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Beginner Surfing in Tahiti
Beginner Surfing in Tahiti

Beginner Surfing in Tahiti

Beginner Surfing in Tahiti

Although the name “Teahupo’o” may come to mind when you think of surfing in Tahiti [a featured location of the 2024 Summer Olympics], there are more surf spots suitable for other levels of surfing.

We are novice surfers ourselves and Tahiti is definitely a great place for beginner surfing.

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After taking lessons a decade ago in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, we have only surfed a handful of times every couple of years. Our ultimate dream is to live somewhere where you can easily surf year around. #LifeGoals

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Costa Rica

When we have the opportunity to rent boards and get out on the water while traveling, we go for it. After missing out on surfing in 2022, we made sure to book lessons for our first day on the island of Tahiti in 2023!

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Beginner Surfing Spots in Tahiti

There are many places to surf the black sandy beaches of Tahiti. Some are definitely for advanced riders, while others are more accessible for novice and intermediate surfers. Many locations can easily be reached from shore, however some of the really advanced surf spots are best accessed by boat or jet-ski further out on the reef.

Here are a couple of spots that are not far from Papeete:

Plage de Ahonu

Along the north shore of Tahiti from Mahina to Papeno’o, there are black sandy beaches with rolling waves for riders of all proficiency levels. We had our surf lesson at Plage de Ahonu. For novice riders like us, there are plenty of white water waves to practice on as you get the hang of popping up onto the board.

Beginner Surfing in Tahiti - Plage de Ahonu
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Once you are comfortable standing up on your board, you can work your way out to the line up to practice on a few larger waves.

Parking and showers are also available for surfers! On weekends, you might even spot a few food trucks and fruit vendors for a post surf session snack.

Beginner Surfing in Tahiti
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Plage de la Pointe Venus

Pointe Venus is definitely a novice surf spot for long boarding. The beach here is slightly protected by a reef and the waves rolling in are slower and smaller than the waves along Plage de Ahonu. If you are planning to surf here, be sure to have a long board and watch out for swimmers. You might also find locals teaching their kids how to surf here.

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Plage de la Pointe Venus is a great beach not only for novice surfers, but just for hanging out. Here you will find ping-pong tables, playground equipment, picnic tables, and much more.

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If the Mama’s Beach House restaurant is closed, you might find a handful of food trucks for local sandwiches and snacks.

Beginner Surfing in Tahiti - Plage de la Pointe Venus
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Hiring a Surf Instructor

If you are traveling to Tahiti, there are dozens of surf schools and instructors to choose from on the island. We were staying just south of Faa’a, so we decided on Ocean Vibes Surf School Tahiti. The whole process was extremely simple.

Using the Ocean Vibes website, I sent an email inquiring about a beginner surf lesson for a family of four and our requested date. Within a day, we had booked a 2-hour sunset session for our first day on Tahiti.

Once we arrived on the island, I sent an updated email on our location. Angelo, our surf instructor, sent us a meeting point and requested our heights and weights to bring the correct board sizes along. He also offered to pick us up and drop us off, but we opted to drive ourselves.

The trickiest part of hiring a surf instructor was finding the correct surf school at the beach. We weren’t sure who to look for, but we asked a group unloading surfboards and they connected us to the correct person! We found that most people on the beach know each other here.

Overall, it is really easy to get help or find friendly advice on the island.

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Beginner Surf Lessons

Once we found Angelo, the fun was ready to commence. We secured our keys and bags in the surf van and were each given a board to carry down to the beach. There were two other Americans from California in our group working on the bigger waves.

When we arrived at our spot on the beach, Angelo sent the more advanced surfers out to the break with advice on how the current was pulling and what to watch for on the shore to make sure they didn’t travel too far in either direction.

After the advanced surfers paddled their way out, our instructor spent some time going over the pop-up with us on the beach. It was really helpful to review hand placement, foot placement, and where to look before getting out on the water.

Popping-up on real waves is definitely a lot different than wake surfing behind a boat at home.

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Since we had surfed a few times before, Angelo sent us out into the white water to experiment and practice, while he went to check in with the more advanced surfers in our group.

Frothy White Water Surfing

As waves are coming in along the beach, you have the bigger waves further out and smaller white water waves closer to shore. These are great for beginner surfing. They are smaller and less powerful than the larger rolling waves further out.

Beginner Surfing in Tahiti
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You can spend a lot of time and energy trying to catch only a handful of big waves, or you can catch many small waves for more practice with less effort.

Plus, with a longboard, you can ride some pretty small waves and have a lot of fun.

The overall goal when learning to surf is to have fun.

We spent the majority of our lesson paddling into and riding the smaller frothy white water waves. Our instructor mostly just let us practice. While we rode, he would watch and then surf over and give us feedback on our form (foot placement, hand placement, head position, and paddle stroke, etc.). For example, I was butterfly stroking into the waves. After watching me paddle, our instructor pointed out that the crawl in better for paddling into a wave cause it is more consistent.

After practicing my paddling for a while, he came over again and talked to me about my head position. On the pop-up, I need to work on keeping my head up instead of looking down at the board and my feet. I was throwing off my balance by looking down.

Up and Surfing

After surfing the white water for a while, our instructor offered to take us out to the line up and help us get into the larger breaking waves.

Initially, it was difficult getting past the bigger waves, but with the help of the instructor I was able to make it out to the line up a few times. The key was to grab the rails (sides of the surfboard) directly under your shoulders to stay balanced on the board while going up and over the waves on the way out.

After catching my breath and watching a few waves roll in, it was time to try a wave. As the waves approached, Angelo helped me with the timing and pushed me into the waves. It was spectacular and instantly addicting to catch a few of the bigger waves.

I didn’t get the hang of the timing on the bigger waves, but it was definitely worth having an instructor to try it out for the first time.

It only makes me want to surf more. Practice and repetition are keys to success in learning to surf.

Hopefully, I can try catching a few more waves on our next trip.

Beginner Surfing in Tahiti - Plage de Ahonu
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Renting a Board in Tahiti

Once you have had a lesson or a series of lesson with a local surf school, you will probably want to rent a board and do a little practicing on your own. Although, we would have liked to have spent more time in the waves on our recent trip, we didn’t get a chance to get back out on the water.

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However, if you do have the time in addition to lessons, Ocean Vibes Surf School also rents out boards for half-day, full-day, or multi-day rentals for you to enjoy while staying in Tahiti. They even rent racks for your vehicle to help transport your board to the best beginner surfing locations in Tahiti.

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After our lesson, we looked into a few other places to rent boards on the island as well, but ended up doing some kayaking and paddle boarding from our AirBNB instead. A few other options for rentals that we looked into include Taie Surf School Fa’ahe’e and rentasurfboard.com (also great for other surf locations around the world).

What to Expect as a Novice Surfer

Like I said in the beginning, we are definitely novice surfers. We only surf a few days every couple years. Hopefully, this will change soon but for now it is the reality of our life living in the midwest.

As a novice, there are always things that I forget when getting back into the waves.

1 – Chaffing

Surfboard wax tends to attract a lot of sand, creating a gritty sand-paper like effect. It’s great for traction, but can be tough on other parts of the body. Everything that touches and slides along the top of a waxed surfboard will probably chafe a little at some point.

While we all want to look cool and sexy while surfing, you will definitely want to cover as much skin as possible. The first time we surfed, despite wearing a t-shirt and board shorts, I chaffed on the top of my feet, my quads, and the inside of my biceps.

Every time I go out to surf now, I prefer to wear board shorts, a long sleeve rash guard, and booties. Remarkably, I didn’t chafe at all this last time. I may also be getting better at not dragging my feet and legs on the board as much when I pop-up.

2 – Salt Water in Everything

Coming from the midwest, I always forget how salty the ocean is compared to the salt free Great Lakes. When you jump into a lake, the fresh water in your eyes, nose, and mouth is not a big deal. However, walking into the ocean is a much different experience.

If you haven’t spent much time in the ocean, the salt water will definitely surprise you. Your eyes will be burning, there will be a terrible taste in your mouth and your nose will not stop running until you are out of the water.

Do you get used to this? I don’t know, but be prepared to have salt and sand everywhere.

3 – The Crushing Power of the Water

It should be obvious that the water is coming into shore with a lot of force, otherwise there wouldn’t be waves to ride. However, it is always a little surprising to me how forceful the water is while you are working your way out from shore.

The constant push and pull of the water is a workout on its own, let alone while pushing or pulling a surfboard with you. There is a good reason why surfers are in pretty good shape.

Never underestimate the power of the water and dangerous rip currents. Stay within your comfort level and work up to the bigger waves.

While walking or paddling out, watch the waves you are walking/paddling into. If you can catch a moment between the waves, move as quickly as possible. As the wave hits, instead of focusing on moving forward, just try not to lose ground. There are many techniques for paddling out on a longboard; gliding, punching, and turtle rolling. Try them all and figure out which works best for you.

I personally like gliding the best, but you definitely need to have pretty good balance!

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4 – Rinsing Off

Again coming from a midwest perspective, rinsing off after being in the ocean was not something that I frequently think about. Unlike fresh water, salt water really breaks everything down and dries everything out.

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When getting out of the water, be sure to rinse everything off; yourself, your board, your leash, and anything else that went into the water.

Luckily, in Tahiti there are fresh water showers at practically every beach.

Not only is rinsing off important, it will also feel amazing to get the layer of salt and sand off your body and out of your mouth and nose. Unfortunately, the rinse will not get all of the sand out of your hair, but it will at least be a start.

If you have a changing towel, definitely bring it with you to get out of your wet clothes for the car ride home. You will see most experienced riders, putting on some soft, warm clothes after their surf session!

Explore the Legendary Surf Break Teahupo’o

If you are a novice rider like us and love surf culture, you are probably also super excited to even come near to the legendary Teahupo’o. Since the 1980s, incredible surfers have come from around the world to surf the incredible barrels here.

The name “Teahupo’o” translates to “wall of skulls.”

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We would definitely not recommend riding here unless you are an experienced rider. It is however, worth it to visit and ride out in a boat to watch some of the advanced riders catching waves.

This location is “inspirational” to say the least for a budding surfer. There is even a board on shore with the names of surf legends imprinted on it from previous surf competitions.

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If you miss your chance to make it all the way down to Teahupo’o, tune into the 2024 summer olympics. The world’s best surfers will be competing here!

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Final Thoughts for Beginner Surfers in Tahiti

If you are traveling to French Polynesia, definitely plan at least one day of surf lessons in Tahiti! The water, black sand, and waves are an amazing and unforgettable experience. Even as a beginner, the joy of riding is extraordinary.

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After lessons, be sure to find a place to rent a board and get out on the water as much as possible while you have the chance.

Remember to bring a rash guard and wear your sunscreen!

Hope to see you out there on the next wave! ~KiteBikeVan

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