Escape to Neverland

Manifesting the Dream Trip to Tahiti and Raiatea with Maria Andres. I still remember vividly how Maria and me where sitting at my kitchen table in Turkey thinking about what our dream trip together would be and deciding on French Polynesia. Not even 1 year later we were invited to visit Raiatea for the Tahiti Freeride Cup!!! Finding this article now and talking about the power of manifestation and knowing what you want, good friend of told me that it is almost new moon! It's in 3 days, so on Thursday the 23rd a time to think about our wishes for the future and manifest those dream trips! Apparently new moons help for manifestations, looking back I have no doubt that it must have been a new moon day when Maria and I decided that we must find a way to get to Tahiti together!

Do you believe in manifestation? Where is your Dream Trip? Let me know in the comments for some new moon inspiration :)

From the moment we first set foot on this island everything was like a dream, the scenery, the people, the sea and nature, everything was incredibly beautiful! Pretty soon we were convinced that somehow during our 48 hour journey to Tahiti we had managed to sprinkle some fairy dust upon us and land in Never Land. Mesmerized by the beauty and mysticism of the island we were ready to take on a never-ending childhood having adventures whilst interacting with fairies, pirates and mermaids. To give you an idea of how incredible everything was, I would just like to mention here that we were actually picked up from the airport by boat! Raiatea, which actually translates to "faraway heaven," was once the cultural and religious centre of the Society Islands. Today French Polynesia and its many islands are known as sanctuary for marine life, especially its pearls, many shark species and beautiful reefs are famous! We were lucky enough to be invited to Raiatea as the ambassadors for the Tahiti Freeride Cup.

The Tahiti Freeride Cup has been a really special experience for us hardcore racers as whilst it was putting the fun aspect in first place, it also managed to keep the competitive spirit alive. It was awesome to race in 3 different formats which makes a nice change and gives everyone a chance to excel in their favoured discipline. But of course the best part of this event was the amazing location and the great racing conditions we had; 12-25 knots everyday !

The first day the wind was light and we raced in a ‘In and out format’, a course mixed between figure eight, and longdistance with a rabbit start.

On day two we raced on a perfect downwind slalom course the wind was super consistent and we completed 4 finals. Girls and men racing seperately for this race it was cool to get a chance to race in our main discipline with some of the PWA’s top 10 girls like Mio and Ayako.

The strongest wind came on the third day, 20-30 knots and the days program was 4 long distance races! Sailing between two paradise islands in a turquoise lagoon whilst having to do a small slalom to avoid shallow choral pieces was an extraordinary experience. Besides being beautiful the strong winds and the high speeds across the lagoon actually gave us a real rush of adrenalin. Lying in our bed at night we still had vivid images of sailing across this lagoon and being able to see the sea bed almost all along the way flashing at us through the crystal clear waters sparkling in the sunlight in this beautiful lagoon. Long distance races are really fun as the physical and mental aspect is really important. After 10 minutes of sailing and pushing on one tack your legs start burning like crazy, but you have someone just before or just behind you, so you keep pushing yourself to your limits.

On day 4 wind was lighter again and we went back to racing on a downwind slalom course. Being used to always carry a full slalom quiver with us and having limited ourselves to 1 board and 2 sails was actually a really rewarding experience for both of us. Lena: ‘I chose to take my 107 starboard isonic and my 6,2 and 7.8 AC1 Point7 and I was amazed by the wind range my equipment combination could successfully handle! From 12-30 knots i was super comfortable, on the strong wind days i used 35cm fin and on the light i went all the way up to 41cm! Maria chose her Falcon 112l and Northsails Warps 6.3 and 7.7 and felled the same way. So for people who would like to cut down on their quiver size we can only recommend this combination!’

Overall 4 out of 5 days of great racing conditions and an amazing organisation. The atmosphere was relaxed but at the same time well structured. We were particularly taken with the great sense of community spirit, everyone working at the event was volunteering and truly happy to share the beauty of their island with us.

After the event we had another 10 days to discover the island and all its beauties, we were really lucky to be hosted by a avid surfer friend Lena had made the year before. Like about 50% of the houses on the island we were based beachfront with a little aluminium boat in the garden (ocean)! Joan our host quickly became not only our host but also our tour guide showing us lots of amazing spots all around the islands reefs and Motus. Since we spend most our days on the water we got to see an abundance of waterlife; blacktip sharks, Mantas, Whales, Dolphins all sorts of little reef inhabitants and unfortunately also got to feel that reef slightly too much on a few occasions…

Of course on an island nation with such strong ties to the Ocean, naturally the sea takes centre stage, but in fact the whole island is truly picturesque and home to lush green mountains, waterfalls and historical sites. On our days off hiking across the island and visiting the main historical sight know as ‘le mare’we found out that Raiatea, known in legends as Hawaiki, "the homeland," is in fact believed to be the place from which the great Polynesian migration began. From here large double-hulled sailing canoes set out to colonise Hawaii and New Zealand. One of the reasons for the migration to begin here was that Raiatea is also home to the only navigable river of french polynesia, called the Faaroa. This was the ideal place to start building sea vessels in sheltered fresh waters because the river enabled them to easily transport down high quality woods from the tropical forests of the higher latitudes. Our friend Joan not only surfer, but also quite keen on the history of the paradise he now calls home, told us that what gets left out of many occidental history books is the fact that captain Cook’s main navigator was actually indiginous to Polynesia. It was because of him and the fact that he embodied the polynesian culture, that many times when they set foot on new grounds indiginous people did not attack them but were able to communicate with them on a basis of shared origins and roots.

On the Island people live with the sun, this means that everyone gets up around 5:30 am and goes to bed at around 9pm, we really enjoyed being so in tune with nature and the simplicity of life on this island. Within a week we felt that we had made many new friends and were especially taken with the families who had sailed all around the world and had chosen to simply stop in Raiatea and settle there, continuing to live on their boats but never leaving again! In fact the main industries in Raiatea now are sailing charters and cruise ship tourism. What makes Raiatea even more special is the fact that it is connected to the island of Ta’haa by the same outside reef, both islands therefore share the same lagoon, the lagoon which we were crossing during the longdistance race. Its easy to cross between the islands even with smaller boats and one of the highlights of our trip was actually a visit to the infamous choral garden in Ta’haa. There is a very special place were between two Motus the current is strong above a shallow reef which is home to thousands of colourful fish species. You can walk up to one end of this reef and then let yourself float down with the current. Careful to lie flat on the water surface you have to put your snorkels on and then you literally drift through a surreal labyrinth of chorals and fish. Our friends advised us to take some bread to feed the fish here which lead to an experience beyond belief; hundreds of fish of all colours were eating the bread right from our hands !

A day in, what we now fondly call our Neverland normally consisted of waking up to a beautiful sunrise, feeding the fish from the pontoon in our Garden, while having a cup of coffee looking at the mystical mountains of Bora Bora in the distance across the sea. Next we would take our SUP’s or windsurf equipment and ride across to some Motus or Reefs exploring some of the many beauties of the island. Our favourite lunch was soon ‘poisson cru’also referred to as Tahitian salad, that is raw fish with a dressing of coconut milk and lime mixed with carrot onion and cucumber. Driving around the island actually takes only a few hours and depending on what conditions you want you can find wind on most days. The locals taught us that when the wind is right windsurfing in Raiatea can actually be a great way not only to explore the islands coastlines but also a kind of vehicle, like other people would go on scooter trips looking at shorelines, making huge downwinders from one place to another or perhaps all the way to Taa’ha for them seemed nothing that needed much preperation, an idea we found very appealing! To finish the day in Neverland watching the sunset from Miri Miri or one of the Motus is exactly what you need to start believing in magic and ferries if you haven’t yet ;)

All in all we strongly recommend this destination to anyone who’s looking for a little piece of heaven on earth and why not go during the Tahiti FreeRide cup or the Tahitian version of the Defi Wind to add some extra spice to your dream holiday?! But be careful many people do not return from Neverland and an endless childhood here seems possible.

Practical information:

Windsurf equipment hire, activities on the island and all other help to plan your trip:

How to get there:

Fly via Tahiti, a great place to stop off, visit legendary Teahupoo and then take a flight or boat to Raiatea. If you’re flying with windsurf equipment you cant fly all the way to Raiatea with it as the interisland airplanes are too small. You need to put it onto a ferry which will take it across to Raiatea for you. Make sure you know the dates and times of this ferry as they go only 3-4 times a week.

Best time to go for windsurfing :


What to take:

Lots of suncreen only shorty wetsuits or Lycras needed. The sun is super strong here so be sure you have enough protection. A light jacket for the evenings is enough. If you enjoy hiking there are some great treks which can however get really muddy so take good shoes. To get the most out of the reefs we recommend Snorkels for in the sea and polarized sunglasses for when you’re above :) !

Our Top To do’s

- Taahas choral garden

- windsurfing across the lagoon

- Watch the sunset in Miri Miri

- drive around the island and visit the mystical Mare

- SUP down the famous river Faaroa

- Try paddeling on a Pirogue the polynesian version of a sea kayak.

Text by Lena Erdil and Maria Andres

Fotos by Yann Macherez, Sam Rodgers, Philippe Calmels, Karim Mahdjouba

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