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AP PHOTOS: In Teahupo鈥檕, Tahiti, coastal village life thrives among powerful waves

Naiki Vaast spearfishes along the coral reef in Vairao, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Naiki Vaast spearfishes along the coral reef in Vairao, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

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TEAHUPO鈥橭, French Polynesia (AP) 鈥 In Teahupo鈥檕, the ocean is the heart of village life.

Boats bob in the lagoon in the south of Tahiti at sunrise before fishers start their day. Many set out early with poles or spears to catch fish gliding among the corals 鈥 fresh food for them, their families and their community.

Tahitian-born surfer Kauli Vaast rides a wave in Teahupo'o, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Tahitian-born surfer Kauli Vaast rides a wave in Teahupo鈥檕, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

By the afternoon, a freshly caught fat tuna arrives onshore. The coast, too, is livelier now: kids surf and play in the turquoise ocean, families rest on the beach where the sea and river meet, and the sole snack bar is open for a fish lunch.

But it鈥檚 Teahupo鈥檕鈥檚 awesome wave that catches many people鈥檚 attention. The impressively high walls of water 鈥 formed as the ocean rushes across a large and very shallow coral reef 鈥 crash into perfect cylinders for surfers to glide through.

A child touches a freshly caught albacore tuna in Vairao, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

A child touches a freshly caught albacore tuna in Vairao, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

A woman shelters from the sun as she watches surfers catching waves in Vairao, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

A woman shelters from the sun as she watches surfers catching waves in Vairao, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Surfers may arrive in Teahupo鈥檕 from around the world for its mighty waves, but unlike many other destinations globally that have become hotspots for surfers or other athletes looking for nature鈥檚 perfect conditions, village life for locals remains largely unspoiled.

There is only one road that leads up to Teahupo鈥檕鈥檚 beaches, and its black sand shores are surrounded by lush green volcanic mountains. Tuna is sold by the roadside, while people play music nearby. Locals sit in the shallow waters for a drink after work with friends. Surfers pass by, boards under their arms, still glistening from the water.

A resident sits by a sculpture of the Teahupo'o wave at the end of the road, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

A resident sits by a sculpture of the Teahupo鈥檕 wave at the end of the road, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Fisher Gerard Aurentz prepares to go out in Vairao, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Fisher Gerard Aurentz prepares to go out in Vairao, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

It鈥檚 the life that many Tahiti locals cherish and want to protect, even as hundreds descend onto the town that will become host to the 2024 Olympics surfing competition, threatening the ways of a local population of around 1,500 people.

For Teahupo鈥檕鈥檚 locals, their wave, its fame, and their way of life have always coexisted. Their hope is that it will continue long after the crowds and the hubbub of the Games disappears.

Friends have a drink together after work in Taiarapu-Ouest, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Friday, Jan. 12, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Friends have a drink together after work in Taiarapu-Ouest, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Friday, Jan. 12, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

An advertisement featuring the wave at Teahupo'o covers the wall at the only snack bar in the village of Teahupo'o, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

An advertisement featuring the wave at Teahupo鈥檕 covers the wall at the only snack bar in the village of Teahupo鈥檕, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

A dog sits atop a coral in the lagoon in Teahupo'o, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

A dog sits atop a coral in the lagoon in Teahupo鈥檕, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Tunas for sale hang on the side of the road in Teahupo'o, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Tunas for sale hang on the side of the road in Teahupo鈥檕, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Surfers wait to catch the perfect wave in Teahupo'o, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Surfers wait to catch the perfect wave in Teahupo鈥檕, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Surfers gather in the water as a wave breaks over the coral reef in Teahupo'o, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Surfers gather in the water as a wave breaks over the coral reef in Teahupo鈥檕, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Surfers paddle over the top of a wave in Teahupo'o, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Surfers paddle over the top of a wave in Teahupo鈥檕, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

A surfer is silhouetted in Teahupo'o, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

A surfer is silhouetted in Teahupo鈥檕, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Naiki Vaast spearfishes underneath the surf break at the coral reef in Vairao, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Naiki Vaast spearfishes underneath the surf break at the coral reef in Vairao, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Locals hang out at a bus stop at the end of the road in Teahupo'o, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Locals hang out at a bus stop at the end of the road in Teahupo鈥檕, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

A man walks along a beach during a rainstorm in Teahupo'o, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

A man walks along a beach during a rainstorm in Teahupo鈥檕, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Fisher Gerard Aurentz wraps bait around a rock hoping to catch tuna in Vairao, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Fisher Gerard Aurentz wraps bait around a rock hoping to catch tuna in Vairao, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

An etching into a broken surfboard reads "private property" in Teahupo'o, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

An etching into a broken surfboard reads 鈥減rivate property鈥 in Teahupo鈥檕, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

A group plays music together by the side of the road in Teahupo'o, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

A group plays music together by the side of the road in Teahupo鈥檕, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

A child plays pool at a snack bar in Teahupo'o, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

A child plays pool at a snack bar in Teahupo鈥檕, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

A couple sells bags of freshly caught tuna by the side of the road in Teahupo'o, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

A couple sells bags of freshly caught tuna by the side of the road in Teahupo鈥檕, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

A telephone booth sits at the end of the road in Teahupo'o, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

A telephone booth sits at the end of the road in Teahupo鈥檕, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

A surfer walks along the beach in Teahupo'o, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

A surfer walks along the beach in Teahupo鈥檕, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

A man burns fallen leaves on a beach in Teahupo'o, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Friday, Jan. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

A man burns fallen leaves on a beach in Teahupo鈥檕, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Friday, Jan. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

A boat sits in the lagoon at sunrise in Teahupo'o, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

A boat sits in the lagoon at sunrise in Teahupo鈥檕, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

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