Skate Travel > Tahiti Aito Inline Challenge
2006 Tahiti Challenge
On February 17, skaters from the United States, Canada, and Denmark gathered at Los Angeles International Airport, with the common goal of skating in paradise. We boarded Air Tahiti Nui for the 8-hour, 3844-mile flight. Air Tahiti is great! We received two meals and all drinks were free, including beer, wine, and champagne.
After a flawless flight, we arrived in Papeete, Tahiti. Skaters from cold regions experienced their first of many meltdowns. Sleeves were rolled up and as much clothing as possible was removed. Eddy Matzger, Marius and Christopher Pierre (race organizer) appeared and presented us with fragrant, flower leis.
The first race was the Rotui Half Marathon held on the island of Moorea. The race course is located in the caldera of the extinct volcano. Heavy rain overnight prompted Chris to take a poll of the skaters to determine if they still wanted to race, as the road was very slick. The resounding answer was, "Yes".
The road was closed to traffic and everyone got over their pre-race anxiety when the Tahitian dancers started swinging their hips and the drum beat began for the countdown. The rain held off for 90% of the race. Smiles were everywhere as Eddy Matzger crossed the finish line in style. He was somewhat upstaged by Dan Burger, Jenny Huang and several other skaters. When they crossed the finish line, spectators were provided the rare sight of several full moons at high noon. Even the cameraman filming for Tahiti television thought the lunar eclipse was quite spectacular.
From Moorea, we flew to Raiatea where a criterium and a 42K were scheduled. The day after we arrived, everyone climbed aboard a ship for a short cruise to the vanilla isle of Taha'a. Long ago, Taha'a and Raiatea were joined but due to global warming and time, a beautiful lagoon now separates them.
The Taha'a Mana 20K was supposed to be a fun skate and it was! We gathered under some trees or wherever we could find shade to wait for the start. The gendarmes knew what we were there for and cooperated by allowing us to store our gear in their station. The fun in the sun race began about 2 p.m. and it was HOT (weather-wise and otherwise). The road was smooth as glass, flat hugged the shore line. As we rounded one bay, the view of Bora-Bora was simply fabulous! The heat got to some skaters but most finished. I now know what a French fry feels like.
That evening, the Uturoa Criterium was held in downtown Uturoa. Locals lined the street and those intrepid skaters who were not parboiled by the Taha'a fun skate, donned their skate gear. It was dark when the race started. Unfortunately, no one thought to check to see if all the street lights were workingand they weren't. So a car was sent to the turn around point to light up the area for the racers.
The race was very exciting to watch. The locals enjoyed it. All the skaters, especially Eddy, reached warp speed coming out of the turns. Eddy won in an exciting finish. Afterward, the local dancers put on one of the best shows I've seen since coming to these fair isles (this is my ninth trip to French Polynesia).
The following day, we drove and/or were transported to the other side of Raiatea for the 42k marathon. The race started and so did the rain, though just briefly. It provided a break from the heat but made for some slippery conditions.
The course had some hills. (One qualified as a ski slope!) The road followed the bays and once again, the scenery was great and wonderful. Nature exceeded herself when she made these islands.
In a close and hectic sprint to the finish, the Tahitian, Marius, won! This made Marius and the locals extremely happy! Hopefully, it will encourage Marius to keep skating. So many other locals seem to have stopped.
That evening, all the skaters were invited to Marius' house for a party and some Tahitian dancing. It is a great honor to be invited to a Tahitian home. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, especially Robert Motta.
When we boarded Air Tahiti Nui to return, the authorities confiscated the skates of the Danish skater Catherine Grage. They said they considered them a dangerous weapon. The captain kept them in the cockpit. They were returned to her at LAX. No one else had their skates held. Cat didn't even have a Danish cartoon on her!
(posted on March 6, 2006)
Copyright © 2006 by Robert Burnson