How Cheesecake Labs and surf legend, Raimana van Bastolaer, set a wave in motion to modernize water tourism.

When surfing legend Raimana van Bastolaer looked around at the surfing scene in Teahupo’o, Tahiti, he had the sense that something was missing.

Having made a career out of surfing the powerful and gorgeous waves “at the end of the road” and acting as a guide for world-renowned surfers, film crews, and tourists, few people know Teahupo’o’s surf scene like Raimana.

He saw an opportunity to digitize Teahupo’o’s surf transportation — and asked Cheesecake Labs to help.

Uber for fishing boats.

In Teahupo’o, people looking to reach the world-famous waves and surf the best break need to take a boat a mile or two away from shore. Local fishermen already provide transportation, but Raimana wondered if there was a way to make these boats bookable by app.

His goal was two-fold: to make it easy for visitors and surfers to book boats and to formalize the existing “water taxi” system for local fishermen and boat owners.

Phase 1: defining the product.

Cheesecake Labs and Raimana were a perfect partnership of equals. What our product development team lacks in surf knowledge, they more than make up for in product design and software expertise. And while Raimana can’t be beaten on the ‘board, he’s starting from square one when it comes to digital experiences.

Together, we commenced the crucial Phase 1 of app development: understanding the various user personas and their pain points and then defining the best product to suit their needs.

During this phase, our team has to identify the golden thread from a client’s idea and weave it into something bigger. We asked some difficult questions, challenged Raimana to think about his idea from different angles, and brought a touch of realism to the process.

We also considered how this project could scale beyond just Teahupo’o. After all, there are plenty of places worldwide with water tourism markets and it only made sense to create a tech business that could scale into new areas.

Plans for a multi-sided marketplace.

The Cheesecake Labs product team needed to consider the needs of varying groups of users: tourists looking to book boats to be out on the water, surfers looking to be dropped off beyond the break and, later, picked up, and, of course, the boat owners themselves.

This involved creating detailed user journeys and wireframes for each use case. After plotting everything out and ensuring each type of user had access to all the features they needed in the app, the Cheesecake Labs team put a working prototype together to show Raimana.

The tech starts to take shape.

After defining the user journey and the app features Raimana felt were most important, it was time to pass the reins of the project to the Cheesecake Labs tech leads. In Phase 1, product and tech teams work closely together to plan out the best possible app, but once the client decides what features are essential, the tech leads take the lead. They put together a roadmap for the rest of the project, including rough timelines, which technology they’ll use to build the final app, and the estimated budget.

We then sent this plan to Raimana, who was left with a choice...

Catch the wave or head back to shore?

Phase 1 always ends with a pivotal moment for any project: go or no go?

And in this case, now aware of the effort, time, and money it would take to make his idea a reality, Raimana chose to focus on other initiatives.

Even though the project ended after Phase 1, the Cheesecake Labs development team loved working with Raimana and learning more about the unique culture and economy of his home in Tahiti.


The Cheesecake Labs Development team created multiple wireframes and a clickable app prototype to show Raimana how the app would work, look, and feel.

At the end of Phase 1, Raimana decided not to go ahead with the project. But at least now the ideas are all in place — and we’ll catch the next wave with Raimana, instead.