David, Vetea "Poto"
Square-jawed power surfer from Papeete, Tahiti; world-ranked #17 in 1992 and 1993; known for his big-wave cool and his easygoing Polynesian charm.
David was born (1968) and raised in Papeete, and began surfing at age 10. He won nearly every contest he entered in the mid-'80s—including the juniors division of the 1984 French Championships and 1985 European Championships—but was nevertheless a dark horse going into the 1986 World Amateur Surfing Championships, in Newquay, England, where he defeated Kelly Slater and Nicky Wood, among others, for the final juniors victory. He was the first Tahitian sportsman to win a world title of any kind.
David joined the international pro tour, and by 1989—with a runner-up placing in the Pipeline Masters and a #22 year-end ranking—he'd earned praise as one of the world's best young surfers. "Five years ago he was a kook," surf journalist Derek Hynd wrote. "Four years ago, junior world champion. Last year, 'learning.' Now Vetea David is the biggest all-around talent in his age group." The regularfooted David had a unique surfing style: blocky and functional, knees apart, chest puffed out, head tilted upward. There was nothing smooth or subtle about his approach, but it contained finesse of a kind and was loaded with power, as he leveraged his 6'2", 185-pound frame through deeply set turns.
David had his best run on the world tour during the early '90s, placing 19th in 1990, 22nd in 1991, and 17th in 1992 and 1993. He won a non-world tour contest at Pipeline in 1992, beating Derek Ho and Johnny-Boy Gomes in the finals; he finished runner-up to Kelly Slater in the 1994 Pipeline Masters, and competed in the 1995 Quiksilver big-wave event at Waimea.
David retired from the world tour at the end of the 1997 season, but continued to enter contests on occasion: he finished runner-up in the 1999 Reef Big-Wave World Championships, and won the 2000 ISA Big Wave World Championships (held in not-so-big eight-to 10-foot surf on Portugal's Madeira Island). In the mid-'90s he introduced tow surfing in Tahiti, eventually launching into some deadly powerful waves at Teahupoo. He later introduced the island nation to SUP riding.
David appeared in more than 20 surf movies and videos, including Amazing Surf Stories (1986), Sultans of Speed (1987), Sultans II: The Force Strikes Back (1989), and Beyond the Boundaries (1994). David was known throughout his career as "Poto," Tahitian slang for young surfer, similar to "gremmie" or "grommet."