Exploring the Pacific by SUP and Sail
Have you ever dreamed of setting sail and leaving it all behind in search of the simple life? An Australian couple turned that exact dream into a reality when they left their home and livelihoods behind to sail with the trade winds through Polynesia, in search of tropical waters and beautiful spots to SUP and surf in along the way.
Jess and Nick from SV Te Mana have now navigated over half of the Pacific Ocean on their Beneteau Oceanis 400, from the beautiful waters of Polynesia, to the calm protected waters of Tonga and finally, returning to their home waters in New South Wales after 7 months away – quite the feat for any accomplished sailor, but even more so when neither had ever sailed a yacht prior to the expedition!
However, as avid surfers and paddle boarders they are no strangers to the ocean, and they took their trusty Red Paddle Stand Up Paddle Boards with them so that they could explore the more secluded areas that were unreachable by boat alone.
Here Jess speaks of the beginning of their epic adventure, how they have coped with the planning and preparation and how the dream has become their new way of life…
French Polynesia Cruising
Time is flying by, or maybe we are just slowing down, but somehow three months of floating full time around beautiful French Polynesia have already passed. Our old land-lives in Australia seem a world away, although it’s only been a year since I first suggested to Nick the idea of setting sail across the Pacific. Within six months we’d bought a yacht (Te Mana, our Beneteau Oceanis 400) in Tahiti, and after waiting for a few months for cyclone season to pass, the only small detail left to address was to actually learn how to sail.
Always up for a challenge, I think this time we had succeeded in setting ourselves a good one. Although no strangers to the ocean, always trying to spend as much time SUPing or surfing around the beautiful coast and waterways of Sydney and the stunning South Coast, neither of us had sailed a 40 foot yacht, let alone crossed an ocean. But we figured there was no other way to explore the islands of Polynesia and gain access to the lagoons and waves we were searching for.
And so, the plan was to learn by doing. And we have since been doing just that, and learning fast!
After a few hot and sweaty weeks in the boatyard doing the boat’s annual maintenance work (including us trying to figure out the many systems on board and become proficient diesel mechanics, electricians, and plumbers), we were launched back into the blue and left to our own devices to figure out the finer points of boat handling. Thankfully we couldn’t have had a better sailing nursery than French Polynesia’s beautiful Society Islands, with its protected lagoons and relatively short inter island passages, to find our sailing legs.
And so, the real fun began. Trying to interpret charts, winds and swell to sail ourselves to the right spots at the right time to find either waves to surf or sheltered lagoons to explore on our Red Paddle Co paddle boards. And with a (big) smile I am happy to say we have found plenty of both (and more) along the way.
From the jagged peaks of Moorea, to the sandy atolls of the Tuamotus, the most amazing turquoise water surrounds them all. The water is so clear that it makes surfing over the beautiful (but oh so sharp) reefs seem even more shallow than they already are (and they are often oh so shallow). And we have found SUPing in the lagoons nearly as effective for looking at the colourful reef fish as snorkelling.
Inflatable SUPs = Access All Areas and Easy Storage
The surfing has ranged from fun sized waves that we’ve had all to ourselves, to the powerful throaty overhead barrels of Teahupo’o shared with the locals who absolutely charge this monster of a wave. And the paddle boarding, is just amazing, it forms a massive part of our daily cruising life, being our method of choice for up close and personal exploration of the areas we just can’t access by boat.
From the lagoons surrounding the stunningly lush volcanic islands, to the pink sandy shores of coconut palm tree lined atolls, to the dangerous but beautiful outer barrier reefs – our inflatable SUPs can easily take us there. We have a 12’6” Elite board and 10’6” Ride on board Te Mana. Both stand up paddle boards are from Red Paddle Co who are leading the way in the inflatable paddle board market.
The boards make perfect partners for our trip as they are super durable for paddling around unknown waters and we can easily deflate and pack them away to store below deck, an essential requirement when travelling longer passages - far easier than strapping them down like traditional hard boards!
We could easily spend forever here in French Polynesia, the time is coming soon for us to set sail to the west in search of the next slice of paradise... The Kingdom of Tonga, I’m excited to see what this next chapter will bring.