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.