If you were asked to inventory the seven wonders of the surfing world, and you didn’t include Teahupo’o in your final tally, your list would be worthless. The surf world’s most recognizable wave is as beautiful as it is scary, with its horseshoe shape, infinite thickness, unpredictability, and the ominous boils of its razor-sharp live reef just feet below the surface. Teahupo’o inspires fear, even on the printed page.
While we normally shy away from spending our limited budget on sending armies of journalists to cover surf contests, Teahupo’o is always irresistible. The wave and the courage required to triumph on it cause the WCT-sanctioned Billabong Pro to rise like a beacon above every entry on the laughably overcrowded ASP event calendar. So we put our money on Teahupo’o and rolled the dice.
Admittedly, it’s not a tough bet to place. In years past we’ve seen hundreds, if not thousands of pages with awe-inspiring views of this incredible wave in the various surf magazines of the world. Like mathematics and great art, the voluptuous curve of Teahupo’o’s profile transcends national boundaries and language barriers-nature’s less-fluffy side has the tendency to do that.
As usual, the monster didn’t disappoint. The legendary wave dragged competitors and photographers over its reef, and capsized boats anchored in the channel. It boiled, spat, rumbled, and exploded. If that wasn’t spectacle enough, when all was said and done, surfing was a step closer to its competitive future, with a reinvented Andy Irons left holding an oversized check and looking like a safe bet for World Champ only three WCT events into the year.
Explanations and imagery aside, probably the most succinct and correct summation of Tahiti’s contribution to any legitimate list of surfing’s wonders can be found in this single line from Justin Cote’s story about the 2002 Billabong Pro (“Confronting A Pacific Monster” beginning on page 76): “I saw Pat O’Connell, and he looked whiter than ever as he stammered, ‘It’s so f-kin’ scary out there.'”Welcome to Teahupo’o.-Joel