The Billabong Pro Tahiti may be long over, but the impact of efforts outside of competition is still reverberating.
During the contest, the WSL regional office of Hawaii/Tahiti Nui spearheaded two different community initiatives to demonstrate their support and appreciation to the locals who call the island home. General Manager of the region, Jodi Wilmott, and Operations and Marketing Manager, Robin Erb, partnered with CT athletes including Billabong Pro Tahiti Champion Julian Wilson, Tahiti's own Michel Bourez, 3x World Champion Mick Fanning, CT competitors Conner Coffin and Joan Duru and Tahiti trials competitor Jack Robinson to hand out backpacks and event posters to the students of the Teahupo'o district.
Ninety backpacks and posters were donated to students from the small-town district to begin their new school year in Tahiti. WSL Hawaii/Tahiti Nui and the participating pros were thrilled to stoke out and support these local youth, many of whom live beyond the end of the road and commute to school daily by boat.
The students were thrilled to meet their hometown hero and Michel Bourez was equally stoked to support the up-and-coming surfers of his local community. Born and raised in Rurutu in the Tuamotu Islands, Michel is one of two Tahitians to ever qualify and compete on the Championship Tour (CT) and continues to pave a successful path for younger generations to follow, especially after winning the coveted 2016 Billabong Pipe Masters last year in Hawaii.
Several sponsors were instrumental to the effort, including Carrefour, the Federation Tahitienne de Surf (FTS) and the athletes, who contributed their time to making this day special for Teahupo'o's youth.
Additionally, the WSL Hawaii/Tahiti Nui team partneted with the FTS, Tahiti Iti Surf Club and CRIOBE (a local marine research institute) to plant coral along the near-waters of a protected marine sanctuary known as the Rahui, just south of Teahupo'o.
The Rahui is a 768-hectare area (nearly 2,000 acres) of ocean just past the famous wave of Teahupo'o that is completely "closed" to human marine activity and fish harvesting for the purpose of protecting and rejuvenating fish populations to support the core lifestyle of the local Tahitian families.
Of the 2,300 population of Teahupo'o, or 700 households, 80 percent have no formal source of salary, existing largely on sustainable fishing and farming and hosting surfers and visitors to the area. The ocean is central to this population's identity and survival, and is the core of their culture.
The organizations collaborated to plant an estimated 40 baby coral into an underwater frame where they will mature for 20-24 months before being transplanted back into the reef. The Tahiti Iti Surf Club has been restoring coral for the past two years and works with the local community on other marine rejuvenation efforts including annual beach clean ups and invasive species removal to further protect Tahiti's coral reefs.
Mauruuru to Antoine Puisay and Yann Lacube of CRIOBE for leading the team on the coral planting initiative.