Michel Haddi’s Tahiti Surf: The Surfer’s Paradise

The Fashionisto


Published May 21, 2024

Tahiti Surf Book CoverPin
Tahiti Surf Book Cover. Photo: Michel Haddi / Tahiti Surf

As the world gears up for the Paris 2024 Olympics, the anticipation around surfing’s second appearance in the Games has reached new heights. This excitement is perfectly captured in Michel Haddi’s new photography book, Tahiti Surf.

Limited to just 1,000 copies, Haddi’s book vividly portrays the surf culture in Tahiti, featuring some of the sport’s most legendary figures.

Surfer Cool

Partially illuminated by the sunlight, a surfer takes to the beach.Pin
Partially illuminated by the sunlight, a surfer takes to the beach. Photo: Michel Haddi / Tahiti Surf

For fashion enthusiasts, surfer style is an enduring source of inspiration. Michel Haddi, with his keen eye for aesthetics, has beautifully encapsulated this style in Tahiti Surf. Haddi reflects on surfer style, reminiscing about his time in Venice Beach, California, where he would see “the young and beautiful going to Zuma Beach early in the morning.”

He admired their unique attitude, noting that “they were the masters of cool.” For surfers, style is uncomplicated, as “for them, fashion is all about t-shirts, shorts, and shades.” Haddi draws a connection between the modern surfer aesthetic and its origins in the 1960s, stating, “If you look at images of the 60s surfers in the USA, like Frankie Avalon, you’ll see that surfing was made a cool way of life.”

Surfing’s Olympic Impact

Vaiturai Paofai surfing in Teahupo'o.Pin
Vaiturai Paofai surfing in Teahupo’o. Photo: Michel Haddi / Tahiti Surf

With surfing set to make a splash at the Paris 2024 Olympics, Haddi believes this milestone will significantly boost the sport’s global popularity. Haddi comments on surfing’s 2020 Olympic debut: “The first time was in Tokyo at Tsurigasaki Beach, but it didn’t seem to garner much attention.”

However, he expects the upcoming competition in Tahiti, “right on the famous Teahupo’o wave,” to captivate the “35 million surfers worldwide.”

Photographing Kelly Slater

Kelly Slater rides waves of gold.Pin
Kelly Slater rides waves of gold. Photo: Michel Haddi / Tahiti Surf

Among Tahiti Surf highlights is the inclusion of surfing legend Kelly Slater. Recalling a memorable experience from the 2003 World Championship in Tahiti, Haddi explains that “the wave at Teahupo’o is one of the most dangerous, not because it’s high, but because the water is shallow and you’re over a coral reef.”

He warns, “If you’re not careful, you could have an accident and hit your head on the reef.” Even Slater wasn’t immune to the risks, as “Kelly suffered two dislocated toes.”

Haddi vividly remembers the treacherous conditions: “I was on a small boat with the engine running as the wave crashed right beside us. I still don’t know how I wasn’t thrown overboard with my cameras.”

Balancing Action & Intimacy

A surfer poses with his board by the shore.Pin
A surfer poses with his board by the shore. Photo: Michel Haddi / Tahiti Surf

Haddi’s photography is renowned for its emotional depth, a quality that shines through in Tahiti Surf. When asked about balancing the action and thrill of surfing with more intimate moments, he explains, “My photography is deeply anchored in emotion, regardless of whether I’m capturing foreign legionnaires or Kate Moss.”

Haddi continues, “In both surf photography and Tahiti surf imagery, it’s the narrative that matters—from a family attending church to Miss Tahiti, to the surfers themselves—it’s a celebration of life and the shared human spirit.”

Lessons from Tahiti

A surfer showcases traditional tattoos on a beach in Tahiti.Pin
A surfer showcases traditional tattoos on a beach in Tahiti. Photo: Michel Haddi / Tahiti Surf

Reflecting on his 2003 trip to Tahiti, Haddi reveals how it has shaped his work and personal life. “Indeed, its impact on me has been profound. To make certain I never forget, I’ve etched a tattoo on my sternum as an everlasting memento of the island, holding it close to my heart.”

Haddi explains, “Moreover, for the past 25 years, I have faithfully used monoi oil for my hair—these are two palpable elements. But more importantly, Tahiti persists as a dream; if there is a paradise on Earth, it might just be there, on that diminutive Pacific isle.”

As Haddi prepares to share his Tahitian experience with the world through his upcoming book, it’s clear that the island’s allure will continue to inspire him and countless others who seek to capture the essence of this surfer’s paradise.

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