raromatai first (the Tahitian name for the Leeward Islands, one of five Archipelagoes that make up the country and that create the setting for this unusual regatta). The course changes every year to allow for discoveries of other islands in the archipelago: Raiatea, Tahaa, Bora Bora or Huahine. Its unique setting has created TPR’s reputation and success as one of the most attended regattas of the South Pacific. About thirty volunteers and fifty service providers take the reins to prepare the event and to ensure the logistics for stopovers to three islands during the five days of the regatta. For the tenth anniversary that took place from May 7th to 11th 2013, more than 50 sailboats took part in TPR’s four successive courses. Here is the logbook:

Inauguration

For opening day, Tuesday May 7, Raiatea’s sky was filled with clouds, and squalls followed the arrival of the last sailboat participants…which was a good sign, according to a mama who was present at the square at Uturoa market, the headquarters on the island where the information booths and exhibition stands had been set up. For ten years of the TPR, there have been activities throughout the day following a presentation to recap all the previous years. More than 300 team members from nine different nationalities sign up for the regatta at the welcome booth. Once on site, the participants, just like the general public, can partake in nautical activities, such as catamaran rides or an initiation to stand up paddle boarding. There is also a visit from the traditional double pirogue, Fa’afaite. This is an opportunity to discover the navigational circumstances and techniques of ancient Polynesians who accomplished migratory voyages throughout the Polynesian triangle a few centuries ago. The arrival of Fa’afaite to the sacred island of Raiatea is an homage to the emblematic marae Taputapuatea, a sacred site that served as the diffusive centre of Polynesian culture dedicated to social, religious, and political practices of Polynesians prior to colonization.

A Very Difficult First Race…

The course joins Raiatea to Huahine, a race of 23.6 nautical miles (44 km) performed almost exclusively on high seas. At 8am on Thursday May 9, the 54 teams are at the starting line, ready to take off. Once out of the lagoon through Te Ava Piti pass, there is a wind from the East-South-East at 17 knots (locally referred to as maramu), and a 10 ft (3m) crest in front of the trough of the wave that is an advantage to large vessels. The weather suddenly worsened with wind gusts attaining 35 knots and it became vital to slalom between the squalls. These conditions further handicapped the smaller coques, and some of them had to abandon the race. Once this segment was over, despite some damage, a truly sportive regatta ambience delighted all the participants who were invited to a Polynesian evening in the town of Fare, which for the occasion, had been transformed into a traditional village.

A Final in Full Color

The return to the island of Raiatea on Saturday May 11, sailing downwind with a back swell favorable for a smooth glide, offered a vibrantly colored panorama of the moving fleet with its ballet of richly brocaded spinnakers. As soon as they arrived at Raiatea, the sailboats left in the direction of Te Otuheru point to join the course leading to Te Tutava point. For this last race, the oblique light of sunset radiated the sails with surreal clarity. There were no anchors in the middle of this Pacific Ocean. The winners of TPR 2013 received their awards that same evening on Ceran motu. This event came to a close in beauty with a pirate theme, dinner, concert, and a supercharged dance floor with all the spirit of Tahiti Pearl Regatta! The rendez-vous is set for year eleven!

The Training Race

On Wednesday, May 8 at 11am, Isabelle Barbeau, president of the race committee and highly medaled regatta sailor accompanied by Georges Korhel, referee of the French Sailing Fedration who came from Saint-Tropez, France for the occasion, briefed the skippers. All types of sailboats can participate without size limits. Teams are registered into two categories : single hulled vessels and multi-hulled vessels. For the latter, Nusa Dua, a superb Outremer 45 foot catamaran (13.5m) equipped with a 208 square yard (174 m2) parasailor, forms a hybrid sail through merging the qualities of a paraglider wing with a traditional spinnaker. The Moemiti displays a reproduction of a local artist on its hull. As far as monocoques, there are 18 foot Speed Feet (5.5m), the smallest sailboats in the regatta, as well as an enormous 83 ft. (25m) Oyster called Pandemonium. This year, a renowned British shipbuilder, Oyster Marine, organized its first rally, “Oyster Marine Around the World,” and the TPR was included in its itinerary. Four staggered departures are specially reserved for the sailboats. The training race takes place in Uturoa’s lagoon, allowing each boat to get into position. By the evening, a nautical parade animates the port with lights and Tahitian dances before the first race the next day.

After the Rain, Gorgeous Weather

 A new day of racing for the sailors started at 8:30 am on Friday May 10, 2013 for the second “banana” course of 14 nautical miles (26 km) along the coast of the superb island of Huahine under sustained winds of 15-18 knots. After being subjected to the swells on the course the day before, the competitors are thrilled to be able to enjoy the serene turquoise hues of the lagoon. Once back at port, while waiting for an evening planned on the Relais Mahana beach on the southern tip of Huahine Iti, some sailors took time to snorkel in the lagoon, do some stand up paddle boarding, or try their hand at “va’a tri,” a small canoe with a sail modeled after the traditional Polynesian pirogue, the va’a.

French Polynesia, A vast maritime space to explore

For a long time accessible only by sea routes, French Polynesia is comprised of 118 islands spread over a territory as large as Europe. The islands represent only 0.7% of the surface area. Consequently, there is an array of vast waterways in which shades of blue vary from dark nuances of the deep to the turquoise lagoons. Within the five archipelagoes, distances between islands are short, which makes it possible for sailors to make quick excursions to discover atolls, motu (islets), and high islands, that have always been linked to a romantic imagination where adventure is synomymous with lost paradise, lush vegetation, and a gentle life. Today, Tahiti and her islands still remain an exceptional destination as well as a vital expedition for circumnavigators or transpacific crews. The Society Islands are ideal to experience sailing that is fun and safe, especially Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa et Bora Bora in the Leeward Islands (or Raromatai in Tahitian). Each island has a large lagoon that offers mooring zones safe from swells, and the absence of lunar tides makes sailing easy.

©Benthouard.com

Bodyboarding: of boards and men…

12 May 2017 in Events

Bodyboarding: of boards and men…
5/5 - 2 vote(s)

It took fifteen years before international bodyboarding competitions returned to Tahiti. Last April, the first edition of the Sparkgreen Tahiti Challenge took place on the prestigious Teahupo’o wave. This was a unique opportunity to not only highlight this very popular boarding sport from within our islands, but to also showcase local champions and their intriguing journeys.

Abracadabra! Years ago, folded-up cardboard, broken foam board or even a piece of particle board was enough to magically transform reclaimed materials into a boarding implement to have fun on Teahupo’o beach. This was fifteen years before the first edition of the Sparkgreen Tahiti Challenge, the third largest international bobyboarding competition that now takes place in Tahiti. A decade and a half before this moment, they were just kids when they admired their idols from afar participate in the first world event held at Hava’e Pass. For these kids from the “end of the road” as it is called in Tahiti, to take part in such a renowned competition led to their dream to reach the stars and become professionals themselves. “When I was younger, there were two bodyboarding competitions in 2001 and 2003. The sea was very rough,” explains Tahurai Henry, professional bodyboarder from Teahupo’o. “We were still kids and surfed in front of it at the mouth of the Teahupo’o. We watched our idols bodyboard out there. Then the competition became defunct until now. It is an honor that we are able to restart it.”

Dozens of surfable waves

This is indeed the paradox for young people in French Polynesia. Much less publicized than surfing, bodyboarding is certainly just as popular. From Arue to Papara, from Papenoo to Vairao, from Papeete to Teahupo’o through passing by Punaauia…on the island of Tahiti, you cannot drive 10km of coastline without finding waves to surf. Whether on reef, sand, pebbles, at the entrance to the mouth of a river, so many people go bodyboarding before school or after getting off work. Without even mentioning the already hundreds of waves, there are perhaps even more to discover that unroll throughout the edges of all five archipelagoes in an area as vast as Europe. Indeed, Europe and other continents are far over the horizon. Very far. Too far for many people who would love to participate on the Bodyboarding World Tour. Without competitions, then it is not easy to catch the eye of sponsors. One thing for sure, an event such as the Sparkgreen Tahiti Challenge opens up new career prospects for local bodyboarders. “Several hundred thousand viewers were accounted for during live internet broadcasting,” explains Max Wasna, President of Vairao Surf Club and organizer of the event. “We wanted as many people as possible to follow the event in order to create exposure for French Polynesia. There are many bodyboarders here because this discipline is more accessible than surfing. It is easier to learn and the gear is inexpensive.”

Beautiful stories

There was no lack of beautiful stories from within the pages of this first edition of the Sparkgreen Tahiti Challenge—and not only on the competitive level. The days that the competition was postponed due to unfavorable wave conditions, the professional bodyboarders took the time to put smiles on the faces of disabled children with a visit to IIME in Taravao (l’Institut d’Insertion Médico-Educatif). They also went to the Centre Hospitalier du Taaone in Pirae to bring hope and comfort to children with long term stays in Pediatrics. They took to the water with kids from Teahupo’o to teach them bodyboarding basics. This type of social work strikes a chord with Alex Leon: “The people here in Teahupo’o are amazing. They opened their homes to us and helped us put the event together.” Next, they took off to gather sightseeing memories thorough visiting Vaipoiri Grotto in Fenua Heihere, which is accessible by boat. They became engulfed by a forest of mäpë, Tahitian chestnut trees, which in ancient times were used to communicate between valleys through beating the roots. Bodyboarding legend and mystic Mike Stewart, 9 times world champion, was dumbfounded. “This type of place gives you goosebumps. You can really feel the mana here. There is so much power, a special energy. How can I put it into words? Words cannot express what can be felt here. One must transcend vocabulary…”

In fact, indisputably he is the one who created the most beautiful story in this international competition. Of course because he held his own all the way to the finals, which he unfortunately lost against triple world champion Jeff Hubbart, but also because just like when he was a kid 15 years earlier surfing this same wave on Teachupo’o beach, Cédric Estall didn’t have a cutting edge board for this level of competition. His friend Tahurai Henry lent him his board, which was a little too large for Cédric’s taste. However, this little detail did not get in the way of his glory. As such, thanks to this competition, a sponsor committed to providing him with boards did so during the closing ceremonies. A page has turned for Cédric Estall. From now on, he will no longer have to bodyboard with makeshift materials. The Sparkgreen Tahiti Challenge is without a doubt the magical formula to highlight local bodyboarders and to feature Tahiti as a destination.

Karim Mahdjouba

Yes, it is an honor, but it is above all a chance to shine in front of sponsors with the possibility of international media exposure and showing off their technical skills on THE wave of reference. “It is incredible when you see what Cédric Estall (finalist), Angelo Faraire (quarter finalist), Tahurai Henry (knockout heat) and the others have accomplished. There were 11 Tahitians in Round 3. You never see as many locals on other stages of the tour. My goal is for this type of talent to gain exposure so that some of them can enter the world bodyboarding scene.”

Tahurai’s brother, Hitoti Henry, started bodyboarding for financial reasons. “In fact, I started surfing first,” he explains. “However, surfboards are expensive, especially when you break them frequently on Teachupo’o wave. So one day I told myself that I was going to start bodyboarding because it would be much cheaper.” This is a decision that proved fruitful. Hitoti Henri was the buzz of conversation during the Sparkgreen Tahiti Challenge. He was part of a group of three Tahitians who made it through the trials, a selection round that opens the door to the main event. The Sparkgreen Tahiti Challenge includes pros on the world tour as well as guests called Wild Cards, of which 12 were Tahitians. For this 23-year-old bodyboarder, who during the week and on weekends oversees his Logistics Company that specializes in managing luggage for cruise ships, performance is appreciated and important. History also. Even if he had not made it past the third round, he performed one of the most memorable moments in the competition…through coming up against his own brother for a spot in the 4th round. He, as the youngest, lost by a hair against Tahurai, his older brother. Sibling hierarchy indeed.

The virtues of silence…

To be in the moment while listening to silence, to not speak or react, is what in a sense characterizes Cédric Estall, the dark horse finalist in the Sparkgreen Tahiti Challenge. He splits his day between tending his vegetable garden, which in Tahitian is called a fa’a’apu, and spending time on the waves in Hava’e Pass. And that is all. “Cédric? If you want to reach him, you have to go to Teahupo’o,” says a childhood friend. “He hasn’t had a vini for five years (Tahitian word for cell phone) and it has been five years since he has crossed over the bridge,” which is in reference to the famous bridge that allows you to cross over the river after the end of the road. Under these conditions, it is not easy to become recognized by sponsors…or even by peers. To the point that when the Tahitian Surfing Federation, a partner in the Sparkgreen Tahiti Challenge, announced its list of local participants in the main event, many people gathered on social networks to dispute the presence of “this” Cédric Estall and who was he? The Teahupo’o spot regulars knew who he was and stated “it is the only place where he bodyboards.”