In the wake of Kelly’s startling victory we look back at some of Teahupoo’s most memorable moments.
There have been many incredible moments at the surf event at the end of the road, from the time it was the 1997 Black Pearl Horue Pro, a four-star WQS event, all the way to the Code Red swell and beyond. Such a terrifying wave is always going to accumulate stories, just as the reef accumulates surfer’s skin.
Here is a collection of random flashes from that ole place of skulls.
Barrel To Oblivion
In 1999 Teahupo’o came to life for real, and the world was suitably shocked. One of the more disturbing waves to emerge from what was quite literally a bloodbath, was Corey Lopez paddling into a monster, setting a line and gunning for the spectators sitting in the channel. He got totally dusted in the process and it was, at the time, difficult to digest.
The Millennium Wave always will be one of the most iconic moments in our sport. It did many things. It reset the boundaries, it blew mainstream minds, and it showed to the world the athleticism and the courageousness of surfers, and of one Hawaiian surfer in particular. It also struck the fear of God into many professional surfers who had Chopes on their Championship Tour event calendar. (Last wave below. Check Laird's post-wave breakdown)
In 2011 Code Red, one of the most famous swells of all time struck Teahupo’o. The contest was put on hold, and the best big wave surfers proceeded to cheat death on every wave. One ride by Nathan fletcher, stood out as the scariest wipeout of the swell, of the year, of the planet, and it went on to win the Billabong XXL Ride Of The Year at the annual awards.
He’s My Brother
While his older sibling steals most of the limelight, Nathan Florence is one mighty up-skilled professional surfer and charger. The skills and talent used to ride this wave in quite extraordinary, and also garnered viral attention from the world media. How he managed to do it is hard to break down, a combination of skills and bravado, but many excellent surfers would have faltered on such a wave.
Perfect Ten In 2005
A seemingly impossible drop into oblivion is turned into a ridden wave that is turned into an incredible tube. The only way to pull this off is with a number of skills and talents, along with incredible confidence, and instinctiveness. Slater has redefined many aspects of the sport, and this was a turning point.
Perfect 2O In 2005, And A Beer
Following on that perfect ten, Slater went on to have the best final ever in 2005 for a number of reasons. After a 10-point ride in the final, his opponent Damien Hobgood was removed from the water with a dislocated shoulder. Kelly surfed a perfect heat, alone and scored a perfect twenty points and then drank a beer while surfing. Respect.
Perfect Ten In 2010
Five years later and Kelly pulled off another perfect 10, only with more precision and more panache. He was later to declare that this wave was one of the highlights of his career. It was a super-late drop into the tube behind the lip and a long tube ride to the channel.
Another monster wave of the Code Red swell saw Bruce Irons in the biggest, heaviest cave the surfing world has ever seen. It was a strange, freaky warped below sea level wave, and Bruce charged as hard as possible. How he managed to survive unscathed is one of the mysteries of the surfing world, and this wave did nothing but endear Bruce to the surfing world at large.
Dep. Comm. Drops A Pin, 2011
After a late slot opened, Logie listened to the persuasion of his wife and headed to Teahupo’o. He arrived late with no equipment, and on borrowed boards and a few wipeouts later he was headed to his best Teahupo’o result ever with a third place. This result saw him rack up enough points to requalify for the 2012 season. Our deputy commissioner proved his worth in 2011, showing no fear when he needed to charge at solid 10-foot Teahupo’o.
Super Superheat, 2014
It was probably the greatest heat ever surfed, so let’s call it that for the purpose of this article.
Thundering Chopes and two of the greatest surfers. Kelly representing old school experience and a war-weary total approach to heat surfing, and John John representing oozing talent, cool nonchalance and youthful imagination. There were perfect barrels coming through, and the two surfers were going for perfect rides every time they stood up. On paper it was a heat that had four scoring rides of 10, 9.90, 9.87 and 9.77. When added up, it was a perfect tie of 9.77 each.
In accordance with the WSL Rulebook. Slater got the nod for holding the highest single-wave score for the tiebreaker in a heat that did rewrite history, and forced everyone watching to feel somewhat ashamed about their own surfing abilities.
Must have been a prick of of a heat to judge.
Kelly’s Big Day Out, 2016
44-year-old Kelly hadn’t won an event since 2013 and the world was starting to wonder if sufing’s Greatest would fizzle out tragically, like a former heavyweight champ who has had one too many fights. Instead Slater donned his wizard’s cap and returned to his imperious best. Surfing four times on final’s day he clocked up a perfect heat, three tens in total, the Andy Irons award and a victory over surfing’s modern chosen one, John John Florence. Kelly had no qualms calling it one of the best victories of his career, meanwhile middle-aged surfers around the world spent the rest of the day practicing backside rail grabs in front of the replays. Kelly had given them all hope … again.