The thundering sound on the reef made it impossible to sleep. I tossed and turned, fearing the fear I already knew I would feel during my first session. After all, it was Teahupoo*! In my mind, it was so thick and punishing and frightening and reefy and everything scary about a wave except for ‘cold’ that I could ever imagine”¦ in a daze of dawn, I half-reluctantly pulled out my sweet new J7 6’4″ and piled over the side into the Ripple. I waved to my fishermen buddies as I putted off across the lagoon, talking myself through a strategy and nibbling nervously at my last Clif Bar.
My friend, Josh Humbert, who I’d met the year prior in the Tuamoutus, was all siked and set to take photos, while I wasn’t even sure I was capable of actually surfing!? I doddled in the channel, scoping out the sets and the crowd’s dynamic. The cloud cover gave it a gray, angry look, as the heaving lips sucked up and arced into cavernous water cylinders. But after a thorough surveillance, the sets looked manageable-a foot overhead at most. I spotted a few familiar faces, too, so I went over and tied to the buoy in the channel, did my routine surf prep, and paddled for the lineup.
After greeting Adam, who I hadn’t seen since my one time there a year before, and Fabrice who I surfed with routinely near the boatyard, I sat wide for a while to get comfortable with a place to line-up with on land and just observe the behavior of the wave. Finally Adam called, “This one, Liz, GO!!” I paddled hard and got under it, grabbed my rail, and locked into backside three-wheel drive, bracing myself for disaster”¦ but to my surprise, I made the drop, glided just under the quickly peeling lip, then saw an exit and launched out the back. “Okay””¦I told myself (yes, I realize I have been talking to myself quite a bit lately)”¦ “that wasn’t so bad?”
I caught a few more”¦
Soon the fear had been extremely diffused and I paddled happily chatted myself across the line-up during a long lull”¦’iaroana’s’ and ‘hi’s’ and ‘bonjours’ all around”¦I felt relieved to think that maybe I could actually surf Teahupoo*!! Yeah yeah yeah!”¦Hello! Nice to meet you”¦Ca va? Me? Oh I’m from California”¦yeah, no, not really on vacation”¦I’m here on a sailboat”¦” My words trailed off”¦
“Liz!” Fabrice called from across a row of five guys”¦ “You have a ‘pechu’!… ‘caca nez’! He signaled to me with a smile, putting a finger to his nose, as he only knew the word for ‘booger’ in Tahitian and French”¦
After wiping a long white blob of snot from my upper lip onto my hand, I burst into a slightly embarrassed laughter. No one else had bothered to tell me!”¦In that moment and during my many sessions since, I’ve learned NEVER to let my guard down at this wave”¦one way or another, Teahupoo* will find a way to humble you.
*In an effort to support Josh Humbert’s crusade to correct the outside world’s pronunciation of ‘Teahupoo’, I would like to inform everyone that contrary to popular belief, there is no ‘poo’ in the pronunciation of Teahupo’o. The ‘Teahu’ sounds like ‘ch-oh’ and the po’o like Po’ as in Edgar Allen ‘Poe’. It’s not ‘poo’…can’t you see there is a gutteral stop!?