Downtime at Teahupo’o + A Hidden Threat

Dane, coffee, pier, perfect repose.

Dane, coffee, pier, perfect repose.

Words by Nick Carroll
Photos by Jeff Flindt

While the Top 45 and their entourages trained, rode two-foot waves and waited for what’s shaping up as the toughest event of 2010 so far, something mean has been brewing in the background. And no, it’s not a fuckin’ SW groundswell.

Aside from the 250,000 chickens and 100,000 dogs, the Teahupoo/Taiarapu municipality has around 4000 residents, but on down days, you wouldn’t know.People are either off in Papeete at work, or hiding from the sun in some of the world’s most splendidly leafy backyards.

Most splendid of all: there’s no traffic. This little village was named “End of the Road” by the first traveling surfers for a reason. The road literally ends, right at the river which marks Passe Havae’s entrance. Nobody drives through Teahupo’o to go somewhere else; it’s literally impossible.

But this traffic-free paradise, along with the ecosystem of an entire valley, is suddenly under threat from a French entrepreneur’s plan to lay in a hydroelectric power station three miles past the village.

It’s easy to picture where the future of this area might lie. With road access across the Teahupo’o river and a big new source of electrical energy, the whole southern fringe of Tahiti-iti -- a rarely beautiful part of the island which has only ever been accessible by boat -- would become the focus of growth and development, and the End of the Road would become just another stopover.

The Teahupoo residents seem split over the project, with the local mayor backing it, but with a passionate resistance movement also ready to argue their case for as long and far as it takes. It seems, sadly enough, as if yet another battle is about to be fought over one of the world’s great surf zones.

SURFING’s Nick Carroll is all about this stuff; he’ll be kicking the tires of this story over the coming days. Meanwhile, The Billabong Pro Tahiti kicked off today and can be watched live here.