To know Raimana Van Bastolaer is to love him. Seconds after meeting him, you find yourself hanging on his every word hoping for a closer peek at what lies behind that famous Raimana smile. His energy is infectious and those that are lucky enough to surf with him know the feeling all too well.
Often referred to as the waterman’s waterman, “Tahitian royalty” and “Teahupoo’s godfather,” Raimana lives and breathes surf and its surrounding culture. He’s ridden some of the most monstrous barrels ever documented, and he’s towed some of the world’s best surfers into equally jaw-dropping waves. While taking pride in his personal surf career, the bigger-than-life waterman also invites surfers of all experience levels into his very own Raimana World, where he shows guests some of the best surf spots in Teahupoo or guides them on their first rides at our notorious Surf Ranch.
To celebrate the surf legend, Outerknown collaborated with Raimana to bring you a limited-edition collection of sustainably made Apex trunks, tees and trucker hats, designed to spread the love and keep the good vibes going. We also had a chance to talk more with Raimana about the collection and his world-famous waterman legacy.
You’ve been affiliated with some great brands and moments in time. What is it about Outerknown that keeps you fired up?
I’ve been watching what’s been going on around the world and the people taking all the fishing nets and plastic [from the ocean] and putting it into products, for us it’s boardshorts, and it’s protecting our planet, protecting our environment. It costs a lot to do this, but we are protecting the world and the ocean, making sure there is less plastic in the ocean.
What sets our trunks apart from others you’ve worked with?
What’s different from all those other brands I worked with before is the stretch. The Apex boardshorts we have, it’s a night and day boardshort. I’ve been doing my own boardshorts with other brands and this one is just super light and stretchy. I’ve never had that at Quicksilver or Billabong before.
In addition to being known as one of Outerknown’s good-vibe ambassadors, you’re also known as “Tahitian Royalty” and “Teahupoo’s Godfather.” What experiences do you feel have earned you these titles?
People have been giving me all those titles, but I consider myself like everyone else. I want to be treated the same as other people. I’m not higher than anyone, I’m not higher than a woman, than the president of Tahiti, I’m like everyone. But the most important thing is giving back to the community I love.
Your Instagram, @RaimanaWorld, seems to be nothing but sheer stoke–you surfing, you coaching others surfing. What does “Raimana World” mean to you?
My main thing is connecting people–my world to the foreigners or the locals and opening new doors for people. That’s what Raimana World is. Not only opening new doors for myself but for local Tahitians too.
If people are interested, how can they hire you to take them surfing and exploring?
A longtime ago, it was originally through other surfers by word of mouth and then from Teahupoo. Then it came from camera people and media and bigger companies, but the most recent way people have been getting connected with me is through the Surf Ranch. It opened new doors for me and the people who come to Surf Ranch. The people who first come to Surf Ranch, there’s no way they’re going to Teahupoo. They don’t want anything to do with the Teahupoo wave. Being at Surf Ranch opened new doors and got me connected with some gnarly people. Then those people trust me and come with me to Teahupoo and then I show them a good and safe time too.
It’s like a drug, you want more. Surf Ranch is like a drug. Teahupoo is like ok I did it, I’m safe, I’m alive, I’m out of here. But Surf Ranch, you always want more...
What do you find is special about the Surf Ranch compared to the beauty of Teahupoo?
Teahupoo gets really really big and hollow. People are screaming and yelling, the whole vibe, the boats are there, everyone’s cheering for you, you can hear them on the wave. In the lineup people are yelling, “Go! Go!” At Surf Ranch, you are still among friends but because you’re paying you don’t want to miss the wave so you’re already stressing a bit. Also, with a button, we can just create an easy wave, our WSL wave. We can control the environment at Surf Ranch. We can’t control this at Teahupoo. Surf Ranch is so fun. When you’re on the beach you get out of the water, you pack up your stuff, and leave the beach. At Surf Ranch, when it’s the last wave, you get out of the water, you are on the ramp looking behind you, and you are wishing you could go back again. It’s like a drug, you want more. Surf Ranch is like a drug. Teahupoo is like ok I did it, I’m safe, I’m alive, I’m out of here. But Surf Ranch, you always want more, even though you’re a beginner you still want more. And if you’re really good, you want to surf even more.
Does Coach Raimana enjoy these experiences as much as others do?
I really do. I love to coach and help others get better on the wave and help them to learn. People can get frustrated when they pay to surf these waves and they couldn’t pop up or catch the wave or they don’t know how to turn the board. My job is to make sure they get on that wave, pop up and get a line.
Giving this surf opportunity to someone who has never done it before and you see the look on their face, they almost cry. They’ve been waiting for this. Some of them are 60 and they are finally able to surf.
Some have been surfing for years and have never gotten barreled and at Surf Ranch they’re finally able to get barreled. I know some of the famous skaters or movie producers, they love surfing and I made them get barreled by tweaking their position on the board, and they never forget that experience. Now a lot of the Surf Ranch guests will only rent days if I’m there, they say the vibe is not the same. It’s a whole experience when I’m there. And what is good for me is good for Outerknown.
Speaking of life-changing surf moments, we all remember the time Reef McIntosh’s jet ski nearly missed your head while you were surfing in Tahiti a few years ago. Have you experienced anything as crazy in the water recently?
It was probably about three days ago. It was about six to eight stories of white water coming at me after I made my wave. I made the wave, I kicked out, I’m in the wave and then I was like, “Oh I’m going too fast, I need to jump.” So, I jumped, and I was tumbling but I was staying on the surface of the water. And then I blocked myself and I was like, “OK, I got to go back up.” So, I started to swim and knew I was getting sucked back. I tried to swim again and got sucked back again. I turn and look and see the wave coming, and I just left, ate shit, and came up and saw that eight-story wave. I was so small in about three to four feet of water. The other time was when I hurt myself in 2014, I hit my coccyx and to this day I’m still sore.
Wow, that’s intense! I’m sure you’ll never forget moments like that. I’d love to switch gears and hear more about your collection with Outerknown. Where did the inspiration come from?
For this collection, I wanted to keep the tattoo because it’s really important for us in Tahiti. Tattoos are a part of the Tahitian culture, but I never wanted a tattoo on me, except a small one on my back. For some people who want to get a tattoo without ink on them, they can wear my stuff and have a tattoo on their thigh or on their arms without inking themselves! I drew the tattoo and wanted it simple. I didn’t want it too complex.
Where did the inspiration for your Outerknown collection come from?
For this collection I wanted to keep the tattoo because it’s really important for us in Tahiti. Tattoos are a part of the Tahitian culture, but I never wanted a tattoo on me, except a small one on my back. For some people who want to get a tattoo without ink on them, they can wear my stuff and have a tattoo on their thigh or on their arms and hands without inking themselves!
I drew the tattoo and wanted it simple. I didn’t want it too complex.
“I want make sure they wear it with style, and I want them to be proud to be wearing my boardshort. Most important for me, the longer they can have the boardshort the better.”
We describe finding your Outerknown as exploring beyond the furthest reaches to continue discovering what lights your fire. When you’re not chasing waves or coaching others, how do you find your Outerknown?
I’m proud to have created my own boardshort with Outerknown ,and I want to sell more than Kelly’s boardshorts!
Do you have any sustainability practices you are passionate about?
We try to do our best sorting and recycling rubbish–plastic, cans, etc. We are conscious about plastic ending up in the water and try to not use as much plastic. It’s a way of life. I try to participate the best I can.