Thinking about surfing French Polynesia? Think again.

Being in a tumultuous relationship is not one way I would recommend spending time in paradise. Especially a two month trip. I would have loved to have done this adventure solo however, without my involvement in a particular surf project, my dreams to travel to this part of the world, would continue to remain unfulfilled.map_ga-tahiti

Traveling for a surf project

I quit my job rather suddenly (and not the 1st time) to pack up and head to the islands for what was a surf project I worked very tirelessly on.

To cut a long story short, I had applied for a role working with a ‘company’ teaching local surfers in remote islands how to shape timber surfboards in their own back yard.

Given lack of money, access to fibreglass boards and ding repair, it seemed like a perfect scenario and one that was relatively unchartered by Westerners at the time. The discovery of surfing by troubled youths living in remote islands would be a life-changer.

Somewhere along the way, I fell for the guy behind the movement. Things quickly progressed into a relationship. By quickly I mean by rocket-ship type proportions. 

We discussed project launches in PNG where he originated from. Solomon Islands was also a heavy polynesiacontender. But in the end, my ultimate dream destination won hands down.

There were many red flags along the way, but I was committed to the project and to French Polynesia come hell or high water.

This would be my first planned trip away with another man, rather than flying solo.

Little did I know, I would be leaving him on a remote island somewhere in the archipelago.  

The beautyFrench Polynesia

The trip was nearly two years ago, yet I still find it quite hard to put into words just how spectacular French Polynesia is.

Ribs of jagged coral reef in rainbow spectrums meet turquoise blue waters, contrasted by deep channels of dark purple waters. Unexplored lush green islands appear sporadically with unmissable volcanic mountaintops rising from the ocean.

Tahiti Nui

Flying into the capital Papeete is an experience rich in culture, big smiles, seafood, cruise ships and lively markets. Not to mention spectacular island backdrops. I only had one thing in mind, and that was to touch down at Teahupoʻo, a dream I’ve wanted to fulfilltahiti since I first learnt to surf.

My ex however had other ideas, with zero interest in helping me reach that very spot by rental car. Instead he erupted into an endless tangent about how commercialism is killing the soul of surfing. Red flag number 248.

The village of Teahupoʻo was a lot further from the capital than I expected, around an hour’s drive to the south-west coast. Oh, yes I had won the uphill battle to make it there. The drive is littered with fruit stalls, care-free kids, lush mountains, valleys and creeks and no shortage of black sand beach breaks.

The swell was small but I was so stoked to arrive at the dead-end street and stand at the foot of the infamous Teahupoʻo sign, that I’d seen in some of the best surf movies  growing up. The energy of the village is pretty special. It’s just raw.

I could only imagine what it would be like when the swell is 20ft with guys towing in. I’d still love to return to sit in a boat in the channel, watching fearless locals drop down the faces of monsters.

Island hopping

While I’d love to tell you where we next flew to for the two months that followed, I simply can’t. But I can fill you in on what one might experience if they choose to visit.

My ex had explored this particular island for a couple of tahitimonths prior, which allowed him to get to know the locals, the waves and ideas of where our shack could be based for the project.

And of course to skip out on some expensive nightly rates. I’m sure our experience would have been vastly different had he not worked to carve the path ahead.

I’d never before witnessed the type of waves that we would soon discover. The shack was set up in a small bay, caressed by the most perfect grinding right hander I’d ever seen. On the other side, an equally as perfect left hander. I’d heard that professional guys had died on the right before.

Luckily it wasn’t the season for it and I was quite happy I had missed it. The wave however continued to run relentlessly perfect spitting barrels. It was just too shallow.

The locals

I’d done my research. It wasn’t pretty. But I was confident in the captain that was leading me into the project and didn’t feel I had anything to worry about.

The lineup

The level of respect in the lineup here is next level. The waves are an epitometahiti of perfection, depending of course on your level of surfing.

Whichever way you look at it, the locals make sure to strongly protect their ground.

I noticed there was no such thing as crowds.

Taking your camera

If you think you’re going in with a camera to shoot the waves, from land or from sea, you’ll quickly end up on the wrong side of any local. I heard many stories of cameras being carelessly ripped from visiting surfer’s hands and tossed into the ocean.

Along with violence.

The Red Bull team visited a nearby island on a big swell and it wasn’t a good ending.

Surfing in groups

You’re not going to just paddle out and start taking waves without first approaching and acknowledging each local in the water. There’s barely any lineup in the world left with this level of respect. Enough to leave you speechless. Tattoos. Bisects. Some big humans.

You just do it. But paddle out with more than two of your mates (especially two males) and you’ll be sent in. I know of one local who brags about the amount of blow-ins he’s knocked out in a day.

Each lineup is continually patrolled by locals with binoculars on hillside shacks, ready to call out boats if any trouble is spotted.  Be prepared to paddle. Some breaks sit 1KM offshore and include some brutal currents and bone crushing sections over dry reef to leave you out of breath

Other efforts to fit in

Refuse to take up an offer to drink tequila shots at the bar when it’s one of the guy’s polynesiabirthdays, well you’ll probably lose some respect too.

And they know how to drink.

Try too hard to fit in without invites, you’re likely to be sniffed out pretty quick and asked to leave the island.

Nine out of ten locals you have nothing to worry about, but there certainly are some that will take it to the extremes. 

The level of surfing

Some of the waves had me on the edge of crying with fear. I wrote about one particular session here.

Would I recommend solo travel for a female surfer?

The island is full of 360 degree views of every colour spectrum of flowers and tropical fruit you can imagine. It is a rich ground for deep sea pearls and sacred blue-eyed eels. It truly is something you could imagine out of a dream.

My experience however, was not without being woken from an afternoon nap, with death threats dished out to my ex, simply for making one silly mistake. The relationship turned into a brutal mess and in the end, I decided it was not a place for me to stay and once again departed solo. Narrowly missing out on a wedding proposal but perhaps that’s a story for another time.

Would I recommend another girl to travel here solo? Papeete and Tahiti waves yes. Outer islands I would suggest bringing a guy that has experience with locals of smaller islands, unless you have contacts in the area. Oh, and your surfing needs to be at a pretty high level.

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Understanding Carbs

Are you looking at improving your overall energy and vitality? Do you want to surf for carbohydrates for healthlonger periods especially when you have back to back consistent swell? Whichever your needs and goals are, it’s important to understand the pivotal role that carbohydrates play within the body as carbs are your primary source of energy throughout the day.

Carbohydrates assist in the proper function of your nervous system, metabolism, brain function & clarity and muscle repair & growth.  When you consume  carbohydrates, the body then breaks it down into simple sugars and is absorbed through your bloodstream. The pancreas in turn releases insulin which is needed to transport the sugars from the bloodstream into your cells. It’s important to understand the difference between the two main types of digestible carbohydrates:

Simple Carbohydrates

  • Only contain one or two sugar molecules strung together.
  • Fuel the body for a short period of time, much like a sugar high. This can lead to subsequent consumption of takeaway foods or packaged foods as you are left unfulfilled.
  • Are often heavily processed such as candy, soft drink and cereals but are also naturally occurring in many fruits (the obvious healthier option!).

Complex carbohydrates

  • Contain complex and multiple chains of sugar molecules strung together.
  • Fuel the body for a longer period of time and are therefore the preferable type of carbohydrate to consume as you will be less likely to overindulge in other unhealthy foods.
  • Examples of foods which contain complex carbs are whole grain breads, nuts, legumes, nutritious vegetables, yoghurts and dairy products.

Why carbs are vital for high performance surfingwomens surfing

If you engage in high energy workouts or surf a lot, you probably are more habitual than most in monitoring your intake of carbs as you understand this to be a vital aspect of your training regime. This is particularly true if you wish to gain muscle or lose excess fat.

A diet which is moderate to high in complex carbs provides the energy to get through a workout. A bodybuilder’s diet in particular might combine a high intake of protein to assist in optimal muscle growth and recovery post workout. The higher your energy output, the more fuel (carbs) required.

Carbs and their link to weight loss

As a culture we are slowly beginning to understand that there is no “one size fits all diet” as our bodies are all unique, with different fitness goals and energy outputs, not to mention incredibly vast genetic structures. In saying that, it’s widely know that a diet high in carbohydrates combined with a lifestyle that is largely sedentary is closely linked to weight gain. This is also due to a high intake of fats, sugars and far too many refined foods

stripped of any trace of nutrient. Believe it or not, the Japanese have one of the highest intake of carbs globally, however still remain slender due to their low intake of saturated fats, sugars and refined products and a particular focus on complex carbs rather than simple carbs.

Often those that follow fad low carb diets for weight loss, find themselves low on energy. With careful observation of specific energy needs, it’s possible to reach a fine balance of just the right amount of carbs. We can all learn from the eating habits of Japanese as they have been touted to be one of the healthiest cultures in the world.

Is there an ideal time of the day to consume carbs?

Carbs are either used for energy or stored in the body, therefore you want to ensure everywomens surfing gram of carb you put into your body is going to be used. Consuming carbs late at night is often linked to weight gain for this very reason. The ideal time to consume carbs is at breakfast or lunch time in order for your body to burn through the carbs. However if you engage in high energy sports like surfing, you know to replenish your energy needs pre and post surf, regardless of the time of the day.

The main thing to remember is you don’t need to avoid carbs completely but rather to select nutrient dense, complex carbohydrates and to use them according to your energy output.

The transits to reach Philippines

Somehow I managed to survive two months in Northern Thailand, completely extracted from any sniff of a surf scene. It was a pretty beautiful place. I had initially planned on a six month stay to work on my online business. But for the first time since learning to surf, I completely lost my muscle tone in my paddle arms which was a very bizarre feeling. I so badly needed that extraction. To see the world through different eyes. But it was long enough. Tracking somewhat close islands for a chance of a wave, began to take over the time I should have been working on my online stuff. And then I did it. I booked four flights en route to Philippines. In particular Cloud Nine surf break. Boardless.  I like to talk about going on a surf trip prepared. Well this was going to be different.

Kuala Lumpur (KL)

Heading through KL is a pretty common route for surfers wishing to get a slice of Cloud9. I like KL as it’s been a transit point for multiple Indo, Mentawai and Malaysian trips. It’s familiar and I know where things are.

KL offers many options accommodation wise (affordable backpacker dorms to luxury hotels) and public transport is reliable and regular. Services are available by way of taxi,how to get to cloud9 train and bus direct from the airport. There’s two airports so make sure you get the right one. All Air Asia flights leave from KLIA2.

The city of KL itself is pretty bad and pollution
rules. It’s  rare to see blue sky through the thick smog that permanently coats the city.

Poverty is real, as it’s a common stop for refugees that have fled Myanmar (Burma) who stay illegally in slum-like conditions, waiting for the next option to flee the city. Usually by road and then sea.

Most with falsehoods on reaching the shores of Australia. The land of milk and honey.

As I found out, the Australian Government funds search and rescue operations in Malaysia by helicopter. They also carry out Police raids and water patrol units to hunt out refugees and send them back to where they came.

I spent three weeks throughout Malaysia in 2014 and the general vibe of the locals wasKuala Lumpur not great. They came across as quite unwelcoming. Perhaps the Australian Government’s influence is part of the reason why.

If you have an overnight in KL it’s worth checking out China Town in the city. Scores of markets line the streets, similar to the markets in Bali (Kuta).

As usual, be prepared to bargain for prices. You can get cheap clothes, sunnies, watches and bags. There is also an array of amazing food and fresh tropical fruit at low cost.

Transit through Cebu

OK so I must admit I didn’t quite do my research about Cebu. I just pictured a little island in the middle of a turquoise blue ocean, palm trees and beachside markets. Some of the atolls, reefs and islands we flew over were incredibly beautiful but by the time the plane flew over the island of Cebu, I realised it wasn’t anything how I had imagined. I had a one night layover here.

Grabbing the nearest taxi outside the small airport, I was in for a bit of a ride. From the driver, I had the usual “where you from, where’s your boyfriend, you had no one pick you up at airport?” type questions which you get used to when travelling alone as a female!

I was then quick to notice he was off-chops (drug induced) through his mannerisms and erratic energy.

At one Cebu travel point crossing a large bridge, where it was clearly sign posted that there was roadworks up ahead and the lane ended, he went straight through the signs, which smashed the rear of the taxi.

He burst out laughing and I said “taxi’s too big to fit through!” and his reply while throwing his hands in the air was “oh nah miss you’re just so beautiful it make me swerve all over the road!”.

The remaining trip involved him texting at every chance while swerving all over the road, running red lights and making up random and lengthy arrival times when I would get to my hotel.

I was pretty worried that he was actually taking me back to his house but so relieved when I recognised the sign for my hotel.

Stray goats roamed the city streets on miscellaneous missions, oblivious to the poverty that surrounded them. Kids barely old enough to walk, equally as oblivious as they clung tightly to their brother’s shirts, while mounting the back of rusted bicycles.

It wasn’t until I was safely in my hotel room, that I looked up “Cebu local news” on my laptop, that I realised just how bad it was. Bold text splashed the page, showing the past three days of events:

College student raped, killed in Cebu home. Man faces murder charges for daughter’s death. Lovers found dead in Cebu hotel. Boxing champ stabbed multiple times in domestic dispute.

Many were targeted Western attacks.

Luckily, downstairs from my hotel room was a small convenience store. I stocked up on asurfing cloud9 healthy array of white bread rolls, peanut butter, canned tuna and instant milo. Pretty much anything I could grab quick enough to then spend the duration of my time safely locked away in my hotel room.

I felt a million miles from Cloud Nine surf. Through tired eyes, I was surprisingly able to get a restful night’s sleep.

That morning I returned to the store to buy a local sim card.  While at the counter, I heard a kid whistling past the open shop door and glanced up to see a cheerful smile, dead chicken casually dangling from his clutching hand. I couldn’t help but smile back at him as our two worlds’ collided.

Past his small ripped t-shirt shoulder, something caught my eye on the other side of the busy street. A heavy looking, long and limp object in a white bag was being loaded onto the back of a pickup truck. Others that passed by, did not so much as blink an eye as they went about their day. I doubt I did either, as I struggled to hide my dinner-plate eyes. begging-1683496_1280

I honestly couldn’t be more happy to pack my bags and get the hell out of there.

It seemed my newly built hotel ($5.75 a night) was in a rough part of town. Their website did a great job at selling it to me.

I had to stand on the side of the road for a very long fifteen minutes praying for a cab to  pass by. Every passing car slowed to stare at my lonesome presence.

When a cab finally arrived, my bracelet got stuck on my lace shirt and I couldn’t lift my hand out to flag him down. It was like a nightmare unfolding before my eyes. Thank goodness a local guy came just in time to hail the cab for me. This ride was not as bumpy as the last.

Finally to Siargao

In the safety of the airport I could relax a little. I had two families come up to me and ask for photos in broken English. The kids giggled as their eyes curiously glanced over my hair, face and clothes as if they had never seen a Westerner before. Philippines kids

Once the plane passed over rusted tin roofs, visions opened to a vast ocean, full of every shade of blue imaginable.

Coming into Siargao is absolutely stunning, with a lush island rich in palm trees and jungles, peculiar shaped mountains and wide canyons. I could not wait to explore.

It was everything I hoped and more. Perhaps my excitement was exacerbated because my two months in Thailand without an ocean felt like an eternity.

Basic bamboo shelters lined the paved road, underneath thick canopies of palm trees dancing in the ocean breeze. The locals come equipped with that naturally laid-back island energy and are stoked living their simple lifestyles.

I was lucky to arrive when the swell was 6ft and barrelling at cloud nine surf spot. However I had to wait for the swell to back off as I could see just how challenging the takeoff was.

Top Tips for this Journey

Avoid the overnight in Cebu if possible!

-It really isn’t a safe place to be hanging out. The more I spoke to expats in Siargao, the worse the stories became.

It is possible to link your flights and get from KL to Siargao in one day with Air Asia from Cloud 9 boardwalkKL to Cebu. Then choose Cebu Pacific for the Cebu to Siargao leg.

Bring cash as there’s only one ATM 

-Best to get cash out before heading over as there’s only one ATM on the island and it’s regularly out of order. Never been happier with my purchase of my money bag that was strapped firmly around my waist under my t-shirt!

Watch your valuables in your hotel or shack

-I heard theft is very common here. Be sensible where you stash your cash, laptops, phones etc.

Take your own boards

-On the off chance you’re on a surf trip without boards (laughs). You already know tosurfing Philippines bring your own boards in your specific dimensions. Board hire is around 200 peso per hour ($6AUD) or 500 peso per day ($15AUD). Expensive. To buy a board here will set you back 12,000 peso ($370AUD). Cloud nine surf also has a high potential for breaking those boards in half.

Sunscreen and zinc

-Also very expensive here, about 520 peso (over $15AUD) for a small tube. Again experienced surfers know to bring their own.

Always be on alert

-Philippines is a dangerous country there’s no doubt about it. The use of meth is very common in many regions. The longer I stay here the more stories I hear of attacks on locals (mostly in transit to Siargao). Many attacks are in a bid to get money to fund their meth habits.

The threat of typhoon is very real

The slightest drop of rain will see your flight from Siargao back out to Cebu cancelled. The authorities simply don’t take the risk. If you can afford the luxury I would not booksurfing Cloud9 your international trip home until you are out of Siargao. Or better still make it a coupleI saw many surfers missing their next leg

Other than the general warnings, it truly is a stunning part of the world and one that blew my expectations right out of the water. I spent four weeks living in a very basic bamboo shack around the corner from Cloud Nine surf.

More in-depth rundown coming soon!

Every bite counts

This past week I’ve had an almost endless supply of energy where I’ve been able to wake at 5am every morning ready for a surf, a run, yoga or workout session before work. That energy just keeps coming as the day goes on and I’m able to commit another couple of hours after work to another session of any of the above.

Prolonged energy through food 

It didn’t take me long to figure out why I’ve felt so overly energetic. I’ve literally gone the whole week without eating anything “bad” as in heavily processed, high in fat or sugar or anything that you might consider to be junk food. I can’t remember the last time I was so health well behaved for an entire week as I usually follow an 80/20 rule when it comes to eating healthy vs eating average. By average I mean most of the products sold in the supermarket in packages. This week every time I thought to buy a pizza or something greasy I just thought why would I have that when I can extend my energy even further.

I’m not avoiding junk food because I’ll put on weight, my metabolism is lightning fast but rather I’m eating healthy food because I know the difference in the way my body and mind react to eating great food which is predominately raw and from nature rather than from a packet.

Foods attributable to this week’s energy

Fruits

I forgot how many amazing tropical fruits come out in summer in Australia. I’ve made a dramatic increase in my fruit intake including mango, pineapple, watermelon, apple and banana. Through eating more fresh fruit I’ve found my sugar cravings are a lot lower than
normal. Lately I’ve been inspired by FullyRawKristina who has eaten nothing but raw foods for over a decade. While I could never be fully raw it’s great to take small parts of her diet and integrate it into mine. I’ve also been inspired to make lots of fresh fruit smoothies and take a lot of recipes from GreenBlender. organic gardening

Fresh Salads

My salads are becoming a lot more of a mix of fruit and greens with watermelon and apple as the base fruits and shaved fresh broccoli, carrot, feta, tomato, roast veges and fresh corn as the bulk. I then add leafy greens like spinach, baby pak choi or Chinese kale fresh from my vege garden (organic) along with a selection of herbs, radish and cucumber (soon
to be tomatoes!).

In my Daily Habits article I talk about the importance of establishing what your golden meal is. This is the meal that you know makes you feel good inside and out and that yousalad can rely on for an energy hit. Mine is salad as I’ve used it in a mini detox as my main meals (lunch and dinner) for three days straight. I recognised a massive spike in energy, clear mind and overall wellbeing even after the first day. Most of my main meals this week have been salad on its own or with smoked salmon on the side.

Adding carbs

Morning

My breakfast is usually the meal with the most carbs as I know I can easily burn that healthy breakfast
energy during the day. Rolled oats are a great way to start the day as they are rich in fibre, carbohydrates and protein and contain a large array of minerals including manganese, zinc and selenium. On warmer days I’ve been enjoying them uncooked with a couple of tablespoons of greek yoghurt, a dash of honey and a sprinkle of muesli clusters or frozen berries. Eggs prepared in any way are also a great option as they are such a complete protein (contain all 9 essential amino acids needed for proper function) and contain many beneficial vitamins and nutrients.

Because my main meals (lunch and dinner) are low in carbs and protein I try to find other ways to fit them into my day and eat every few hours rather than three massive meals a day. There’s a great dried cracker/nut mix by Bhuja which is free of nasty flavouring & MSG as they use classic spices such as paprika, fennel seeds, cumin and chilli to flavour their mixes. They’re very addictive and I’m regularly snacking on them throughout the day. I love them because they’re high in protein-around 48g per 200g bag and carbs are around 88g per 200g bag. Occasionally I will use protein powders or bars if I’m on-the-go or the surfs pumping and I can’t wait to get out there, however I prefer to find more complete protein sources.

Evening 

My eating backs right off in the evening as I generally have a very early bedtime in order to organic saladrise early. It’s always good to listen to your body and if you’re not feeling overly hungry then there’s no need to prepare a main meal just because it’s ‘dinner time’. I know my body doesn’t like to have a high carb meal at night as I’m not burning any of those carbs and find I wake up feeling sluggish the next morning. If you don’t have the quickest metabolism then you need to watch your carb intake at night otherwise you can very easily put on weight as your body stores those carbs for future use.

Food as medicine

These past few years I have been drawn to the idea more and more so that food absolutely is medicine. I struggle to watch people suffer with many chronic diseases which are so painstakingly linked to diet but just aren’t being taught that by their GP’s. That’s not surprising given doctors are practitioners of medicine not nutrition. Of course they are great at what they do in so many aspects of their role, but there certainly is a huge gap healthy women when they simply write a prescription to blanket symptoms of a disease rather than look at the reasons why the patient is in that state in the first place. Sure they are successful in curing the symptoms, until the patient returns four weeks later asking for a further script.

One of my clients was a qualified pharmacist who suffered greatly from an auto-immune disease which doctors explained was “incurable” and that he had to live with for the rest of his life. He was prescribed medication that only induced more pain by way of crippling side effects. It wasn’t until he carried out his own research into a more natural approach where he began to experiment with adding and subtracting different types of foods and supplements in his diet that he saw astonishing results whereby he eventually cured his own disease.

He took what he had learnt back to his clinic and started sharing his wealth of knowledge healthy livingwith his patients and instead of writing a prescription for medication, wrote a shopping list for the patient to take to their local supermarket. The outcome was remarkable and patients would present weeks later totally cured of their disease that they had suffered from for years. Guess what happened to the pharmacist? He was made redundant as that particular pharmacy saw a huge loss of profits as he was sending all the patients to the fresh produce section of the supermarket! You can find more of his story here- www.therenegadepharmacist.com.

It’s not about a ‘perfect’ diet

It’s great to be on top of your diet and know what it takes to feel full of energy through the foods that you eat, but I also think you need to give some leniency for being misbehaved. When you do have a high focus on what you’re putting in your body then it’s a great thing to have a guilt free pig out on pizza and chocolate. It’s all about balance and moderation. I do however challenge you to go a whole day without putting any junk food in your body and feel the difference in your energy levels.