Tales From The End Of The Road

Three Weeks Of Rain, Reef, Raimana, And Ripping

By Justin Cote

Every May, the WCT rolls into the sleepy village of Teahupo’o, on the South Pacific island of Tahiti, in the form of the Billabong Pro Tahiti and the accompanying trials event. With the contest come barrel riding specialists, world champs, photographers, journalists, television crews, and spectators from the world over. This year, in chronological order, the waves were huge and perfect for the trials, there were two days of epic tow-ins, and then the rain came, testing everyone’s patience-and wallets. Finally, the sun broke through, the contest began, and Kelly Slater started dropping tens like they were going out of style. This is what I saw happen … -Justin Cotà‡

C.J. Paddles Into A Bomb-And History

“It actually let me in pretty easy, and I probably could’ve taken off a couple feet deeper.”

Pretty easy?

Taken off deeper?

Who are you trying to fool, C.J.?

The funny thing is, he was dead serious. Meanwhile, everyone in the one-lane village of Teahupo’o was comparing it to other legendary paddle-ins at Chopes, like Cory’s wave in 1999 and Andy’s wave in 2002, and trying to figure out which was bigger. The result of this Hinano-fueled debate? They were all solid ten-footers, which, according to Shane Dorian, is the biggest you can paddle into out there. Either way, in the age of PWCs and towing in at eight feet, it’s gonna be a long time before anyone sacks up and paddles in to a monster like C.J. did.

For an inside look at surfing’s greatest spectacle of a wave, go to page xxx.

Eight Days Of Rain

Due to a southerly wind Tahitians call maramu’u for over a week in early May, the village of Teahupo’o was one big puddle. The maramu’u winds, which can blow for nearly a month, trap moisture on Tahiti Iti-the southern end of Tahiti where Teahupo’o is located. To make matters worse, during this window there was absolutely no swell. Frustrated and bored, competitors played cards, gambled, ate, and actually read books. Nervous event organizers battled flooded equipment, computer problems, and less-than-appealing swell forecasts. In the end, however, the sun broke out, the swell kicked in more than expected, and everybody remembered why Tahiti is one of the greenest places on Earth-all that freakin’ rain.

Up Close And Personal

The craziest thing about sitting in the channel at Teahupo’o is how close you can get to the action. Scared to death of the wave? No problem, there’s a “V” in the reef that makes it too deep for a wave to break mere feet away from where Teahupo’o enthusiasts kick out. Just plant yourself in the channel, and every couple minutes glance down to make sure you’re still in deep water. The only danger is getting run over by somebody as they come flying out of the barrel and into the peanut gallery. You’re so close that when Andy paddles by, you can tell him you’re “just taking a break.” Also, make sure to bring a mini squeegee to wipe your shades off after getting spat on.

Keeping An Eye On “The Stable”

Kai “Borg” Garcia, who was working with the Tahitian Water Patrol, refers to his little (everyone is little to Kai) homies like the Irons bros, Dustin Barca, Reef McIntosh, and Kamalei Alexander as his “stable.” Here, he keeps a watchful, older-brother-type eye on one of his most prized ponies-Bruce Irons. Kai, who was usually partnered up with Brock Little, also rescued non-Kaua’ians, too, using his bear-like hands to swoop surfers up and onto the rescue sled attached to his ski. With fifteen-foot bombs coming through and watercraft of every type clogging the channel, Kai, along with the rest of the Tahitian Water Patrol, really had their hands full on May 2 and 3, 2005-the two biggest days of the year to date. Thanks to the entire Water Patrol crew for keeping everyone safe.

Lightning Strikes Twice

For the second straight year, a finalist in the Billabong Pro was unable to finish the last heat the event due to a shoulder injury. Last year it was Nathan Hedge; this year, the unfortunate surfer was Damien Hobgood.

“I knew I was pretty deep, then the thing spit and shot me forward at a really high speed-which made me think I had a chance to make it out,” recalls Damo. “I thought that if I came out of it, I’d get a ten and be back in the heat. But the spit was all around me, which made it hard to see. I felt the lip graze my head and then land right on my shoulder. I knew when I was underwater that my arm was out.”

Don’t call Teahupo’o a sexist, either. Days after becoming the first woman to tow-in at the deadly reef pass, Keala Kennelly smacked her head on the bottom while surfing a smaller day and had to go with the jungle standard of wound-closure-duct tape.

The Faces Of “Chopes”

Mick Lowe gives the one-finger salute.

Cory Lopez and Andy Irons prepare for the final day of competition, all the while heckling the shit out of each other.

Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew without a hair out of place, even after two long weeks in the jungle.

Taj Burrow and girlfriend Claire celebrate Taj’s second straight year with a solid result.

Raimana Van Bastolaer and Reef McIntosh on the top deck of Raimana World with the wave that made them famous in the background.

Tough guys Kai Garcia, Brian Bielmann, and Brock Little-who’s looking out of place here? (Hint: There’re two Bs in his name.)

The fish lady arranges the daily catch.

These dudes rolled in from neighboring Moorea and cooked up a whole lamb on their homemade rotating spit. Tamayo said it tasted like human, but I thought it was delicious. Bon appà‡tit!Tamayo Perry and his wife Emilia. The T-shirt is Tamayo and Ikaika Kalama’s answer to Tahiti’s tragic-and growing-drug epidemic.

Beer Thirty

When Kelly Slater lost his prized towboard a year ago in Fiji, Captain Dave (handing Kelly a brew), from the 50-foot catamaran Bossanova, recovered it several miles away from where it went missing. After he got in touch with Kelly and reported to him that he had his board, the six-time world champ bought dinner and drinks for the captain. Their paths crossed again this year, but this time it was Captain Dave providing the much-deserved cold one. After getting the beer from the captain and alone in the final due to Damien Hobgood’s injury, Kelly put the tab in his mouth, paddled back out into the lineup, and headed straight into a heaving six-footer. Standing tall in the barrel, he took a victorious pull and emerged in the channel to an eruption of cheers.

Before all you anti-alcohol people start freaking out, settle down-it’s just a man having a beer after work. Also keep in mind that it was Slater’s first WCT victory in over a year, and he won the final with two perfect tens-something never before accomplished.

Andy Stands Tall

Forget about trying to downplay the rivalry between Kelly and Andy-it’s going way too strong. While viewing video footage of the swell that he missed and Andy scored, Kelly was reported to be wincing as he watched his rival score giant pits like the one pictured here. And during an early round heat, AI pulled into a deep tube that scored him a ten and looked right at Kelly, who was sitting in a boat in the channel, with a “beat that!” type of look. To boot, the boat Kelly was in almost got caught inside by the same west-swinging wave, narrowly avoiding disaster. However, when Reef McIntosh and I came in from the pass with several minutes left in the final and informed Andy of Damien’s injury and subsequent withdrawal, the three-time world champ was, to say the least, not very stoked as Kelly went on to win the 2005 Billabong Pro.

Havae Passe Madness

There’s no better place in the world to watch a surf contest than from the pristine waters of Havae Passe-commonly referred to as Teahupo’o, Kumbaya, or simply “the spot.” During the Billabong Pro, every type of floating object imaginable is present in the channel, and people from around the world lazily float about as the Top 45 duke it out mere meters away. From the channel, you can sip a cold beer and scream for your favorite pro as he or she paddles by you on the way back out to the lineup. If that’s not enough, Miss Tahiti contestants frequent the pass, too.

Why Not To Wear A Leash While Towing In

When I caught up with Shane Dorian on the bridge at the end of the road, he had a gnarly scratch that ran from one ear to the other, like someone had tried to strangle him with piano wire. He explained that he had been paddling in on an “eight- to ten-foot day” (read: f-king huge!) on normal boards until a couple skis popped up. Wearing a leash and on his 7’0″ John Carper, Shane was whipped him into a beast by Brock Little. Shane made the mistake of letting go of the towrope a bit too early and paid dearly. “It didn’t smash me on the reef, but I was held under for almost two waves,” he explained. “When I came up, I got mostly water instead of air. But luckily the next one threw me up, and I got a breath.” As for the leash around the neck? “It’s healing up pretty good. I think it’ll be gone before I see my wife.”

For more on Shane’s story, go to transworldsurf.com.

Surfing’s Version Of The Shot Heard Round The World

It was an opening spread in Sports Illustrated (with the wrong photo credit), and it was played and replayed over and over on CNN. My grandma caught wind of it from landlocked Riverside, and even folks in Russia saw it. Yep, everyone and their grandma saw Reef McIntosh lose a personal watercraft and nearly decapitate his friend, Raimana Van Bastolaer, on a ten-footer at Chopes.But what exactly happened?

“That day was like ten to fifteen feet-not gigantic, but big enough,” explains Reef. “When we got out there, Brock and Shane were already towing, and Raimana said, ‘Put the rope on!’ I put the rope on, and he says, ‘Okay, let’s go!’ I’m like, ‘What do you mean? I don’t even know how to drive!’ So he goes, ‘Don’t even think about it, let’s just go!’ I said, ‘Okay’ and whipped him into five or six good ones, and then that happened …

“There was a chop on top of the wave that kinda turned into the wave. Kai (Garcia) said I should’ve turned and gassed it, but I thought that if I turned, the back would have popped out because the wave was so square,” adds Reef.Afterward, Reef sat on Raimana’s boat silently for six hours, staring off to sea. “I don’t know, maybe it helped tow-in surfing. I just hope it helps the sport grow.”

Even if the incident doesn’t stir up interest in tow-surfing, the Tahitian salvage business was booming that day.

For a complete interview with Reef and Raimana, go to transworldsurf.com.

A Real Pain In The Neck

The thing about Chopes is, when you eat it out there, the wave completely beats the crap out of you. It doesn’t matter if it’s two feet or fifteen, when that lip hits you, it feels like you’ve been sucker punched by a ‘roided-up Mike Tyson.

As for the life jacket that Malik Joyeux is sporting here, it’s a great way to prevent drowning, but it also keeps you from penetrating through the surface, so you can bet this is going to be a prolonged ass kicking dished out by Malik’s favorite wave.

Uncle Mike Goes Big

Where are you going to be surfing when you’re coming up on the big five-0? Old Man’s? Geezer Bay? Depends Day Park?

If your name’s Michael Ho and you’ve won the Pipe Masters with a broken wrist, the answer would be the Hinano/Von Zipper Trials at Teahupo’o. Fellow Hawai’ian Danny Fuller was witness to “Uncle Mike” charging through the trials: “In my first heat, the waves were like six to eight feet and maybe even a little bigger. Mike was in my heat just calling the shots. I’m like fifteen feet deeper, and he’s calling me off a wave. I’m like, ‘What am I gonna do? Give him a triangle?’ Then, after the horn rang ending the heat, he says to me, ‘What, Fuller? Is it okay to take off after the heat?’ Then this bomb comes in that m around the world lazily float about as the Top 45 duke it out mere meters away. From the channel, you can sip a cold beer and scream for your favorite pro as he or she paddles by you on the way back out to the lineup. If that’s not enough, Miss Tahiti contestants frequent the pass, too.

Why Not To Wear A Leash While Towing In

When I caught up with Shane Dorian on the bridge at the end of the road, he had a gnarly scratch that ran from one ear to the other, like someone had tried to strangle him with piano wire. He explained that he had been paddling in on an “eight- to ten-foot day” (read: f-king huge!) on normal boards until a couple skis popped up. Wearing a leash and on his 7’0″ John Carper, Shane was whipped him into a beast by Brock Little. Shane made the mistake of letting go of the towrope a bit too early and paid dearly. “It didn’t smash me on the reef, but I was held under for almost two waves,” he explained. “When I came up, I got mostly water instead of air. But luckily the next one threw me up, and I got a breath.” As for the leash around the neck? “It’s healing up pretty good. I think it’ll be gone before I see my wife.”

For more on Shane’s story, go to transworldsurf.com.

Surfing’s Version Of The Shot Heard Round The World

It was an opening spread in Sports Illustrated (with the wrong photo credit), and it was played and replayed over and over on CNN. My grandma caught wind of it from landlocked Riverside, and even folks in Russia saw it. Yep, everyone and their grandma saw Reef McIntosh lose a personal watercraft and nearly decapitate his friend, Raimana Van Bastolaer, on a ten-footer at Chopes.But what exactly happened?

“That day was like ten to fifteen feet-not gigantic, but big enough,” explains Reef. “When we got out there, Brock and Shane were already towing, and Raimana said, ‘Put the rope on!’ I put the rope on, and he says, ‘Okay, let’s go!’ I’m like, ‘What do you mean? I don’t even know how to drive!’ So he goes, ‘Don’t even think about it, let’s just go!’ I said, ‘Okay’ and whipped him into five or six good ones, and then that happened …

“There was a chop on top of the wave that kinda turned into the wave. Kai (Garcia) said I should’ve turned and gassed it, but I thought that if I turned, the back would have popped out because the wave was so square,” adds Reef.Afterward, Reef sat on Raimana’s boat silently for six hours, staring off to sea. “I don’t know, maybe it helped tow-in surfing. I just hope it helps the sport grow.”

Even if the incident doesn’t stir up interest in tow-surfing, the Tahitian salvage business was booming that day.

For a complete interview with Reef and Raimana, go to transworldsurf.com.

A Real Pain In The Neck

The thing about Chopes is, when you eat it out there, the wave completely beats the crap out of you. It doesn’t matter if it’s two feet or fifteen, when that lip hits you, it feels like you’ve been sucker punched by a ‘roided-up Mike Tyson.

As for the life jacket that Malik Joyeux is sporting here, it’s a great way to prevent drowning, but it also keeps you from penetrating through the surface, so you can bet this is going to be a prolonged ass kicking dished out by Malik’s favorite wave.

Uncle Mike Goes Big

Where are you going to be surfing when you’re coming up on the big five-0? Old Man’s? Geezer Bay? Depends Day Park?

If your name’s Michael Ho and you’ve won the Pipe Masters with a broken wrist, the answer would be the Hinano/Von Zipper Trials at Teahupo’o. Fellow Hawai’ian Danny Fuller was witness to “Uncle Mike” charging through the trials: “In my first heat, the waves were like six to eight feet and maybe even a little bigger. Mike was in my heat just calling the shots. I’m like fifteen feet deeper, and he’s calling me off a wave. I’m like, ‘What am I gonna do? Give him a triangle?’ Then, after the horn rang ending the heat, he says to me, ‘What, Fuller? Is it okay to take off after the heat?’ Then this bomb comes in that nobody wants, and he just goes. He ate it but made it to the bottom. It was like Grandpa showing up and just showing us how it’s done!”hat nobody wants, and he just goes. He ate it but made it to the bottom. It was like Grandpa showing up and just showing us how it’s done!”