Teahupoo's Day To End All Days?

IS this as good as it gets at Teahupoo? How do you even compare it to the Code Red day in 2011? "I was there for Code Red said photographer Mike Jones. This was way cleaner, more talent in the water and I think once all the shots come out, people will all see today was insane."

Code Red redefined what was surfable and the forces the human frame was capable of taking in ligament tearing punishment. Certainly 2011's monster swell had an unearthly mutant shape, a hitherto unseen form warping under leaden skies. On that day, 18 months ago, protagonists had to dodge a ban on entering the water, taping over logos and other identifying features on the skis they used as photographers bribed their way onto boats to capture their heroics. Comparatively, yesterday, May 13th, was a much cleaner and well organised swell. The waves seemed makable in the steadily building swell and the teams were ready and waiting.

Thank God there were no serious injuries. The channel was madness with boats running into each other, almost getting sucked over and people flying off boats scratching for their lives. Some very very close calls! GMAC

These super sessions have come a long way in the last couple of years and it seems everyone wants a piece. "It was amazing. So fun." Garrett McNamara told us. "There were some perfect barrels, a couple big ones and everyone was charging. Koa Rothman for sure got the bomb of the day. But thank God there were no serious injuries. The channel was madness with boats running into each other, almost getting sucked over and people flying off boats scratching for their lives. Some very very close calls!"

Even Laird Hamilton was in attendance, a man more recently committed to avoiding such events. Raimana Van Bastolaer is the man out there and scored an absolute screamer. Koa Rothman seemed to have an XXL nomination under his belt before his boardshorts were dry. Dean Bowen was charging both padding and towing, plus all the usual suspects, surfers who's tales of daring-do are etched into the vinyl top of surfing lore: Shane Dorian, Alex Gray, Mark Mathews, Garrett McNamara, Kohl Christensen, Alan Riou, Mikey Wright, Kamalei Alexander, Mark Healey, Ryan Hipwood, Dean Morrison, Laurie Towner, Wade Goodall, Makua Rothman, Nathan Florence, Eli Olson and others including Nathan Fletcher - surely keen to repeat his exploits of two years back
The upshot is that this wasn't the perfect storm, it was close, but 2011 was more intense. Imagine a storm of that magnitude coming from the same angle as this system?

Comparing swells can often be a little like comparing apples and oranges. The swell in August 2011 was actually not that well directed towards The End of the Road. It was a mega storm but one which sent most of its energy across towards Central America and ended up coming in quite west. The 'Code May' swell on the other hand had a far better direction for Teahupoo, coming in nice and south and open.

"To me it looked like Malik's Day from 2003. Paddle in the morning then tow in the afternoon." Said man in the know, Alain Riou. "The swell picked up super quick which made it hard to paddle. And by midday there was only tow waves. I ate shit like never before and I'm lucky I'm fine. It wasn't like Code Red but it was still gnarly. Really crowded though which it made it even harder."

MSW forecaster, Francisco Silva: "Stronger winds create bigger waves, that’s not that strange. But if we had stronger winds during the August 2011 swell event, why did we had similar wave heights to yesterday’s (May 13th) swell? Essentially weaker winds were compensated for by much better fetch and wind direction. Inside the storm the peak swell energy will travel in the same direction as the wind, the closer this direction aligns with the location we're interested in then the larger the waves will be.

"We should also analyze the width of the wind fetch directly pointed at Teahupoo, which was bigger in yesterday’s case as compared to 2011. The width of the wind fetch in the storm also plays a role. As waves of slightly different directions interact with each other energy is transferred into the more powerful waves already heading in the direction of the wind. These interactions led to the generation of even bigger waves heading towards Teahupoo ."

I ate shit like never before and I'm lucky I'm fine. It wasn't like Code Red but it was still gnarly.Alain Riou

The upshot is that this wasn't the perfect storm, it was close, but 2011 was more intense. Imagine a storm of that magnitude coming from the same angle as this system? Lord help us all.

If you've ever sat out in the channel at Teahupoo you'll appreciate the amphitheatre of it all: the lions chasing the gladiators across the reef, the constant thrum of the boat's motors as the captain manoeuvres your boat in a vaguely choreographed dance - trying to avoid collisions and rotating the view down the eye whilst all the time planning an escape route open should the horizon darken too much. As the size increases so does the intensity and potential consequences. Yesterday one boat discovered this to its cost, dumping camera toting passengers over the back as it scrambled to make it over the lip. They were all luckily ok but they lost their RED camera and are sure to be regretting that right now.

Looking at the forecast there will still be waves coming...

Want to know what happened the following day? Click HERE


Teahupoo Tahiti 13 05 2013 by 1ere-polynesie


Ed Temperley

Founding editor at magicseaweed