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Teahupo’o—The Reef Surfer’s Mecca

Posted by Norman Kelly on

Teahupo’o is a village on the south-east coast of Tahiti in French Polynesia in the southern Pacific Ocean. Known for its stunning sunsets and pristine beaches, this tiny village attracts a big reef surfing crowd. The area is known for the surf break and heavy, glassy waves offshore. These waves can often reach 10 feet and, at times, swell up to 23 feet. It is the site of the annual Billabong Pro Tahiti surf competition and used to be a stop in the World Tour of the International Bodyboarding Association. It is also, incidentally, one of the most dangerous places to reef surf in the world.

Teahupo’o has the most dangerous break in the world. The waves have a unique combination of size, power, and speed, made more dangerous by the fact that they break over an incredibly sharp coral reef lying only a few feet below the surface. Less scary are the sharks, capsized boats, and the rip tide. The world’s best surfers head here to cut thier teeth, but amateur surfers should keep to a separate part of the island.

So, how insane is Teahupo’o? To start, it’s faster than a motorcycle. That’s right. A pro surfer recently tried to outrun a wave on a motorcycle and found that the wave was much, much faster. This speed can also rip your clothes off, which will result in a possibly deadly combination of embarrassment and a loss of balance. You’re also more likely to cut yourself on the reef without this small protection.

Here’s where Teahupo’o gets crazy—it’s not even safe in the channel. During the several competitions that take place here each year, a contest boat is sent out to carry marshals and judges. Several years ago, this boat capsized after a wave rolled it into the lagoon. In a separate incident, a photographer famously bailed from the boat, and another photographer suffered three broken vertebrae when she was forced airborne by a wave.

So, what is the purpose of all this? We want you to visit and surf Teahupo’o–really. We just want you to understand the skill necessary to do so and the risks associated. To that end, if you have any experiences surfing Teahupo’o, we’d love to hear them. Drop us a line to tell us all about it.