When many people within the surfing world think Tahiti, its exotic islands and one of the world's heaviest waves known as Teahupoo comes to mind. But, for the Qualifying Series (QS) and Pro Juniors it means a trip with some vital points on Tahiti's beautiful stretch of atolls and beachbreaks up for grabs.
First up, the men's QS heads to Rangiroa, Tuamotus, for the Air Tahiti Rangiroa Pro QS 1,000 at one of the tour's most impeccable righthand reefbreaks. Last year witnessed pristine conditions streaming over the razor-sharp reef below that provided a barrel fest for the ages.
And thanks to the help of Federation of Tahitian Surf (FTS) it is back along with the Papara Pro Open Tahiti QS 1,000, which includes both a men and women's event as well as a men and women Pro Junior.
"We have a strong bond with this competition as its the 10th edition. We want to maintain this relationship with the island, its population and young local surfers who start to identify with athletes. At a sport level, we have the mission to promote surf here in French Polynesia, as well as in Tahiti or other islands. With this QS we are giving the opportunity for Polynesian athletes to earn points and evolve in regional rankings."
One surfer taking part in both events as a QS and Pro Junior competitor is Big Island, Hawaii's, newest breakthrough talent Brodi Sale. The now 16-year-old celebrated his birthday the day after finishing with a Semifinal result at the Volcom Pipe Pro and showed he's ready to push the envelope at a young age.
"The Volcom [Pipe Pro] was a really big confidence booster for me and I was really stoked to get to surf some heats with some of my idols and friends -- to make some heats was a bonus," Sale said. "But in saying that it was only one result so I don't want to let it get to my head and just know that I've got back it up in Tahiti."
Shifting gears from Rangiroa's razor sharp reef to the high-performance beachbreak of Papara will test surfer's adaptability in showing their all-around skills. Last year's victory earned by Taumata Puhetini kept the title on home soil and was done so with explosive airs, along with a powerful rail-game.
But, Puhetini's absence leaves the door open for the likes of Sale to improve on his result last year and a chance for a new victor.
"I did Tahiti last year and was really cool experience even though I didn't do well in the events," Sale said. "But, I was lucky enough to get some of the best waves of my life in Rangiroa after the event. I'm really looking forward to getting back to Tahiti to try and solidify a spot into the Triple Crown and to try and make a big jump up the Junior rankings."
The women's QS and Pro Junior also return and 2018 Hawaii/ Tahiti Nui Regional Winner Gabriela Bryan is back to defend her Pro Junior title -- and chase a QS win as well. Bryan, 16, has her goals set in place once more for 2019 and, with a Sunset Pro Junior win already under her belt, looks to be in-form to do make them a reality.
"Headed into Papara I am gonna keep doing what I have been doing and hopefully we will get some good waves," Bryan said. "Tahiti is one of my favorite places in the world. I look forward to coming back every year. The waves are fun, the people are nice and it is so beautiful. My goals this year are to improve my surfing and try to defend my regional title as well."
The Air Tahiti Rangiroa QS 1,000 will run March 4 - 8 at Rangiroa, Tuamatos, and the Papara Pro Open Tahiti will run March 10 - 15 at Papara, Tahiti.