Interview w/ Vaimiti Teiefitu

18 October, 2023 | Interview, Surfing

Hey Vai! Stoked to have you join us. How are you? Where are you in the world right now?

Hey y’all! Never been better. I am currently home in Tahiti and getting ready to leave for Morocco in a couple days for a surf retreat!

Sounds fun. Can you introduce yourself to the Xanadu readers? Who are you and where are you from?

I’m Vaimiti Teiefitu. I’m 26 years-old and I was born and raised on the island of Tahiti, French Polynesia. 

I happily grew up on island time surrounded by the ocean but my story with surfing only started around 16 years old. I’m adventurous and I’m a big traveller at heart; I love discovering new places, new cultures and obviously new waves. 

How did you get started in longboarding? What attracted you to it?

My love story with longboarding started when I did a shoot for a French surf brand in Tahiti. 

They brought swimsuits along with boards and I had to longboard for the shoot, and let me tell you… since that day I never went back. 

I think I fell in love with longboarding because of the way it makes you feel. You can really feel the glide in your veins and enjoy it. Also, walking on a moving board literally feels like you’re flowing with the wave and there’s just no better feeling. 

Did you ever consider surfing on a shorter board or even bodyboarding?

I actually learned how to surf on a shortboard. Now, the shortest board I have in my quiver is 7’4” and I only keep this board for Teahupo’o barrels. 

You’ve also worked as a TV presenter, model and actress. Do you think being a professional surfer, and one who surfs solid waves mind you, has prepared you somewhat for these different roles?

I think everything is interconnected. What I learned in surfing helped for these positions just as the skills I acquired in these positions helped my surfing. Surfing has become a metaphor for how I approach every aspect of my life. 

I haven’t done any kind of training related to TV presentation, modelling or acting, but when I was presented with the opportunity to do it, I wasn’t scared to grab it and try. It’s very similar to surfing. 

When a wave comes, the only way to know if you can make it is to take it. 

Speaking of solid waves, how do you handle the fear of surfing challenging waves?

In Tahiti, I think there’s almost only challenging waves. So if you want to surf in Tahiti, then you have to be ready to face solid conditions and get used to it. 

I wouldn’t say I’m ever scared to surf challenging waves, but I know my limits and I wouldn’t go if I don’t feel it 100%. When the conditions are solid, I usually analyse the spot for as long as necessary before coming down to the decision to go or not. 

Longboarding bigger waves is always sketchier, so you always need to be aware of what’s going on and mostly if it is doable without taking any unnecessary risks. 

Do you have any tips for people who feel uncomfortable when the swell starts to rise?

The most important thing is to know yourself, your goals and your limits. Surfing should always be fun and enjoyable! 

So if you don’t feel comfortable in bigger conditions then look for smaller waves. If you want to challenge yourself, ask for advice from locals, but remember that safety always comes first. 

And what about your most memorable surf session? And standouts?

It’s so hard to choose… there are so many! If I had to choose two though, then it would be one in Costa Rica and one at Teahupo’o.

I visited Costa Rica in July last year for the second time and after days of rain, my friends and I decided to take a boat to this place without really knowing if the wave was going to work. I won’t say the name of the place/wave out of respect for the local people who want to preserve this area. Note that I am goofy so I love lefts and there are only rights there. 

Anyway, we arrived and it was paradise on earth. The sun was shining, the water was so blue and the waves were firing. We surfed for hours and I remember I surfed one wave that felt like eternity because I surfed it for so long and when I kicked out of the wave, I was just in awe of the wave, the scenery, everything! And I felt so grateful in that moment that I burst out crying out of pure joy. I remember being the happiest human on earth; it really was a magic moment. 

The second most memorable surf session was at home at Teahupo’o where I got barreled on my 9’0” longboard. I didn’t make it out clean but the vision I saw was just out of this world. 

I surfed in the morning, got some fun ones and then went back in the afternoon and saw this wave coming. A friend told me, “if you wanna get barreled, this is the wave”, so I started paddling fast, got up, stayed as close to the wall as possible and got barreled. 

I didn’t make it out and I broke my board in two pieces, but it didn’t really matter to me because I’d just gotten the wave of my life and I was so stoked that I don’t even remember the wipe out. I was even giggling underwater! That’s a core surfing memory for sure. 

What about surf culture? How has it changed over the years since you first began?

When I started surfing, most surfers were seen as “outsiders”. I think that’s the thing I liked the most about it. 

They were living by their own schedules, their own terms; they didn’t fit into society standards and they didn’t care. They were prioritising and chasing what they loved most and most of them were broke but happy. It changed the way I see life. 

Surfing has gained in popularity. It’s trendy and cool now. Surfers are recognised as real athletes and surfing is an Olympic sport, and I think it’s cool that they’re considered as such. 

Another evolution I’ve noticed as well is the growing amount of girls that are now surfing and I’m so stoked to see so many girls in the water! 

True that. Are there any people who you look up to and why?

I look up to every woman in my family, and especially my mom and my sister. My mom is my number one sponsor. She always supports me in everything I do and my sister is my number one fan. She’s always there whenever I need her.

In the world of surfing, I love Vahine Fierro. She’s a friend and I met her when she was probably 12. Seeing her evolution from then until now, it’s amazing. She’s an Olympian and I can’t wait to keep following her career as she has so many exciting things aligning ahead of her!

Can you tell us about the type of surfboards you ride? 

I only have all longboards in my quiver, except one 7’4” mid-length. All my boards are made in France by Daddy Seal Surfboards (high performance) and Past Line (classic logs).

When I’m surfing reef breaks in Tahiti, I always use my 9’0”, which is the most high performance of all my boards, with a round tail and sharp rails. Whenever I surf beach breaks with less powerful waves, I like surfing on a classic log 9’4” or 9’6” depending on the size. 

And I always surf single-fin, no matter the board. I don’t have a go-to board since luckily I can always choose a board depending on the conditions… but I actually think that when you only own one board, you make the most of it and you don’t get a headache when trying to choose which board to ride! 

It’s also cheaper (and lighter) to travel with one than multiple! Do you have any advice for people buying their first longboard?

Listen to your shaper, they know best! Get a longboard adapted to the power and size of the waves you surf and your level. So talk to your shaper, tell him/her what kind of waves you usually surf and they’ll tell you what board is most suited. And take very good care of that board ‘cause it’s your first baby!

Tahiti is your home, where your heart is. What do you love most about it?

I love my culture and my people. I feel like there are many stunning places in the world and Tahiti’s one of them.

What makes Tahiti unique though is our culture and the local people who keep it alive. It’s all part of something that we call the Mana. The Mana is the powerful, warm energy that comes from Mother Nature, our history, our culture and our people, and you can feel it as soon as you get here. 

What’s the Tahitian longboard scene like? Are there good longboarding waves or is it all shallow, eye-popping reef breaks?

When I started, there weren’t so many people longboarding, and not long after, I understood why. 

When you invest that much money into a board, you don’t expect it to break within a few months… which is what usually happens if you want to surf reef breaks in Tahiti! 

Reef breaks can be longboard-friendly, a little fast but you get used to it. 

There are also good beach breaks but not for longboarding only (like Waikiki). My favourite waves are reef breaks. In truth though, I’ve broken all my longboards in two at both reef breaks and beach breaks!

We can’t wait to have you at Xanadu. Have you been to Indonesia before? What are you looking forward to most about Lombok and Xanadu?

Are you even a real surfer if you’ve never been to Indo haha? It is going to be my first time though, and I am more excited than you are! I’m looking forward to EVERYTHING. I know for sure we’re gonna have a blast! 

Oh for sure! Now a few personal questions. Do you have a favourite surf film?

I love Surf’s Up! 

Best live music performance you’ve ever seen?

Rihanna in Paris… it was wild! 

If you had the chance to surf any wave in the world with just you and a few friends, which wave would it be?

It would be the secret spot I found in Costa Rica 🙂

What book or TV series can you recommend to people?

Loved Daisy Jones & The Six, both the book and the series adaptation. 

Last but not least… is it true that homes in Tahiti have baguette mailboxes out the front of them?

OMG, no! Maybe back in the days, but not anymore haha. We don’t actually have mailboxes though, just local postal offices. 

But in some parts of the island, we still have a delivery truck that drops off baguettes and other delicious things every morning and every evening. You just have to wait for them on the side of the road and buy what you need! 

Baguette mailboxes might’ve made Tahiti a little too perfect. Anyway, thanks for your time, Vai!

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