It was the over-the-falls heard around the world. Sports Illustrated featured it as an opening spread (with the wrong photo credit, Brian Bielmann got really burned on that one). CNN ran it over and over. Even somebody who happened to be in Russia saw it–I swear on this one.
Anyway, a couple days after the Billabong Pro at Teahupo’o, I caught up with Raimana Van Bastolaer of Papara, Tahiti and Reef McIntosh from Kauai after the whole deal had blown over and they had a chance to reflect back on the incident. Raimana’s English isn’t perfect (I think it’s fine) so he only chirped in when he felt necessary. Here’s what they had to say about it…
TransWorld Surf: What were the waves like that day?
Reef McIntosh: That day was like 10-15 feet, not gigantic but big enough. The direction was south with a bit of west. It was gloomy and early, like seven o’clock in the morning. We got out there and Brock (Little) and Shane (Dorian) were towing. When we got out there, Raimana was like “Put the rope on! So, I put the rope on and then he was like, “OK, lets go! and I was like “What do you mean? I don’t know how to drive! and then he goes, “Don’t even think about it, let’s just go! I said “OK and got him into like five or six good ones, and then that happened.
I was trying to give him the killer whip in, you know, really high, and the next thing I knew the wave was bending. I wasn’t used to that, and I didn’t know the ski very well, like what it can and can’t do.
So the wave kinda popped up on you?
Reef: Yeah, there was a chop on the top of the wave that kinda turned into the wave. Kai (Garcia) said I should have turned and gassed it, but I thought if I would’ve done that, the back end would have popped out because the wave was so square. It wasn’t a roll-in one where you can just whip it around and get over it.
What time of day was this at?
Reef: Like 7:30 in the morning, Sunday May 1. After I got him into a few waves, I was like “Cool, I’m getting him some good ones. Then, sure enough, that happened.
What happened to you?
Reef: I stayed on, stayed on, and stayed on thinking “Come on! Turn out of this! It’s not going over! And then “It’s going over and I jumped out the back.
Was that your ski Raimana?
Raimana: Yes, that was my ski, brudda. It was from Red Bull. Now I’ve got another ski, brudda.
What do you guys think about all the exposure that came afterwards?
Raimana: A lot of people know us now because of this, but nothing’s changed for me, I’m still the same, eh? Nothing’s changed for me and Reef, we didn’t get a raise from our sponsors or anything (laughs)!
Reef, were you really bummed at first?
Reef: Oh, I was shattered. I was silent on the boat for like six hours after, just looking out to sea. But then afterwards, everyone kept telling me that Raimana would get another ski, and he (Raimana) didn’t get hurt–which was the main thing. I didn’t think it was gonna be that big of a deal, and then I called my girlfriend and I was like “I lost Raimana’s ski today. The next day, she saw it on CNN and Hank’s (Foto) wife saw it on Good Morning America. I don’t know, maybe it helped tow-in surfing, you know, it was all around the world. I hope it helps the sport grow. It was hard to do out there, you know?
Those are the repercussions, right?
Reef: Yeah. We’re on the cutting edge of the sport, and that’s the kind of thing that can happen. It’s not an easy thing to do.
It seems like you guys have turned it into a positive though.
Reef: Yeah, he got a new ski and that’s all I cared about. I haven’t been back to the States so I don’t know how it is there, but we’ll see, I guess. I’m sure if I would’ve been back home, I’d be on Letterman or something (laughs).
So, will you guys be teaming up in the future?
Reef: Um, possibly. I definitely want to learn how to drive. That’s the next step for me.
What happened to the sski itself?
Reef: We brought it in and it wasn’t that bad. I thought it would have been way worse. The engine still worked, it just needed to be flushed, but if you don’t flush it that day, it’s history.
Reef: Not really, just the front lid was ripped off, that was about it. There were some cracks in the back, but all it really needed was a new shell. The steering was ripped out, too, all dangling around.
That’s amazing. Well, hey, better luck in the future.
A couple days later, I went on a little ride with Reef on the back of another ski. And yes, we made it to our destination in one piece.