Professional Surfer and Environmental Scientist
“My hope is to continue to demonstrate that indigenous perspectives coincide with innovative environmental practice and that the world can greatly benefit from strengthening our connections to nature.”
This past November, I led a team of scientists and surfers to the proposed site of where the 2024 Olympic Summer Surfing Games will be held. Teahupo‘o, Tahiti is known to be one of the most beautiful and deadly waves in the world, but little is known about its mechanics or why this wave breaks the way it does. The purpose of the expedition was to examine the unique features of the reef that make Teahupo‘o so desirable and the current state of the reef at the wave.
While on expedition, it became clear that the local community was concerned over the potential anthropogenic impacts associated with the summer games. Members of the community shared with our team that they greatly depend on the wave, the reef, and the ocean for their livelihoods and the proposed three days of competition does not seem worth threatening their way of life. They shared with us that at the time, foreign interests planned to build permanent structures on the reef to support Olympic viewing of the wave. Our team shared our scientific surveying methods and within two days, members of the local community began mapping their house reefs.
Although our initial plans weren’t to map reefs outside of the targeted wave, because of the community, we were able to identify hundreds of live coral colonies and create a baseline study of their thriving coral ecosystem. This study is now being peer-reviewed and expected to be published by the end of the year. Although we don’t do it enough, including community members into our expeditions and research as collaborators often make the trip that much more meaningful.