Tahiti Freeride Cup 2017 with Jack Holliday
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The Tahiti Freeride Cup gives you a chance to escape. Not just from the weather, but also to a different pace of life. Accommodation is a 50 person school dormitory with a shared bathroom block, no wifi and no power. Which may sound bad, but actually, it’s a huge part of the appeal. You become much closer to the group of windsurfers who have travelled all over world to be there. Each meal (the food is insanely good) is a different experience. You find yourself realizing your name translates to ‘Space Horse’ in Japanese over breakfast, explaining to a New Caledonian (who has never owned one) how a wetsuit works at lunch, and finish up by being called a ‘Little Pussy’ by the Tahitians for not drinking enough rum with dinner.

Part of the reason you fall so easily in step with the pace of life in Tahiti is the organisers make it so easy to get there. It’s like travelling with your parents. All the normal hassles; oversized baggage, airport transfers, accommodation, gear storage are taken care of. The event is held on the island of Raiatea, a 40 min flight from Tahiti. On the map it’s an inconsequential spec in the expanse of the Pacific. On the ground it’s a windsurfing paradise. Look at the photos, it’s easier than trying to describe how drop dead gorgeous the place is.

So the stage was set, now for the players. Twelve kiwis made their way to the event hoping for Pacific Cup honours. Getting them wasn’t going to be easy. Headlined by world number four Julien Quentel, the fleet featured six full time PWA sailors, complemented by a group of top New Caledonian, Tahitian and Japanese riders.

The event opened with a few days of light wind, which gave us a chance to explore the Raiatea and its surrounding islands. The organisers hooked us up with a boat trip to snorkel in a world class marine reserve. Back on the beach it was time to get some competition going, with a spot of coconut relay rugby. The game was probably intended to be non-contact but the kiwis realised that we could make up for a lack of speed by tackling our opponents. There were only a handful of moderate injuries. We piled into boats to surf a reef pass the next day. Luke Holliday hobbled into the event with a moon boot but made a miraculous recovery at the sight of the turquoise A frame’s. On the final lay day we swapped boats for busses on a tour of the island.

Day five we swung into action. The wind wasn’t strong but it was enough to get the first long distance race underway. The Memorial race, held in memory of influential Tahitian windsurfer Pierre Postaire, doesn’t count towards the Tahiti freeride cup but instead is held as a separate event with its own beautiful trophy. You can use any wind powered equipment so it was always going to be a day for the foilers. Julien Quentel showed his dominance on the foil finishing before second place was even a spec in the distance. Jack Holliday stole a foil and came in third. Keith Stark was the only other Kiwi to finish the race, even jumping into third at one point with a brilliant navigational decision around the bottom mark. Unfortunately he slipped a few places with a bad wind shift on the upwind to the finish.

The call was made to try and complete a long distance slalom in the afternoon. To make the most of a funnelling breeze the course was laid off the coast, meaning it was a bit of a long distance race just to make the start line. The wind only hung around for one race but the Kiwis did well, Jack took the overall win, Keith was third in the masters and Luke was top 10 in the men's division. Bruce, Amy and Ben did well to make it to the start line but struggled with small gear in light winds and couldn’t finish.

We couldn’t get any official racing on the last day but the wind filled in, and the Kiwis made pigs of themselves out in the lagoon. Bernie and Jimbo were notable standouts.

Each of the Kiwis had their highlights from the event. First up, Keith Stark who clocked up the most water time by far. If there was a hint of breeze Starko was out there. His dedication showed in some brilliant results including getting top 5 master in both races and banking a podium finish in the long distance slalom. Despite travelling with his lovely wife Linda and granddaughter Samara, he still managed to strike up a blossoming bromance with Ben Murrin. They consummated their relationship with some lovely tropical selfies and a romantic snorkelling trip together! Ben also owns the hard luck award as the New Caledonians decided to take his boardbag home with them on another tropical holiday. Luckily he had his beautiful wife Clare on hand to ease the pain.

Jim Rodgers should have ticked business as the purpose of his visit to Tahiti. The T10 fin boss was flushed with orders for his carbon blades! There are even some unsubstantiated rumours of a figure doing some espionage on the other fin brands on the beach. The whole Kiwi team looked sharp thanks to the tour T shirts he printed up for everyone. He also formed a very cute couple with Bernie Carey. Bernie seemed to particularly enjoy sitting in front of the well endowed Tahitian statue at dinner. No-one is sure why.

Amy Fisher had an awesome time in Raiatea but you could tell something was missing in her life. It became clear what, once we arrived back in Tahiti and she made a beeline straight for Mcdonalds. The happiness in her face as she supported her favourite large corporation was infectious! Even Bruce Spedding couldn’t contain himself, getting to the airport five hours early to suck down a final few Desparados.

Sam ‘Le Blanc’ Rodgers picked up his nickname thanks to a tan the shade of an A4 sheet of paper. However that didn’t stop the courageous captain of the coconut rugby team. He saved the life of fellow photographer Tetsuya, who was about to fall off the camera boat and face first into the propeller. It wasn’t just Tetsuya who owed his survival to Sam. The Holliday brothers came so prepared for the trip they only had to borrow; toothpaste, bedding, sunblock, shower gel, shampoo, food, money and alcohol from Sam. Then Sam picked up their bags - with passports inside – that they were about to leave at the airport. Jack and Luke celebrated this stunning display of competence with the worst display of Tahitian dancing in the history of the Tahiti Freeride cup.

We have to say a massive thanks to Christoph, Alex and everyone else who made the event happen. The organisation was so slick and the entire event was geared to squeeze as much fun as possible. All the locals from Raiatea were such incredible hosts opening up their beautiful hearts and island home to us. We already have the dates locked in for next year and looking forward to going up with an even bigger Kiwi crew.