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Kite surfing in Teahupoʻo
Kite surfing in Teahupoʻo
Teahupoʻo is located in Tahiti
Location in Tahiti
Coordinates: 17°50′50″S 149°16′2″W / 17.84722°S 149.26722°W / -17.84722; -149.26722Coordinates: 17°50′50″S 149°16′2″W / 17.84722°S 149.26722°W / -17.84722; -149.26722
Country France
Overseas collectivity French Polynesia
Time zoneUTC-10 (French Polynesia Time)

Teahupoʻo (Tahitian pronunciation: [te.a.hu.ˈpo.ʔo])[1] is a village on the southwestern coast of the island of Tahiti, French Polynesia, in the southern Pacific Ocean.[2]

It is known for the surf break and heavy, glassy waves offshore, often reaching 2 to 3 m (6.6 to 9.8 ft), and sometimes up to 7 meters (23 feet). It is the site of the annual Billabong Pro Tahiti surf competition, part of the World Championship Tour (WCT) of the Association of Surfing Professionals World Tour surfing circuit, and used to be one stop in the World Tour of the International Bodyboarding Association.[3] Tahitian Thierry Vernaudon and a few other locals surfed Teahupo’o for the very first time in 1985. Bodyboarding pioneers Mike Stewart and Ben Severson showcased the spot in 1986 and it soon became an underground spot for thrill-seeking bodyboarders. Few professional surfers rode Teahupo'o during the early 1990s and it was only in 1998, at the Gotcha Tahiti Pro, that Teahupo'o became widely recognized as having some of the heaviest waves in the world. On August 17, 2000 Laird Hamilton is credited with surfing the "heaviest wave" ever ridden,[2] documented in the film Riding Giants. In 2003 the late Malik Joyeux successfully rode one of the largest waves ever ridden.

Nathan Florence, younger brother of two-time World Surf League champion John John Florence, caught in May 2015 what some have considered to have been the biggest wave ever successfully paddled in Teahupo'o.[4] Keala Kennelly was the first woman to tow-surf Teahupo'o in May 2005, getting a 10-foot barrel ahead of the Billabong Tahiti Pro contest.[5] This challenging break has been conquered by many top windsurfers, including Jason Polakow, Ali Neil and Levi Siver. Yannick Salmon was the first kitesurfer to ride Teahupo'o; however, it was incorrectly written in publications that others had ridden it before him. Jeremie Eloy and Julien Sudrat kitesurfed the wave after Yannick.[citation needed]

Wave characteristics[edit]

Teahupo'o is a pillow break. The swells mainly break backwards, but the outer reef also creates left breaks that surfers must be cautious of when paddling out. Teahupo'o is renowned for the consistent number of barrels it delivers. It is a rewarding location and is widely regarded as being on the 'must-surf' list of every enthusiastic surfer. However, only experienced surfers in peak physical condition should attempt Teahupo'o; heavy waves combined with a shallow pillow can result in serious rest and even swimming in a wipeout.

Teahupo'o's reputation for wave riding is partly due to its unique form. An extremely shallow coral reef, which ranges up to 20 inches (51 cm) beneath the water's surface, is responsible for a very hollow-breaking wave.[6] The wave's unique shape, with an effect of almost breaking below sea level, is due to the specific shape of the reef beneath the wave. Its semi circular nature, which drops down sharply creates a 'below water' effect and the extreme angles in descent create an instant instability to the wave. A steep wall of reef causes the entire mass to fold onto a scalloped semi circle breaking arc.[7] The wave bends and races along into a dry reef closeout and the lip of the wave is often as thick as it is tall.[2]

Surfing deaths at Teahupo'o[edit]

Teahupo'o was included on Transworld Surf's list of the 'Top 10 Deadliest Waves' and is commonly referred to as the "heaviest wave in the world".[2][8] The name 'Teahupo'o' loosely translates to English as “to sever the head” or "place of skulls".[8][9]

There has been one recorded surfing death at Teahupo'o since 2000:[10] Tahitian surfer Brice Taerea who was killed at Teahupo'o in 2000, just one week before the annual Teahupo'o WCT event.[2] Taerea attempted to duck-dive a dangerous 12-foot (3.7-meter) wave but was thrown over the falls, and landed head first on the reef. He was recovered from the water, but died later in hospital, having suffered two broken cervical vertebra and a severed spinal cord, which resulted in paralysis from the neck down.[11]

Teahupo'o WSL Championship Tour Event Champions[edit]


Billabong Pro Teahupoo

Olympic venue[edit]

Teahupo'o is scheduled to host the surfing competition for the 2024 Summer Olympics, being hosted in Paris.[12] At 15,716 km (9,765 mi), this will break the record for the longest distance between an Olympic medal competition venue and the host city.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "TEAHUPOO - Legend, True Meaning, True Story | Surf News". Onestopsurf. Archived from the original on June 25, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e Jason Borte (January 2001). "Teahupoo History". Surfing A-Z web site. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
  3. ^ "ASP World Tour". official web site. Association of Surfing Professionals. Archived from the original on November 30, 2010. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
  4. ^ Williamson, Morgan (2015). "Heavyweights discuss Nate Florence and the best Teahupoo wave ever paddled".
  5. ^ Tracks magazine, August 2005, ISSN 1032-3317.
  6. ^ "Tahitian Dreams". Red Bull TV. Retrieved November 11, 2011.
  7. ^ "Teahupoo - Anatomy Of A Monster". SurfingAtlas.com. Retrieved November 11, 2011.
  8. ^ a b Brower, Ryan (2008). "The Top 10 Deadliest Waves".
  9. ^ "Local Knowledge - Billabong Pro Tahiti". Billabong Pro. 2011. Retrieved November 11, 2011.
  10. ^ McDonald, Margie (August 16, 2010). "Teahupoo hopefuls faced with huge swell". The Australian. Retrieved November 11, 2011.
  11. ^ "Surfing Archived Stories". Retrieved November 11, 2011.
  12. ^ Mather, Victor; Minsberg, Talya (March 6, 2020). "For Paris Olympics, Surfing Will Head to Tahiti's 'Wall of Skulls'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 25, 2021.
  13. ^ "Tahiti approved as Olympic surfing venue for 2024 Paris Games". NBC Sports. March 3, 2020. Retrieved July 25, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

External links[edit]