In 2012 the French windsurfer Charles Vandemeulebroucke aka “Charliboy” decided to leave Europe and moved to French Polynesia. The 32 year-old windsurfer was born and raised in Dunkerque, learnt windsurfing on a lake when he was 13 and fell in love with wave windsurfing. In northern France he called Wissant his home spot, what is actually not a bad starting point for a windsurfer’s career. Wissant is a great spot but Charles wanted to upgrade his surfing lifestyle and with the opportunity to look after a friend’s house in Tahiti, the first step was made.
Now he has been living in the village Teahupoo for some years, runs his own business and never has regretted his choice. We caught up with Charles to speak about his move to Tahiti, windsurfing and the famous wave of Teahupoo.
“NOTHING IS AS GOOD AS GOING FOR A BIG TURN ON A BEAUTIFUL WAVE ON MY WAVE BOARD!”
A talk with Charles „Charliboy“ Vandemeulebroucke about Tahiti
Continentseven: You are from France and how come you live in Tahiti now?
Charles „Charliboy“ Vandemeulebroucke: I moved to Tahiti almost 5 years ago. First I came for a month but never left and I’m still here… so I guess that was a good move. I work as physiotherapist and osteopath and I have my own business since 3 years. The good thing is that here you can surf, SUP, windsurf, kitesurf or foil board at any time. From sunrise to sunset it never stops. If the wind is good I try to go windsurfing because it is still my greatest passion after all these years.
Continentseven: You said: “First I came for a month but never left and I’m still here…“ You travelled there and stayed?
Charliboy: Yes I came here for a month with a backpack, a surfboard and a tent in November 2012. I went to my only friend there Ben Thouard, a photographer, who lives close to Teahupoo. He had to leave for 3 months so I I was looking after his house and found some work. A few months after I went back home to pick up some stuff and my windsurf equipment! And came back forever.
Continentseven: So, you haven’t had any other relation to Tahti before you moved there?
Charliboy: At that time I was with a girl in France and was traveling half of the year to Maui, Tenerife, Caribbean, Europe. I was free to move and did this for 5 years since the end of my study. I wanted to leave for Polynesia but did not want to leave my girlfriend. After a while things went that way, it had to.
Continentseven: When you first travelled to Tahiti, did you already plan to move there?
Charliboy: That was definitely an idea in my head but I didn’t know the place. I heard so many good things about Tahiti and as a French citizen it was of course on the first choice list.
Continentseven: How many windsurfers live in Tahiti or French Polynesia?
Charliboy: We are about only 10 wave riders here and probably around 40 slalom sailors. 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. Sometimes I also sail slalom together with them. For wave sailing the best sport is on the reefs. I live on the peninsula close to the end of the road and we have many crazy good options around here depending on the direction of the waves and wind. It takes some time to understand all the different local effects but then it turns every session into heaven.
Continentseven: What’s your favorite windsurfing spot on Tahiti?
Charliboy: My favorite spot here is called ‘the bad pass’ it’s pretty much in front of my house. I’m the luckiest man on earth, just on the other side of the lagoon, on the reef, I have many different options and this one is the best for windsurfing. It’s an amazing spot for surfing and Supsurfing too. Really close to the famous surf spot and it’s located in the village of Teahupoo too. There is nobody around and the waves get easily big there. The wind is really consistent when it’s on and the place is wonderful.
Continentseven: And which conditions do you need to windsurf at Teahupoo?
Charliboy: This spot is actually one of the windiest of Tahiti and most of the time on the perfect angle for wave sailing. It works with the main winds here and the spot is really consistent for the waves… you just need to want it and have some spare equipment, no crash is allowed or you pay cash. And equipment is hard to get here even with a sponsor. But 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 longer and more maneuverable. I only go windsurfing there with 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. She’s my crazy girl, the one you go only if you feel ready for it. And it’s definitely better to not go if you don’t feel ready.
“The power and energy there is like a magnet, once you’ve tried it you want more!”
Continentseven: What makes the wave so appealing?
Charliboy: The view there is insane, the colors, the lip, the mountains and the speed you have make the experience unforgettable. During one of my biggest sessions at Teahupoo I probably reached my fastest in windsurfing on a solid 15ft wave just before being compressed at the bottom by the drop. I made the wave until the end but that feeling of taking off like a surfer standing on his board while I was already full speed down the line is something I will never forget. The power and energy there is like a magnet, once you’ve tried it you want more!
Charles windsurfing in Teahupoo
Continentseven: Do you still travel for windsurfing or do you live at the perfect spot?
Charliboy: I try to. I always had a passion for going on windsurf trips. From here everything is far and expensive so the options for quick trips are limited. Last year I went 3 times to Chile. And I try to do my annual Maui trip in December. Hawaii is one of the closest places. Of course I go back to France and try to go sailing on my home spot Wissant with friends every year and enjoy Europe if I can. I really can’t complain, I have dedicated my life to enjoy good conditions and got everything I was looking for.
Continentseven: Thanks for the interview!