Welcome to Teahupo’o, where the reef doesn’t care who you are, blood flows on a daily basis, and girls wear flowers in their hair signifying whether they are single or taken. Don’t go there with your L.A. power-grip handshake—these are a gentle people who are unimpressed with your measly display of strength. Leave behind your uptight attitude, cell phone, bills, and worries. They will do you no good in the land of fin-scraping tube rides and gentle giants.
On April 29, 2003, Teahupo’o went absolutely berserk. According to Raimana Van Bastolear, who is hands-down the coolest guy ever (How many locals at a spot make sure everybody gets a wave?), that day had the biggest, scariest, gnarliest waves ever surfed or seen at the wave to end all waves. The general consensus was that someone should have died. There were wipeouts that scared the shit out of everyone, yet miraculously the worst injuries were two burst eardrums suffered by Tahiti veterans Jamie Sterling and Mark Healy, while Strider Wasilewski took his middle name, “Raspberry,” to a new level.
After Teahupo’o blew its massive wad, a tube-riding contest was held. Yes, a tube-riding contest. Maneuvers are for Huntington—Teahupo’o is for gut-wrenching, fearless surfing. This guy Kelly Slater won, have you heard of him? Six-time world champ? On broken and strained toes, Kelly found his competitive fire and waxed the best surfers in the world, ruthlessly and efficiently.
Every year, surfers are smashing the accepted definition of “heavy” and pushing themselves to never-before-seen heights. When is big too big? Never. When will twenty pages of dreamy Tahitian surf get boring? Never. Where can you get the best waves of your life day after day? You guessed it. Yeah, we’re hyping it up, but Teahupo’o can handle itself, and crowd control is done by the waves, not some dickhead local. Welcome to Teahupo’o, can you handle it?—Justin Cote