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French Olympic surfer Fierro rides the waves to victory in Tahiti

French surfer Vahine Fierro taking on Teahupo'o's majestic waves on Wednesday (JEROME BROUILLET)
French surfer Vahine Fierro taking on Teahupo'o's majestic waves on Wednesday (JEROME BROUILLET)

Vahine Fierro became the first French surfer to win the women's Tahiti Pro on the waves of Teahupo'o on Wednesday, two months before the Olympics surfing events are held at the French Pacific island.

Fierro, 24, was born on the neighbouring island of Huahine and with this success marked herself down as one of the favourites for Olympic gold.

"It's crazy. There was so much power in the waves, I'm speechless," she said after using her local knowledge to help beat Costa Rica's Brisa Hennessy in the final.

Nearly 16,000 kilometres (9,950 miles) from the French capital, the French Pacific island of Tahiti was chosen to host the surfing events.

This week's event is officially a World Surf League event but it is really a chance to whet the appetite at one of the world's top surfing venues.

Teahupo'o is a small village in the southwest of the Tahiti peninsula, with a backdrop of misty mountains, where every year a few hundred residents welcome the elite surfers and their teams in their wooden bungalows.

Surfers from all over the world were won over by Teahupo'o in the early 2000s after the publication of a photo of American surfer Laird Hamilton spinning on his board inside what appeared to be a watery translucent tube.

The Paris Olympics organisers were won over by the picture-postcard landscape in 2021 when Teahupo'o was designated an Olympic site, generating both enthusiasm and concern among the local population.

One source of friction was the installation of a new aluminium tower for judges in the lagoon, which is being used for the first time this week.

Environmentalists were furious after a barge used by construction workers damaged coral that forms parts of the sea bed at the site, but the local organisers say the situation has calmed down.

Women were banned from participating at Teahupo'o for 16 years until 2022 for safety reasons because of the razor-sharp coral in some parts of the seabed.

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