‘Tahiti’s Got Talent’ - Manea Fabisch

Manea Fabisch is a 23-year-old shredder and budding photographer from the bodyboarding paradise of Tahiti. With support from the likes of Stealth and Reeflex, as well as over 10k followers on Instagram, it is clear that Manea’s antics in the water of his home island are causing quite the stir.

The images we’ve received of Manea going balls to the wall at his home breaks speak for themselves. Despite this, we decided to reach out to him and fill in the blanks by finding out a bit more about the man and what it’s like being a booger and photographer in Tahiti.

All images by Shane Grace.

MM: What’s the booger scene like in Tahiti? Seems to be a lot of young guys coming up, why is that?

Manea: The bodyboard scene is quite alive over here in Tahiti, we’re lucky to have fun waves all year round and there are many slabs around the island which make a bodyboard the perfect choice of craft! 

Tahiti is like a big bodyboard park. Most of the waves are suited to bodyboarding in my opinion and guys like Angelo Faraire, John Duval, Alvino Tupuai and Tahurai Henry to name a few have inspired us all a lot through their feats in big waves & aerial manoeuvres! 

Besides yourself, what other young guns do you see rising through the ranks in Tahiti?

There are so many young talented riders coming up at the moment, especially on the west side, but I’d say two of them that have really caught my eye are:

James Omitai who is only 16 and can already perform any manoeuvre on either a right or a left. It seems like he has a taste for big waves too! He’ll surely become a big name if he stays focused and on the right path! 

Alann Poilvet who has surprised me with how fast he has progressed during the past year, he has a really smooth style and certainly doesn’t lack style! 
He also has a great mindset and he seems to know what he wants out of life. I can’t wait to see him go big next year!

What’s it like growing up in one of the best bodyboarding locations of all time? From an outsider’s perspective you’re spoilt! Some of the best waves in the world are on that one island.

Haha, yeah we’re definitely a bit too spoiled! Every time I travel somewhere else for surfing I often find myself complaining about the conditions, the tide, blablabla…

Where as in Tahiti you can find fun waves to ride any day of the year. It rarely goes flat and luckily, we don’t have to deal with tides, they only slightly influence the waves. The options are pretty much endless over here if you know where to look!

You’re only 23-years-old. At what age did you lose the fear of pushing yourself down the face of bombs at waves like Sapinus and Teahupo’o? 

My love for big waves started pretty early on, I started bodyboarding when I was 16 and by my 17th birthday I was out at Sapinus trying my best to bottom turn on 8-10 foot waves haha.

...by my 17th birthday I was out at Sapinus trying my best to bottom turn on 8-10 foot waves…
— Manea Fabisch

But I’d say I really started to push myself hard in big waves in 2015 and to this day the best barrel vision I had in my life was on the 22nd of July of that year!

When did you first pick up a bodyboard, were you inspired by anyone in particular? Or did it just come naturally living in a place where wave-riding is so prominent?

When I first started bodyboarding, I was lucky enough to meet my good friend John Duval, he’s well known for charging humongous barrels over here in Tahiti and he’s also an amazing person.

He definitely got me stoked on the sport and pushed me to surpass myself in big waves! I still recall the first time he took me out to Sapinus when it was big, the swell was pretty west and he told me ‘don’t worry I’ll tell you which one to go’. We got to the peak and after 30 minutes he called me on a pretty solid set which he knew was way too west and would close out on me. I went and got absolutely flogged. When I got back to the peak he was laughing and told me ‘you see, wiping out is not that bad uh?’ haha. It definitely relieved me of all the stress I had and from then on I didn’t think twice and just went!

Do you have any desire to compete? Would you like to see the World Tour return to Tahiti?

I’ve competed a bit in the past but as of right now I feel more like free surfing, especially with the injuries I got during this past year; I don’t feel like surfing at my full capacity.
But competitions are definitely good things to push yourself and the venue is great because the best bodyboarders in the world come to Teahupo’o and push the sport even further.
It’s also a great opportunity for the local riders to shine and to see where the international level of riding is at.

What is it like having so many tourists visiting your island?

It’s great to meet new people, to practice other languages and share different visions on life! Tourism also attracts a lot of media and puts us on the map!

Is it frustrating or are you happy to shake hands and welcome them? Has there been a shift in attitude towards visitors as the surf spots get more and more crowded?

It’s always a pleasure to meet and share waves with foreigners as long as they are respectful! There is always a great vibe at most of the spots even in Teahupo’o when there’s 30+ people out there. I don’t think there is a lot of line ups in the world where you get to experience this kind of stoke and respect. 

It’s always a pleasure to meet and share waves with foreigners as long as they are respectful!
— Manea Fabisch

But yeah localism is starting to develop at certain spots where some foreigners have been disrespectful to locals. It’s a bit sad but I think it’s required if we want to keep certain waves away from the international scene so that the upcoming generation can still surf in peace… 

I know you’re from Sapinus, A sick spot with a cool crew of locals. Was interested in your opinion on the David Wassel Incident? (He made a movie about a session where he towed at Sapinus and got faded by a booger. In the post-surf interview he is wielding a knife as he speaks about it).

That story is probably the perfect example of what we don’t want to see happen at Sapinus again. I wasn’t surfing the day the incident took place but from what I heard Dave Wassel came to the spot with a conqueror mind set. To start off, him and his tow team started to tow on every set rolling into the spot, leaving only the crumbs to the locals.
After a while John Duval had had enough of their circus and decided to take his turn by force, by dropping on Dave.
They both wiped out and John lost his board and fins in the process. Dave’s jet ski driver came up to John and asked him if he was the one who dropped on his wave; when he said yes, the driver drove off and left him in the strong currents; which was a pretty life threatening situation considering the conditions this day had…

The waves can get pretty sketchy over there, have you had to deal with many injuries?

In July 2017 I dislocated my right knee in Puerto Escondido and ruptured my ACL. I couldn’t walk for a month and It took me 6 months to be able to ride properly again… 

Manea Fabisch. Shot by Shane Grace.

Manea Fabisch. Shot by Shane Grace.

And this year in June on one of the first medium swells of the season I got too deep on a wave and my left knee went straight into the reef, I got a couple stitches on my knee and my ligaments got torn but apparently this time there was no rupture.

I was out of the water until September, which resulted in me missing the two biggest swells we had this year.

 We’ve heard your also quite a talented photographer, how did you get into that?

I got into photography last year after tearing my ACL!

It was a good way to get back in the water to feel the energy of the ocean and it ended up becoming one of my passions!

Tahiti is such a picturesque location; do you have any favourite places to shoot?

Mmmmh that’s a hard one it would be hard to pick just one spot, but I would say Sapinus if I’m shooting empties and Teahupo’o if I’m shooting a surfer/bodyboarder.

Sapinus because it can produce such a wide array of waves, and the sun is generally in a good position. There is a lot of shots I’ve envisioned over there but the conditions haven’t aligned just yet!

Teahupo’o because of the amazing scene and because of the position of the reef you can get some pretty crazy angles with the fish eye . Ben Thouard has some of the craziest shot I’ve witnessed over there!

Do you see Photography as a plan B? Or is it just a passion/hobby for you?

Since the beginning of this year it has actually transformed into my main income! 

I’ve started working filming for a Surf TV show that broadcasts on the national TV channel and I’ve also done a couple jobs with Tim Mckenna.

It’s been a great adventure and it feels amazing to make a living while being in the water all the time.

Who are your idols when it comes to photography and booging?

I look up to a lot of bodyboarders like Lewy Finnegan, Ryan Hardy, Ben Player, Amaury Lavernhe and Nick Gornall.

But for me the one who really sets himself apart is Pierre Louis Costes. When I saw his surfing in real life it really left me wordless. His style and the technicality of his manoeuvres is just next level! 

As for photographers; my main inspirations would have to be Ben Thouard, Tim Mckenna, Russel Ord and Ray Collins

Finishing up on an exciting point, what are your goals for the future? Can we expect to see you riding 30ft Teahupo’o bombs this year? 

I definitely want to push myself in bigger waves and keep on improving my technical riding! 

Me and Niko Richard have recently invested in a Jet ski and we’re going to start training on our tow in technique for next year with the Plug bodyboard team! 
If we get a swell where waves can’t be paddled anymore it would definitely be a dream come true to get inside some gigantic caves of water!

Thanks for the chat Manea! Sounds like some big things are coming for yourself and bodyboarding in Tahiti!

Manea Fabisch. Shot by Shane Grace.

Manea Fabisch. Shot by Shane Grace.