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Paradise Lost

CAPTION - A slice of heavenINTRO - Bilderback hauls his troops to Tahiti, the scenes of dreams and a nightmare for Mauricio Abreu on his last trip. This year, like all good pros, "Morris" faced his fears alongside Jason Slezak, Moe Gould and Josh Mulcoy
2 JUNE 2008
We were about to embark on what I had considered for years to be my dream trip - a boat trip through the islands of Tahiti with a few good friends and one of the best photo- and videographers in the industry. It was one of those experiences where everything would come together perfectly; swell, wind, luxury boat, great captain and crew - everything was just perfect, except what happened to me on the second day of my dream.
We had made our way to our first stop and, needless to say, dreams were coming true. As we passed into the lagoon we spotted a perfect left hand break with not a soul to be seen. Josh Mulcoy and I were off the boat before the captain could even spot his entry into the pass. The waves were absolutely dream-perfect, but the problem with dreams can be that with one wrong turn they become a nightmare. After a long surf session I refused to come in, I just couldn't get enough of that wave. Even after three hours in the water and more barrels than I can remember, I just wanted more! I was riding a barrel at low tide when the wave picked me up and slammed me into the reef, full force. I don't remember much after that other than waking up on the boat with blood all over me, and my friends seemingly very worried about my injuries. They told me that I had gone over the falls and had hit the reef really hard. Josh was watching the whole thing from the inside (he had caught the wave before mine) and told me later that I was standing on a dry reef facing an overhead wave breaking a few feet away from me and I didn't even flinch. That was when he knew something was seriously wrong. He went in and got me and dragged me back to the boat. I don't know what would have happened if Josh hadn't been there
to save me.

The end result was a split head and a broken back (a 'Jockey fracture/multi-level transverse fractures of L1, L2 and L3 ? the little ribs that stick out of your vertebra on your lower back). If only that was the worst of it, but the nightmare continued as I had to sit on the sidelines and watch as my friends enjoyed the best trip ever. I was stoked to be there and I tried to enjoy myself as much as possible because I knew that another chance like that would probably never come round again. That lost dream trip haunted me for months - it felt as though I had lived the dream but didn't get to enjoy it.
A year passed and we'd racked up a few more dream trips. I had come to terms with what had happened to me in Tahiti and grudgingly grown to accept the missed opportunity. But when we least expect it, the universe (and our sponsors) can give us a second chance.
I got a call from John Bilderback about the possibility of another Tahiti trip. I had a crazy busy schedule already planned out for the summer but I knew I would move everything around just to get one day back on the water over there. JB is not only one of the best photographers, he also has endless connections everywhere he goes - working with him taught us about the professionalism needed to keep up the welcome options with out-of-industry sponsors and, if there was someone who could make this trip happen again, he was the man!

JB and Liquid Force were both committed to creating the best boat trip ever seen in kiteboarding, starting with the crew. Most of my friends are also some of the best kiteboarders around and, luckily, they all ride for Liquid Force. Jason CAPTION - Slezak, Josh Mulcoy and Moe Goold are always the names on my list of 'Best Guys to Travel With' anyway, so I couldn't have been happier. Being able to go on your dream trip once is luxury enough; but to recreate every aspect of that trip a second time around is close to impossible, unless you are JB. Our first shock and accompanying sense of déj? vu was when we boarded our boat. Believe it or not, the Moorings supplied us with exactly the same boat model as the year before - a Lagoon 570 catamaran - one of the most luxurious boats in Tahiti. Equipped with five cabins and A/C it was like a luxury hotel. The Moorings also made sure that we had the most experienced crew. Our captain was Didier, a French guy that has been travelling through Tahiti for the past nine years and knows the area and the boat better that anyone. His wife Pauline was the onboard chef and made sure that we had first class meals every day served with cold Hinano Beer. The Moorings make these dream trips happen every day all over the world.

CAPTION - Each rider had different expectations for the trip. Josh and Moe knew it would be hard to top the last one and, after having seen the photos, Jason was just ready for anything and everything. All I wanted was to go back and enjoy the places I got to see from my cabin - the crystal blue water and epic kiting spots.
Tahiti is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Everything from the food, the landscape, the waves and especially the people, are all stunning. The Tahitian's understanding of simplicity in life is inspiring - they really are happy and content, appreciating all that nature has to offer and are always grateful for it.
We had seven days on board the Moorings' boat, Milena, again scoring epic conditions. We revisited the places we had been before, starting with a sandbank in the middle of a lagoon, featuring beautiful water with the typical postcard-perfect Tahitian backdrop. It was a really fun session with good winds.

PHOTO - John BilderbackWe stopped by to see Moe's friend, Tony, and his dad, Alfred. Once again we were shown typical Tahitian hospitality. They have a pearl farm and make the most incredible jewellery. We were very fortunate to be able to spend Tony's Grandmother's birthday with them, which was a real Tahitian party. They spent all day cooking an Imu (traditional Tahitian pork cooked underground) and at night Alfred and his friends played Tahitian music while we enjoyed the huge meal. That's when we realised that they felt like they had everything in life they could ask for. I don't think big screen TVs, fancy cars or anything that the Western world holds in high value could've made them any happier. They've found the true meaning of happiness in living a simple life.
Tony is a kiteboarder too and he knew what our crew was all about, so he made sure we had some pipes for a fun slider project. It wasn't anything huge, but we had a fun afternoon hitting the coconut tree slider, using the Tahitian ability to engineer something from almost nothing. That night Tony's Dad asked me how we could spend all day and so much energy building and riding a slider, just so we could get one shot. I explained it to him in the best way I could think of for him to be able to relate: like cultivating a pearl, we build and ride stuff all year long, but every now and then we get that perfect shot and all the hard work pays off. I think he got the point, especially because he knows that out of thousands of shells he may only get one perfect pearl. The perfect pearl can be as elusive as the perfect shot.

CAPTION -So far my dream trip was going exactly as imagined. We got to surf Teahupoo and some other spots, we kited everywhere we found wind, and we even got to hand feed Tony's pet - a five foot reef shark that comes when called and eats out of your hand! Crazy stuff.
Soon it was time to face the place that made my last dream a nightmare. We called the place 'Backbreaker' and a swell was heading that way. It's a special place; the wave is as perfect as it can be - a left hander with a mellow take-off and a flawless barrel all the way to the channel, but it can get really shallow at low tide.

Everything was going well and the waves were perfect. Moe and Josh were right at home, shredding the waves and showing how it's done. Those guys really know how to get barrelled! Jason was having the time of his life and got one of the best waves of the trip - a perfect left with one of the most perfect barrels I have ever seen. Nothing could wipe the smile off his face for the rest of the day. As for me, I settled up with my demons and this time I was more in sync with the place and made sure to take my time and choose my waves carefully. I can't deny that I was really nervous as the last thing I wanted was to get hurt again. I've been surfing for years and I've had my share of bad wipe-outs, of course, but it wasn't the fear of he wave or hitting the reef that was making me worry. What concerned me was the mere chance of missing part of this trip again. I know my body can heal, but the possibility of coming back here and enjoying that paradise for a third time was unlikely. So I made sure to pace myself as we had a few days there and the waves weren't going anywhere. I got my waves, had my share of barrels and then walked away injury free and full of great memories.
PHOTO - John BilderbackSo we did get to kite Backbreaker this time and, even though the wind wasn't there for very long, we managed to get a few barrels under our belts. When the wind came up out of nowhere I gave it a try, jumping on Jason's 14 metre Havoc and got some waves right away with the wind coming from the perfect direction for the waves. Jason soon took his kite back and Josh, Moe and I went to grab ours. Luckily we are used to launching from pretty much anywhere because we had to self-launch three kites from a small dinghy. It worked out surprisingly well, except that the wind was already dying as we launched. We got some waves, not many, but just enough to create an insatiable craving to spend a whole week kiting that wave. It was one of
those situations that you almost wish hadn't happened. We could have gone home without ever knowing what we were missing. That wave is as close to a kiting heaven as can be, but, like every kite spot, it needs the wind!
Now we're sitting in our hotel room at the Hilton Tahiti, enjoying a sunset with some cold Hinano beers and one thought keeps coming to mind: 'Can you imagine that wave with wind all day?' We keep asking ourselves that question, hoping that some miracle might happen, like we would wake up back on the boat ready to kite that wave again and again. We've already got lucky twice and, who knows, maybe it can happen again.

CAPTION -Treat yourself to a trip of a lifetime at: www.moorings.com
The team were hooked-up by the local support from Tahitian-based companies. Air Tahiti Nui sorted the LAX to Papeete tickets and Air Tahiti provided the inter-island tickets and excess luggage charges. Tahitian hospitality ensures they have some of the friendliest crews around, with JB enthusing that they make all their customers feel like VIP passengers! Hit up www.kiteworld.tv and search 'Bilderback' for exclusive videos from this trip.

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Added: 2010-01-11

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