Teahupo'o Surfers


On May 13th, 2013 when the glassy swells at a well-known surf break were fore­cast­ed to reach 20+ feet, a mas­sive crowd of die-hard surfers arrived on the south-west coast of the small French Poly­ne­sian island of Tahi­ti. They came for one thing, and one thing only – Teahupo’o.

This unique wave forms over a reef that lurks just 20 inch­es below the sur­face. The result­ing deep-water swells hit the reef and launch into ver­ti­cal walls with enor­mous hol­low tubes. There are big­ger waves in the world. Some may claim there are stronger ones, but Teahupo’o waves are often as thick at the lip as the waves are tall, and the result is the heav­i­est waves in the world.

You’ve seen the footage. Teahupo’o is fea­tured in the surf doc­u­men­tary Rid­ing Giants when Laird Hamil­ton gets towed into what they dub as “The Heav­i­est Wave Ever Rid­den.” In 2008, Ian Walsh caught the largest wave of the sea­son and the footage was fea­tured in the Red Bull cam­paign for the rest of the year.

This video fea­tures dozens of rid­ers, but one rid­er quite obvi­ous­ly stands apart from the crowd. Watch Raimana Van Bas­to­laer’s preter­nat­ur­al poise in a cat-like crouch upon the board as he careens across the face of the wave. Once, when he’s caught deep on the inside, the mas­sive lip cat­a­pults above him with the force of a semi-truck and clos­es out with spray that punch­es out of the tube with a force that near­ly knocks him from his board.

The result­ing car­nage and new­ly mint­ed leg­ends are what a big day at Teahupo’o are all about. Just watch it. Your heart will pound like you just shot-gunned a Red Bull.