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The minimum recommended age is 14 years

Teahupoo

Teahupoo

Tahiti - Society Island - South Pacific, French Polynesia

Surf, Bodyboard

The Teahupoo left can be found at the end of the road that runs along the southwest coastline of Tahiti. A perfect wave and the most visibly recognisable in the world. It’s a wave which has been able to rediscover the sport and take it to limits that were unthinkable years ago. The Tahitian Thierry Vernaudon was the first surfer in Teahupoo back in 1985 along with other locals, but the waves that they surfed were nothing like the mutant beasts that we see today. Bodyboarders Mike Stewart and Ben Severson were the first to surf there with serious conditions in 1986 and Stewart admitted that it was even more powerful than Pipe. In the nineties the first pro surfers arrived and in 1997 the first official event the Black Pearl Horue Pro, which belongs to the WQS circuit and is a qualifier for the elite WCT event, was held there. It was won by a young Andy Irons and a year later both the legendary Andy and Teahupoo became part of the elite WCT.

In 1998 the Gotcha Tahiti Pro event was held there and a young Koby Abberton triumphed at the event which was celebrated with sets of twelve feet and spectacular conditions. In 1999 the first Billabong Pro Tahiti was held and in 2000 the millennium tow-in session with Laird Hamilton in front. Everything that happened in these waters became memorable, the events, sessions and great feats, all of which definitely gave Teahupoo its place today and which put it up there with Pipeline as the two most important waves in the world.

Travelling to Tahiti isn’t complicated, although the prices of the flights are a little high. You have to fly to Faa’a International Airport in Pape’ete and go to Teahupoo with public transport. There is a wide variety of accommodation and it’s recommendable to stay at places that are managed by local families. Hiring a car is an option but you can also find out how to reach other nearby waves by boat. Once you’re in the Teahupoo channel you’re only a 15 minute paddle away from making a dream come true. It can sometimes be busy, but the real problem comes when bigger waves arrive and everyone wants to see the show up close. The wave’s channel has become a business and it gets overrun by small boats that offer rides to get the best views. It’s a worrying situation because they don’t take adequate safety measures and there aren’t medical services nearby. Another problem stems from the tow-in as the locals want to prohibit this whilst there are people paddling out to the waves.

Teahupoo Tahiti Surf

Surf forms part of the Tahitian culture and it’s important for it not to be affected by the initiatives of some. It’s essential to pay attention to the locals' instructions and leave them to control the peak. Education and kindness will be your best virtue. It’s obligatory to name big Tahitian locals like Hira Terinatoofa, Raimana Van Bastolaer, Tikanui Smith, Michel Bourez (currently in the WCT) and Manoa Drollet, the renowned big charger and free surfer who is capable of everything in competitions. A special mention to the best Tahitian yet, nicknamed The Small Prince, Malik Joyeaux, who was only 25 years old when he passed away at Pipeline. All being said, it’s clear that surfing wouldn’t be the same today without Teahupoo and although there could be a wave which surpasses it, this wave hasn’t yet appeared and it’s possible that like the road that leads there, it's 'the end of the road'.

Conditions

When the waves hit the Teahupoo reef they have a mutant effect like no other in the world. It’s as if the ocean rises above the reef leaving behind a flat surface that obscures the hollow step that lies ahead. A hollow drop that starts at the peak of the reef and skirts it, creating an enormous barrel that falls with what is, without doubt, the fattest lip in the world. This is because the difference in depth between the reef and the ocean is so big that it’s impossible for Teahupoo to break in a normal way. It goes quickly from a depth of 150 feet to 20 feet and from there, in less than 5 seconds, to 5 feet and these are circumstances that make Teahupoo rideable for only a few people and where the definition of a slab makes sense.

It’s fast and many times has a critical take-off so you can't have any doubts because the lip isn’t forgiving and it will drag you under, but, if you manage to hold the drop in, it will be one of the best barrels of your life. In fact, this wave is a barrel from beginning to end with no room for manoeuvres and this is why in competitions points are only scored on tube-riding. The best time to go is from April to September and from May to June, at the beginning of the austral winter, as this is when the most active fronts are generated in Antarctic latitudes sending the biggest swells of the year.

It starts working with 2 feet, until 30 feet. With 2-3 feet you can link the barrels and do manoeuvres. Don’t underestimate the conditions because what is 2 feet at Teahupoo is 5 feet at your regular beach, or what looks like an 8 foot wave from behind converts to 15 square feet. The dynamics and the quality of the wave depend on the orientation of the swell. With SSE it’s relatively less powerful and the wave is shorter. With S it gets better and with SSW it starts to show its best face, lengthening its line from the first section and leaving an exit in the last section before closing. It’s also good with SW but it’s more demanding. The last section closes if the period is more than 15 seconds but medium periods of 12 to 14 seconds often give the best conditions.

teahupoo-surfing

The best waves are definitely the first ones in the set because the following waves collect all the turbulence of the first. There are three take off zones and for these the size doesn’t matter because it depends more on the swell direction and your abilities. You need to constantly pay attention to the current as it’s easy to be distracted by the sets, which are very long, and be dragged onto the reef. There’s no rehearsal at Teahupoo so you need to be sure about it. It’s recommendable to use a strong, wide board with an adequate rocker, one that’s not too pronounced, and it’s important to have a bit more volume at the nose and throughout the whole board to make surfing this demanding wave easier. Be careful of the live coral, the currents and the sporadic tiger shark that may appear, although no one has ever been attacked.
Optimal Conditions
  • Wave
    Left
  • Wind
    NE
  • Tide
    All
  • Swell
    SW - S
  • Bottom
    Reef
  • Size
    1 to 5 m (3 to 16 ft)
  • Time of year
    Spring - fall
Suggested Spots
  • 3544 km from Teahupoo Tavarua - Viti Levu , Fiji
  • 3545 km from Teahupoo Tavarua - Viti Levu , Fiji
  • 4132 km from Teahupoo Waikato - West Coast - North Island, New Zealand
  • 4397 km from Teahupoo Maui - Hawaii, United States