FRANKIE HARRER

FRANKIE HARRER

A VERY BIG BREAK

Professional surfer Frankie Harrer remembers catching the wave of her career.

Harrer, board in tow, in Tahiti, photograph by Ben Thouard

To surf TEAHUPOO, [the world-famous break on Tahiti’s southwest coast], had been my goal from the moment I took up the sport, at nine years old.

The waves there are perfect: very thick and very powerful, unlike anywhere else.

But there’s only a small window of time when the conditions are prime.

In June 2016, Raimana Van Bastolaer, a family friend who lives in Tahiti, told me that a swell was coming and that I had to fly out to go surfing.

Van Bastolaer and Harrer share a laugh after a day on the water, photograph by Ben Thouard

I booked a red-eye from LAX with my board, my friend, and the photographer MORGAN MAASSEN.

My first couple days were spent riding six foot waves — small for Teahupoo — but they were the perfect warmup for what was to come.

Later that week, as we set out for the break by boat one morning at the crack of dawn, the waves were 12 to 15 feet tall.

I was so scared of falling [off my board] — the reef isn’t too forgiving and I’d already cut myself the day before — but if I didn’t go then, I’d never have a chance to surf waves like that again.

Harrer paddles out into the South Pacific Ocean, photograph by Morgan Maassen

I waited in the lineup with 30 other surfers — all men — on the back of Raimana’s jet-ski as my nerves raged. After half an hour, he finally towed me into a wave — another first — and I stood up.

The ride lasted 20 seconds, and once I kicked out of the wave, all the guys clapped for me.

My adrenaline was pumping, but I felt so humbled. I had never been prouder.

I could’ve spent the whole day catching wave after wave, but I had to give the boys a turn.

— as told to The Thick

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The 18 year-old Harrer rides a wave in Tahiti, photograph by Ben Thouard