In this post, I am going to analyze my favorite wave in the world to watch, Teahupoo, Tahiti. Teahupoo is located on the southern coast of French Polynesia. Teahupoo translates directly to “the end of the road” because it is literally located at the end of a road. “The end of the road” also has a connotation to the fierceness of the wave located at Teahupoo.
Teahupoo is a left handed reef break wave. That means the wave breaks onto a very shallow coral reef below it. The water is so shallow that at low tide, the water can be only six inches deep. You will see why this is significant shortly. When I say it is a left handed wave, I mean that when you are in the water surfing, the wave will break to your left. Conversely if you are standing on the beach looking at the wave, it will break to your right.
Teahupoo is made for much larger waves. For example. The waves that break at Teahupoo are created by massive storm systems that travel across the oceans of the southern hemisphere south of South America, Africa, and Australia. These storm systems get very strong and create the massive waves shown in the video above. The reason the waves at Teahupoo get so large a result of the bathymetry of the ocean near the reef. Instead of being a plain that is relatively flat for a long period of time, Teahupoo has the reef, and then a very steep drop off. This helps to make the waves even larger than they would be just from the strength of the storms that created them. As I said in the science of waves post, waves with longer periods interact with the bathymetry of the ocean much more than short period waves. The waves that travel toward Tahiti interact with the bottom for a while, but because of the steep slope approaching the wave break spot, the wave shoots up even larger. This also creates the huge barrels characteristic of Teahupoo.
These barrels can be so large that you could drive a truck through it. I believe I posted this video before, but here is an example of the waves that hit Teahupoo. This video is worth the watch and it shows one of the heaviest waves ever ridden.
Teahupoo is also a spot on the World Tour of surfing. Each August, the best surfers in the world take on the huge waves at Teahupoo. This leads to some great competition when the waves are good. Unfortunately, nature does not always cooperate and the waves are sub par. When the nature does cooperate though, goofy footers (left handed surfers) love the event. It is one of the few events on tour that allows goofy footers to shine because the rest of the events favor regular footers (right handed surfers). There have been many perfect tens recorded at the event over the past few years as surfers continue to push the limits of what is possible out on the reef, making for some very good surfing. The event also begins the race for the world tour championship because generally the top ranked surfers begin to pull away with the world title race after this event. This leads to much more competitive heats as surfers are either fighting to stay on tour or fighting to win a championship.
If you are ever bored around the third week of August, I highly recommend watching this event. Here are some examples of what kind of surfing goes on at those events: