If you're a dedicated wave windsurfer, Tahiti will change your life. Charles Vandemeulebroucke is already living the dream at Teahupoo, Vairao and Maoti.
He was born and raised in Dunkerque, France, close to Wissant, a famous windsurfing spot. Vandemeulebroucke started windsurfing at 13 on a lake, and then to ocean waves. He moved to Tahiti five years ago. Initially, he planned to stay for a month, but he never got back to Europe.
"Living at Teahupoo, I work as physiotherapist and osteopathic practitioner and have my own business not far from here for three years. Since then, life is about not working too much, and enjoying minutes on the water," says Vandemeulebroucke, also known as Charlieboy.
In Tahiti, there is always something to do in the water - in surfing, SUP, windsurfing, kitesurfing or foiling. From sunrise to sunset, Charles never stops.
"Anytime the wind is good I try to go windsurfing. It still is my greatest passion after all these years. Nothing is as good as going for a big turn on a beautiful wave on my waveboard! We are about only ten wave riders here and probably around 40 slalomers," notes the French sailor.
"These guys race most of the time on a flat, windy spot called 'Motu Martin,' close to town, and we have a full championship with the magical Raiatea Race in July. I sail with them sometimes."
But for wave sailing, the best areas are the reefs. Vandemeulebroucke lives on the peninsula, close to the end of the road, where he has many options depending on the orientation of the waves and winds.
It takes some time to understand all the different local characteristics, but when you master them, you can turn every session into heaven. And of course, there is always Teahupoo.
"To me, most of the time it's not the most interesting spot to windsurf. You can hardly make a turn or air; we have many other waves that are longer and more maneuverable. But still, it's Teahupoo, and its power and energy are like a magnet - once you've tried it you want more!" adds the windsurfer.
"I only go windsurfing when there's a minimum of mast-high waves. That's when it gets fun, and the other spots are closing out. So, I only have intense windsurfing memories there. Teahupoo is my crazy girl. The one you love only if you feel ready for it."
For Charles Vandemeulebroucke, Teahupoo is actually one of the windiest in Tahiti and, most of the time has the perfect angle for wave sailing. It works with the main winds and is really consistent for the waves. You must want it badly and have some spare equipment. No crash is allowed; otherwise, you pay in cash.
Equipment is hard to get, even with a sponsor. But the vision is insane - the colors, the wave lip, the mountains and the speed you get make it unforgettable.
"On my biggest session at Teahupoo, the forecast was a 15-to-20-foot plus swell. The wind was just perfect, and the sun was bringing crazy colors everywhere. The waves were XXL," recalls Charlieboy.
"The reef was thundering under the impacts of the wave, but you could almost still hear the birds and the wind in the trees. Teahupoo is the beauty and the beast at the same time. This wave can turn your a few seconds into the best or the worst time moments of your life. "
"She can give you something you've trained and work for almost all your life, but if you fail, she punishes you the most violent way possible. That is probably why idiots like me want to test their virility on it."
Maximum gain also means maximum pain. On that day, the biggest sets were coming every 45 minutes, in-between regular "medium" sets. As a result, Charles had only a few opportunities to catch a bomb.
The swell is fast, and the side shore winds make things harder. For the big ones, you can't just wait around the peak. You need to catch the wave early, get ready for the drop, go for an endless bottom turn into the cave, and make sure to ride as fast as you can down the line, targeting the west bowl.
"There is absolutely no wind down there. There's no light either. The lip is pretty much above your sail and is two-meter thick and 20-meter long. Just carve and go for a top turn on a section that didn't exist one second ago, but is now about 20 feet high facing you," underlines the French windsurfer.
The west bowl changes a lot. Go for the air if you're an accomplished wave sailor because it's time to kick out. The worst is coming at the very end of a big wave. It's a deadly close out.
"That day I sailed for two hours, rode about ten waves and had no crash. It is, by far. The best windsurfing day of my life," concludes Charles Vandemeulebroucke.