Something Wicked This Way Comes

A monster swell is heading for the Billabong Pro Tahiti, and fear is in the air at Teahupoo.

| posted on August 24, 2011

Andy Irons slips into a Teahupoo cavern in 2002, which was the last time Teahupoo showed size during the Tour event. Photo: Ellis

“Yeah, I’m scared,” CJ Hobgood told me via a sketchy Skype connection Tuesday afternoon from Teahupoo, Tahiti, “everyone is scared.” Then the line just went dead.

I had called Hobgood to gauge the level of anxiety among the World Tour competitors who have been sitting around contemplating what forecasters are calling one of the biggest swells for the contest since 2002.

Every contest arrives with fresh hype about an epic swell on its way, but when the little Tahitian village at the end of the road is the location in question, these stories inspire disproportionally more dread. Backless slabs that blot out the sun and roar like 747s on takeoff come to mind, as do heroic performances, like those that put Laird Hamilton, Nathan Fletcher, Andy Irons, Raimana Van Bastolaer, and others into surfing’s subconscious forever.

“The models are kinda freaking out on this swell,” Surfline’s Sean Collins told me after I was unable to get CJ back on the line, “but I figure at Teahupoo it will be 12- to 15-foot Hawaiian—20- 30-foot-plus faces—with some larger sets. We’ll see some early signs late Friday evening and by Saturday morning it will be on and peaking by midday. In a perfect world, the event finishes off in great surf on Thursday and Friday, because I think Saturday will be too big for paddle and the tow guys will be on it.”

While it’s still unclear the maximum size that ASP officials would allow competitors to paddle out in, Collins says 12-foot Hawaiian is pretty much the maximum paddle-in size, but not for safety reasons—it’s about the simple mechanics of the place.

“A lot of the guys are really pushing the limits with paddle-in surfing these days,” Collins concedes, “but considering that the wave at Teahupoo breaks in the same place as the swell gets bigger, I’m not sure if the paddle-in range can be extended much more than it already is. Considering the nearly concave shape of the bigger waves out there, a bigger board would also work against you making the drop, so the only option would be to take off under the lip and try to make a sideslip freefall. Maybe Kelly or Bruce could pull that, or Andy could have. But at that size, the penalty for not making that size of a wave at Teahupoo is pretty severe.”

It was with that penalty in mind that I emailed Hobgood later to follow up on our dropped call and press him on exactly how much fear the forecast inspires.

His reply: “3 poops a day.”

Cj Hobgood has Teahupoo more wired than most, racking up the highest scores of the day during Round 1. Photo: Joli

  • Adam

    Best in the world in borderline unsurfable blue barrels? I still miss Dane.

  • Rat

    What? No mention of Cory Lopez who paddled into the (as of then) craziest wave anyone had ever paddled into. Give Cory some credit.

  • ron sandler

    surfing is supposed to be Fun,, not Life threatening.

  • jojo

    haha. 3 poops a day! i love it. even from the safe distance of my couch in california, i’m poopin right along with ya, cj. rush it, boys!

  • rob gilley

    a wonderfully crappy ending, joel.

  • Campbell

    A splendidly apt reference to Shakespeare’s Macbeth in the headline. Joel, I award you 10/10 for literary allusion!

  • Beachbum

    It’s gonna be awesome to watch! Those ski’s are gonna be on high alert to fish out competitors wiping out.

  • whamo

    When the whip comes down!

  • die antwoord

    Adam, I’m not sure if Dane is fit enough for the predicted conditions…and I’m not talking about his knee….a beer belly wont do much for you when its life and death conditions…….

  • Marcelo

    CORYs been so underrated lately, bullshit…

  • Kiama

    Wish Dane was there; he would proabaly pull off the win in epic conditions. So heavy can’t wait.

  • amosandy

    die antwoord: you make about as much sense as a worm in an apple in a barrell going over Niagara Falls. Dane’s got more talent in his belly button then your two legs, feet and brain

  • dan

    Looks like big doesn’t mean good. It was overhyped anyway. Passing up at least one day of perfect surf in favor of a windy forecast seems like an avoidable mistake. Hopefully it gets better tomorrow. Quite a disapointment after 5 straight days of claims.

  • dan

    After 5 straight days of claiming it turns out that the surf is not good enough to hold a heat. There was at least one epic day that they passed up. What a bunch of bozos.

  • WS

    Too big to paddle? I thought these guys are the best in the world? Just go for it!

  • Landon Davenport

    Wow no mention of Pete Salerno, king of Tahiti? The mainstream surf media continues to pick and choose which surfers receive credit and exposure.

  • JD

    Oh brother…. Now they’re afraid it’ll be too big for them after camping out at yet another world class wave and preventing anyone else from surfing? This is shaping up GREAT for a contest! Let the guys with sack win it, and the ones who are scared score zeros. Couldn’t be better. Revenge for the hundreds of waves pro surfing has stolen from the everyday surfer in the name of cash.

  • Hypecast

    Sean Collins, will you please man up and explain why your epic swell for Thursday turns out to be 3′ shit??

  • Redsandrippa

    …just make the drop bruddahs en poop later..massive adrenal dump…serious water.

  • AgroKook

    Just shows how gay pro surfing has become. If it’s big the only guys paddling in will be Poto, Raimana and Laird on their stand up. Further prove my point.


    way out of my league boys! go for it. you are the now and the future!