Sunday, April 19, 2015
The Heaviest Wave on the Planet
Nicknamed "The End of the Road," Teahupoo carries that distinction for more than one reason. The obvious being that the small town is essentially the last stop on the road that partially rings both Tahiti Nui ("big Tahiti") and Tahiti Iti ("small Tahiti"). The less-obvious reason is the one that's become clearly understood by the surf community in the past decade: If you lose your concentration out there, the expression "the end of the road" could be referring to your life.
Located half a kilometer off the coast of the fishing village of Teahupoo, this monster left-hand reef pass has become synonymous with waves of consequence. Surf journalist Gary Taylor wrote about it in 2000: "Teahupoo isn't a wave, it's a war zone. A freak of nature that some bastard decided to call a surf spot." Though it rarely grows taller than Hawaii's marquee spots, the marked feature of the wave is that it seems to have no back, appearing more like a tidal surge. Because Tahiti has neither a continental shelf nor an outer reef to diffuse the power of Southern Hemisphere swells, the backless beasts hit like sledgehammers, and head-high waves at Chopes have the power of double- or even triple-overhead waves elsewhere. Over twelve feet, the wave becomes too hard to paddle into, and that's when the event goes on hold and the tow boards come out.