Now I will be absolutely clear that I did not make any attempt to surf this wave at all. It was far too big for my fitness and / or skill level. In fact it was so big that the session was for tow-in surfers only, whereby they water-ski behind jet-skis to build up speed and then whip themselves into the action. As such it was a two man event and for all the above reasons I sensibly left getting in the water to the professionals.
I am however going to claim this break as one of my waves mostly because as will become abundantly clear taking on thirty foot waves in this small boat was as close to death as I have been since the huge waves in Santa Catalina.
As a result our skipper for the day was a lovely local guy called Sante, who I suspect might have been a tad deranged because all I will remember of him is his deep booming guffaws every time he would gun the little engine because we were borderline caught inside one of the giant waves about to crash onto the reef. We spent six hours bobbing up and down in his little thin hulled aluminium boat which was clearly not ideal for the situation.
Gio got loads of great pictures but they were achieved by him standing up in the back of the little boat with me then having to be spread out like a starfish across the front in order to lower the centre of gravity back down, with Sante grinning and laughing at everything that was going on. I will post some more pictures which Gio took with his professional camera later but these are some of my own and you can see some footage from the local TV station here: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x10gz2r_pour-les-amateurs-de-gros-tubes-direction-teahupoo-pour-une-session-100-adrenaline_sport.
There was an almost tangible energy there which everybody was feeding off, whether it be the pros pouting for the latest lens they had spotted looking their way or the enthusiastic fan like myself who would be going crazy for every monster wave that was ridden.
All the surfers were wearing full body armour and life preservers so this really wasn’t for the faint of heart. However we too were perpetually guessing whether we would have the best view for the next wave or if we had gone too close to the reef and were about to be obliterated by the sneaker set.
The ocean currents and just the amount of water moving around all the time onto and then draining off the reef meant Sante had to keep one eye on the horizon
More than once it was far from certain that we would get away unscathed and I was right behind the TV cameraman that filmed the boat coming vertically out the top of a wave and being within a hair’s breath of going over the falls backwards on a rogue set that appeared. Here is Gio’s shot of the action
I don’t know how good your French is but the lady doing the commentary for the TV show confirms that people got hospitalised just watching the waves here. How gnarly is that!
Like I said more pictures to follow, but it was epic in every sense of the word and I don’t know whether it was not having my land legs back that was causing me to wobble all over the place once we eventually returned to dry land at the end of the day, or if it was just fear!
Top day all round and once on dry land we were delighted to find all the locals playing Boule in a festive atmosphere just down the road. Well it is FRENCH Polynesia after all!