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Teahupo’o Tahiti – One Of The Craziest Waves On Earth

Teahupo’o Tahiti is one of the most spectacular and exciting places on Earth. It’s a surfers paradise, with some of the craziest waves known to man. It is most well-known for the way the barrel breaks from almost below sea level across a shallow razor-sharp reef, creating a sight that is amazing to behold.

This article will take you on an adventure through the incredible wave that makes it so famous. We’ll travel back in time to understand how this place became such an iconic destination for thrill-seekers around the world, before taking a closer look at what makes these waves so unique.

Finally, we’ll discover why surfing here is like no other experience – raw energy captured in perfect harmony between nature and human ambition. So get ready to explore one of the wildest corners of our planet; let’s dive into Teahupo’o Tahiti!

Tim Mckenna's Historic photo of Laird at Teahupo'o
Tim Mckenna’s Historic photo of Laird at Teahupo’o

History Of Surfing Teahupoo

Tahiti’s Teahupoo is one of the most mesmerizing and dangerous waves on Earth. It stands as a beacon of freedom, beckoning surfers to its crystal blue depths like moths to a flame. The Tahitian wave has become an international icon for big-wave surfing, drawing in hundreds of thrill seekers each year who brave its treacherous waters. Its formidable size and power are undeniable; it has earned the title of one of the world’s biggest waves.

The appeal of Teahupoo lies not only in its intimidating size but also in its unique shape. As the wave approaches land, it breaks from left to right across a reef that creates an almost perfect and bizarrely deep barrel – making it ideal for experienced surfers looking for an adrenaline rush. Despite this allure, however, Teahupoo remains incredibly hazardous due to its shallow water depth combined with powerful swells. Surfing here requires skill and confidence but can be rewarded with some truly exceptional rides.

Teahupo'o Tahiti - One Of The Craziest Waves On Earth 1

Surfers around the world have embraced Teahupoo as their own personal playground, coming together each year to experience what makes this spot so special – incredible barrels, breathtaking scenery and a feeling of ultimate freedom that you won’t find anywhere else on earth. From pros competing in competitions to amateurs admiring from nearby boats, everyone feels something special when they lay eyes on Tahiti’s iconic wave break.

What Does Teahupoo Mean?

Teahupoo is a Tahitian term with disputed origins. The translation of the two words, “Teahai” meaning “to cut or scrape”, and “Po’o” meaning head, suggests the phrase may refer to a “scraped head”. You’d think they called it scraping for a reason–surfers getting pounded by waves as they attempt to ride them! This wave deserves its moniker; towering, powerful and captivating.

Teahupo'o Tahiti - One Of The Craziest Waves On Earth 2

The origins of Teahupoo can be traced back to the ancient times of Polynesia. Local historian, Peva Levy, states that Teahupoo is the name of the place and not of the break. The river which collects water from the mountains created a reef zone called Havae. This pass is larger than many reef-based locations in Tahiti and French Polynesia. The break which produces iconic waves is named ‘Pererure’ and it possesses its own legend.

Today, Teahupoo remains one of the premier big-wave surfing spots on earth with waves reaching heights up to 20 feet (6 meters). Its shallow water depth combined with powerful swells makes it incredibly hazardous yet mesmerizingly beautiful at the same time. As such, experienced surfers flock here year after year seeking thrilling rides while also respecting nature’s raw beauty and force.

The combination of danger and allure draws in more than just adrenaline junkies; photographers come from faraway places looking to capture unique shots only witnessed at Teahupoo – something about being able to document history unfolding before your very eyes gives them a sense of freedom unlike any other experience. From pros competing in competitions to amateurs admiring from nearby boats or even land observation points along the coast, everyone feels something special when they lay eyes on Tahiti’s iconic wave break.

Teahupoo Wave Mechanics

Teahupoo is a force of nature that has captivated surfers from around the world. With its thunderous barrels and immense power, it’s no wonder why Kelly Slater once called Teahupoo “The heaviest wave in the world”. Understanding what goes into creating this awe-inspiring break can help us appreciate not only its sheer beauty, but also its mechanics.

Teahupo'o Tahiti - One Of The Craziest Waves On Earth 3

What gives Teahupoo its unique shape? It all has to do with underwater bathymetry of the reef – swells coming in from the southwest approach from deep water and hit a rapidly rising reef shelf that goes from 150 feet to 3 feet in the impact zone, causing the swell to heave upward with so much force that the water on the inside is sucked inward giving it a below sea level bowl.

The wave straddles a very fine line between surfable and unsurfable.  A gradual taper at the top of the reef slows the wave down JUST enough that it can be ridden.

It’s this mix of strong swell movement combined with shallow water depth that makes Teahupoo one of the most unique big-wave surfing spots in existence today. From pros testing their limits on massive swells to amateurs admiring from nearby boats – there’s something special about being able to witness history unfolding right before your eyes at Teahupoo – an experience like no other.

The Reef Below the Heaviest Wave in the World - Billabong Pro Tahiti 2012The Reef Below the Heaviest Wave in the World – Billabong Pro Tahiti 2012

When Did Teahupoo Become Famous?

Teahupoo has long been considered one of the most dangerous and thrilling waves in surfing – but it wasn’t until recently that its worldwide fame began to take off. It all started when professional surfers, including Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama and Buzzy Kerbox, took a trip to Tahiti in 2000 seeking out an adrenaline-filled adventure. What they found was Teahupoo – with its shallow water depths and broad swell window producing some of the biggest and most challenging barrels ever seen by man. This can famously be seen in the jaw-dropping film Riding Giants which premiered in 2000.

Word spread quickly about this legendary wave, drawing more pros from around the world to come test their skills against its might. Successful rides were rare at first as competitors had to battle huge swells and treacherous current conditions just for a chance at glory. But those who made it through emerged unscathed with stories like no other – inspiring future generations of surfers everywhere to dream big.

In 1999, the Gotcha Tahiti Pro contest was held at Teahupoo for the first time – bringing together some of the best surfers on earth in an epic contest unlike any before it. Mark “Occy” Occhilupo won the inaugural competition. This event marked a pivotal moment in surfing history as well as drew global attention to this awe-inspiring break – catapulting Teahupoo into stardom overnight!

Surf- 1999 Gotcha Tahiti Pro Highlights ( edit)Surf- 1999 Gotcha Tahiti Pro Highlights ( edit)

Teahupoo – Moments In History

1985: Teahupo’o was surfed for the first time by Tahitian Thierry Vernaudon and a few local people.

1986: Mike Stewart and Ben Severson were among the first to demonstrate bodyboarding at Teahupo’o.

1998: The Gotcha Tahiti Pro made Teahupo’o well-known for its intense waves.

2000: Laird Hamilton rode a wave that was recorded to be the largest ever by surfing standards, showcased in the film Riding Giants.

2003: Malik Joyeux conquered one of the largest waves to have been surfed.

2005: Keala Kennelly made history being the first woman to ever ride Teahupoo, towing into a 10-foot barrel before the Billabong Tahiti Pro contest.

2015: Nathan Florence caught what some have considered the biggest wave ever successfully paddled in Teahupo’o in May 2015.

Nathan Florence's Impossible Paddle-in Wave at TeahupooNathan Florence’s Impossible Paddle-in Wave at Teahupoo

The Olympics Is Coming To Teahupoo

As Teahupoo’s reputation has grown, so too have its opportunities. In 2021, the Olympic Games announced that this mesmerizing surf break in Tahiti would become an official venue for their inaugural surfing event – making it one of only two spots chosen worldwide to host the Olympic sport.

This is a monumental moment for both professional and recreational surfers alike, as many never imagined they’d see such a dream come true. Not only will some of the world’s best athletes be able to show off their skills on the world stage at Teahupoo – but international fans can now experience this magical wave from afar. After all, what better way to truly appreciate its beauty than by watching these incredible feats live?

The upcoming Olympics are sure to bring more attention to this spectacular spot in French Polynesia – boosting tourism while providing plenty of economic opportunity for the local community and host city. All eyes will soon be glued on Teahupoo once again as we witness history being made!

No Wonder It’s Legendary

Teahupoo is an incredible surfing destination and one of the craziest waves on Earth. It’s not suitable for beginners, but if you are an experienced surfer, it can give you a truly amazing experience. The most important thing to remember when visiting Teahupo’o is that safety must be your number one priority; make sure to bring proper equipment and follow local regulations and advice.

The best way to get the full experience at Teahupoo is to find a knowledgeable guide who knows his way around this unique wave. With their help, you can enjoy all its beauty without putting yourself in danger. There are several tour operators in Tahiti offering guided trips to Teahupoo where they will provide lessons, equipment hire and transport so you can focus on just enjoying your time there!

It’s no wonder why Teahupoo has become such a popular spot among surfers over the years – with its perfect blue water, stunning backdrop of mountains and trees, and powerful waves, it truly offers something special for all levels of surfers. Whether you’re looking for a thrilling adventure or simply want to relax by the beach with friends, Teahupoo is definitely worth checking out!

Hayley Gordon

Hayley Gordon has been surfing for over 20 years. Riding both shortboards and longboards, she's traveled the world to surf but mainly sticks to her two home locations of San Diego and Long Island.

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