Following the pathway to Teahupoo


Here is how it went – the steps I took – Beth sometimes writes posts about her meaderings through the Internet, how one thing leads to another, how she discovers some blog through a random blog-roll, how a comment in a blog-post leads her to another blog – etc. It’s hard to trace back how certain things happen, but anyway, here goes:

— In the comments to this post, I reference one quote from a soldier (a surfer) who said that the firefight made him feel like he was in the “Green Hole” of a big wave.

— I know nothing about surfing. I have never surfed. But … I am strangely fascinated by them, dating (randomly) from Roger Ebert’s review of Riding Giants. I still haven’t seen that movie – but now I HAVE to. I have no desire to be jet-skied to the top of a towering 60 foot mountain of water, and then ski down the front of it – however, I have a huge fascination towards those who find this FUN.

— So. Anyway. The whole “Green Hole” comment sparked my curiosity. I Googled the term. Naturally, this did not bring up much. I tried different variations.

— Somehow (I’m missing a step) – I found myself here – the wikiepedia entry for Laird Hamilton. I’ve heard of him – but didn’t really know much about him. Reading thru the entry, I came across this paragraph (again – now that I have surfed around the web – ahem – I realize what a huge deal this is and
serious surfers will roll their eyes at how little I know about what is probably common knowledge to them!! but it’s news to me:)

However, it was Hamilton’s death-defying drop into Tahiti’s Teahupoo break on the morning of August 17, 2000 which undoubtedly became the benchmark in his career and his life, and cemented his status as a legendary big wave surfer, one of the greatest surfers that has ever lived. A wipeout in Teahupoo, a particularly hazardous shallow-water reefbreak southeast of Tahiti, means almost certain death yet on that August morning Laird defied all expectations and conquered what is widely considered to be the most dangerous wave ever ridden given the enormous height and volume of water which Laird succeeded in defeating. His ride there of is known by surfers worldwide simply as ‘The Wave’ with the shot of him riding The Wave making the cover of Surfer magazine, accompanied by the caption: “Oh My God…”. Afterwards even Laird admitted that even he was pushing himself to the “max, max, max” as he was quoted on saying, knowing that his life had been on fine knife edge in undertaking such a truly magnificent endeavour.

— To quote my father: “Nevah heard of it.”

— But it sparked my interest. I immediately needed to hear what EVERYONE had to say about what Laird Hamilton did that day. Why was the wave such a big deal? Why do people still talk about what he did that day? Click below the fold to see a picture of Laird doing his thing on that day, Aug. 17, 2000 – riding “the most dangerous wave ever”. My curious brain splutters … but … but … what made it so dangerous? What put it beyond the waves other guys’ have surfed? I don’t know!!

— I went to Laird Hamilton’s website, which sucks. Like: dude. Get a better web designer. But I did watch a couple of trailers of his surfing movies. Phenomenal footage. Truly terrifying. Good lord. Just monstrous waves. Walls of water with a teeny human screaming down the face of it. Beautiful. Insane. Good for you, Laird. Get a new website. Nothing really about “The Wave” (as I have learned it is called by surfers) – at least not as in-depth as I wanted. So I moved on.

— So of course I Googled “Laird Hamilton Tahiti” and started getting somewhere. First link on the page: is this – a post showing famous photograph of Laird that was on the cover of Surfer magazine.

— From that post, I found the photography of Tim McKenna – who captured the whole thing.

— Back to Google. Found this article. Quote from Laird:

That wave in Tahiti was one of those moments that I questioned the success of that ride during it. Right in the apex of it I was seriously questioning whether I’d make it, and I had this voice telling me to jump off. I was having this internal battle as to what to do.

— Why is this so INTERESTING to me? Again: probably because I do not understand his overwhelming passion (I don’t mean that in a judgmental way – I just mean that I do not share his passion) – and I am always interested in hearing passionate people describe their interior thought processes. That’s why Into Thin Air is such a good book. I have no desire to climb to Mount Everest – but I LOVE to listen to people who have THAT as their guiding passion. What can I say. I love freaks. I love people who are nutty, who are not like the majority of other people, who take risks – even if it means losing thier lives. I love people who, for whatever reason, NEED to … oh … surf down a wall of water. If they didn’t surf down that wall of water?? They’d be sociopathic messes. And maybe they are anyway, but still: it doesn’t matter. They MUST surf down that wall of water. Love it.

— Next I clicked on this link. Quote from Laird:

I was in Hawaii in 1969 when Greg Noll caught the giant wave. I had heard about Jeff Clark surfing Maverick for years. But it’s great to have this film capture the spirit of surfing, because that’s so difficult to do. It’s like trying to explain how to surf a 60-foot wave. It’s hard to make people understand it. I’ve been trying to get this film made for six years. I knew a film existed, but I didn’t know it was this film. We wanted to put a stop to this stereotypical view of surfers, like, “Hey, dude!” all that stuff.

Again: worlds of information in there that … is news to me. Who is Greg Noll? What was the big deal about HIS wave? Fascinating!!! Also – all the controversies in the surfing world. Laird Hamilton’s role in all of that. Yadda yadda. Veddy interesting. I love learning new stuff.

— Finally, I clicked on this link from Men’s Journal – which is very well-written and pretty much set me straight on the path to enlightenment. All questions answered. Check it out.

Relevant quotes, for me anyway:

Here is the explanation to my Greg Noll WTF?? question:

As a five-year-old beach rat, Laird also lived through big-wave surfing’s foundational legend: the huge Swell of ’69, when the legendary Greg Noll defined the upper limit of human possibility — the beginning of the unridden realm. By paddling into, and barely surviving, a 35-foot wave, Noll threw down surfing’s ultimate gauntlet.

And here’s some background information for all of us surfing retards out there:

Catching any wave requires getting your board to move faster than the wave itself, so you can overcome surface friction and shoot down the front. The bigger the waves get, the faster they move, but there’s a limit to how fast humans can paddle. Waves over 35 feet were the “unridden realm” until the early 1990s, when Laird, Doerner, and their friend Buzzy Kerbox began using powerboats, and then jet skis, to tow one another into 50-footers at a Maui break called Jaws. At first, traditionalists called the motor assist cheating, but soon they were buying their own jet skis and copying Laird’s marquee act.

Okay. Got it. We’re going into an “unbidden realm”. A high-water mark had been set for 30 years …

Now here is where I kinda flipped out – just because, for a split second – I really GOT it. In terms of what makes the waves at this spot in Tahiti different and more lethal from other waves (and please: surfers, or ocean experts – PLEASE weigh in … this is all news to me) But anyway, here is a great paragraph – I can see exactly what the writer is talking about:

Sheer wave height counts for a lot, but surfing also has an alternate path to glory, based on a wave’s power — or “thickness.” Nobody wants to fall on a very tall wave, but a very thick one is far more lethal.

Think of it this way: big surf is generated in the chaos of a distant storm, and while rolling across the open ocean it consolidates into a stretched-out sine curve. Approaching California, the ever shallower continental shelf drags on those curves, slowing them down and pushing them into a peaklike shape until a thin lip spills over. And even on a towering wave, the face can still be a relatively gentle ramp.

But off the southern coast of Tahiti, near the village of Teahupoo (pronounced CHO-poo), the ocean depth goes from 2,000 feet to six feet in the space of a few hundred yards. Antarctic swell hits the sharp coral reef so hard and fast it has no time to push into a peak. Viewing an incoming Teahupoo wave from the side, you see just the flat ocean surface behind and a vertical wall of water in front. At the last moment, the whole top half of that cliff soars forward in a massively thick lip. The world’s finest surfers have to struggle for balance here, screaming through a giant tube over sharp coral with no way out. If the pursuit of sheer wave height is a mountain-man game, easily appreciated, the pursuit of thickness is the connoisseur’s dance with death.

Teahupoo is considered the world’s thickest wave.

Never really considered this before. It’s not just about towering height. Thickness can be far more dangerous.

And this sentence: see just the flat ocean surface behind and a vertical wall of water in front. … And I can understand why this is the case, if the water gets so shallow so quickly. I can picture it in my mind, although I don’t think I’ve ever seen waves that big in my life. I get it.

At the last moment, the whole top half of that cliff soars forward in a massively thick lip.

Okay. Okay. I got it. You’ve scared the crap out of me. I got it.

Then, in the article, we get to know Laird. And he kinda sounds like a dick. heh heh Kinda?? Ah well. I’m not interested in Laird Hamilton because he’s “nice”. Most daredevils have to have a bit of the dick about their personality – not just a cocky sense of their own immortality, but also a competitive spirit that will keep others from catching up to them. You must want to be the greatest to be in Laird’s position. So … he sounds like a nightmare. Whatever. I don’t need my surfing geniuses to be polite and domesticated. I prefer the wildness. Like I said: give me fringe-dwellers, give me people too nuts for polite society, give me the kooks, the weirdos, those who follow their passions to a logical conclusion. Hang the consequences!

The article ends with a description of Laird riding that wave in Tahiti.

I need to see Riding Giants to see this footage. But for now, here’s the passage:

Dropping into a Teahupoo wave is less like roaring down a mountain than slipping over the edge of a cliff into a fast-forming canyon. As Laird releases the tow rope that morning in Tahiti, the wave just falls away below him, until hundreds of horizontal feet of water have dropped into a 20-foot precipice. He sails down and left, escape already impossible, and then the hoots fade as the wave morphs into an outsize behemoth — the movie star unaware that Godzilla looms behind him.

Near the bottom, as he compresses into a tight crouch — and this is where surfers watching the video shot that day freak out — the whole top half of the wave launches into a single, solid lip, encasing him in a mineshaft with a 10-foot-thick wall in front and the ocean itself behind, all of it spinning. In waves of monstrous height Laird had survived horrendous wipeouts without a scratch; to fall on that Teahupoo wave would have been, as he put it, “like getting driven through a cheese grater by a steamroller.”

Just staying on his feet required absolute technical mastery. Water was rushing up the face so fast that he had to surf almost straight down to avoid getting sucked up and over; he had to carve left to avoid running into a lethal waterfall. And Teahupoo’s bizarre hydraulics meant that Laird was soaring through a curved wormhole, with no end in sight, his mind screaming at him, “Jump off! Jump off!” For a man who had never been able to find his own limits, he suddenly felt, as he put it, “max-max-max-max.” Scarier still, a gigantic bolus of whitewater was filling the tube from behind, running him down like floodwater through the Holland Tunnel.

Laird is a powerful man, but every surfer who sees that footage has the same reaction: You start out thrilled, then your jaw drops, then you get worried, and then you get a guilty kind of nausea, watching a man flirt with on-camera suicide. Locked inside that blue hole Laird looks tiny and just barely in control, as if the slightest surface chop could topple him. You know that he’s touching the edge of his abilities, and it makes you feel weak inside. You want to turn away and tell yourself your own inadequacy is okay. Then the whitewater explodes from the barrel’s mouth like spray from a 30-foot-wide firehose, and Laird vanishes. The onlookers who could see what was happening were terrified.

Then he emerges, still standing.

And that’s when the interesting part begins. As Laird climbs back into the boat he looks directly into the video camera and says, “Hi, Dad.” He’s talking to Billy, of course — carrying on the dialogue they’ve been having since he was three years old. Seeming more stunned than triumphant, his next words are something Billy always told him: “Come home with your shield or on it, right?”

Trying to start a conversation in the boat, Laird finds the others too astonished to speak. They’ve just witnessed a defining moment in the sport’s history, and they seem uncomfortably aware that Laird is not so much like them after all. He notices this and looks disturbed. His life’s work has just come together; he’s done something so extreme that all doubts are put to rest. Bradshaw, Doerner, Billy — none of them could have ridden that wave, and, more importantly, none of them would have ridden that wave.

But what’s it like to reach the end of your journey? To see at last your own glorious power, even as you face the truly suicidal nature of your hungers? Once you’ve brushed this close to death, are you really going to wake up tomorrow and try to get even closer?

Confusion sweeps his handsome features, and he searches the other faces. Perhaps to relieve tension, he loudly declares to a wiry blond man, “Hey, that was for you!”

The guy laughs. “For me?”

“Because you were towing before, you didn’t get to see the first big one.”

The blond man musters a hoot, honoring the gesture, but he has no illusion that Laird rode that wave for him. “Heaviest thing ever,” he says, shaking his head. Everybody’s trying to say what they think Laird wants to hear, but none of it comes out right. “You’re a freak,” one guy says. “I’m going to have nightmares tonight.”

“You better check out a psychologist,” says another.

Laird ‘s eyes soften to weep, his nose swells and his mouth loosens into a gentle smile, but then he shakes it off and waves to the second boat, where a half-dozen more surfers watch silently. He yells, “For you guys, man! For you!”

“Oh yeah?” comes a reply.

After a lifetime of setting himself apart from others, Laird suddenly aches to feel less alone. Speaking to the Tahitians in the crowd, he says, “Thank you for your love, your ohana.” He gestures with a fist to his heart, but the others are simply too awed to respond. He looks one last time for what he wants but will never get from these companions, and then he puts his head between his knees and cries.

There’s not a sentence in that entire article that I do not find interesting.

August 17, 2000, Laird Hamilton
Tahiti’s Teahupoo break
“The Wave”


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46 Responses to Following the pathway to Teahupoo

  1. Jen W. says:

    WEIRD- I was just talking to my friend yesterday about Laird Hamilton and we were discussing how sick (in a good way)he is and how we need to watch all the surf movies again- check out Step Into Liquid. I’m not a surfing expert at all, but the sport fascinates me.

    And excuse my language, but holy fucking shit, that wave is insane. I have no words for how crazy that is.

  2. red says:

    hahaha That is so weird!!

    I need to see these surf movies. I really do!! NUTS.

    That wave is a killer. Being slammed by that wave would obviously be like having a building fall on you. Insane!!!!

    Maybe you would know the answer to this – I saw a movie YEARS ago in the movie theatre – about skiers doing death-defying insane acts – skiing ahead of avalanches, etc – done by a famous film-maker who specialized in these movies? Like long long shots of mountain tops with a teeny skier going straight down with a huge avalanche chasing him …

    I want to say the director’s name was Warren Zevon -hahahaha but I know that’s not right. It’s something like that though.

  3. Jen says:

    haha, you mean “Werewolves of Aspen”? Yes, I’ve seen that movie.

    I totally know what you’re talking about, but for the life of me can’t remember their name. Hmmm…time for a Google Search.

    It seems very similar though, doesn’t it? Whether it’s a wall of water or ice, you’d probably die either way if you fell. While I have absolutely no intentions of putting myself in danger like that, it’s pretty cool to see others conquer it.

  4. Jen says:


  5. red says:

    You completely amaze me. YES!!! WARREN MILLER!!!

    Those movies are NUTS!!

  6. Jen says:

    I remember hearing about all of this because Jeremy Bloom was in the last movie he made. They drop them out of freakin helicopters at the top of a mountain and film them skiing down it.

  7. red says:

    A boyfriend of mine went heli-skiing all the time so he was why I saw all those INSANE movies.

  8. Dee says:

    I started watching Riding Giants one afternoon about halfway through and by the end I was completely in awe. I have watched it many times since. I don’t get the drive to put myself in situations that might cause physical harm or death the way surfers do. But I am always impressed by those who pursue their interests with such passion. It’s by the same guy, Stacy Peralta, who directed Dogtown and Z-Boys. That’s excellent, too.

  9. Jen says:

    That is crazy! Heli-skiing? What will they think of next?

    (I sound like my grandma when she saw my cell phone could take pictures)hahahahaha

  10. Jen says:

    Man, now I have to go to the video store…

  11. Jen says:

    And I do this all the time (changing subjects), sorry, but have you seen which Queen songs the American Idol kids are doing? Because I think Taylor picked the perfect song. Check it out. And the photo with Brian May in the middle? hahahahahaha. Nice tank top.

  12. red says:

    Dee – I gotta see Riding Giants – I am so interested now!!

  13. red says:

    Here’s an interesting quote from Ebert’s review of Riding Giants:

    What a long time it seems since that summer of 1967, when I sat in a Chicago beer garden with the suntanned and cheerful Bruce Brown. He’d just made a documentary named “Endless Summer,” and was touring the country with it, at the moment when surfing was exploding (there were 5,000 surfers in 1959, 2 million today). For Brown, surfing was a lark. With a $50,000 budget, he followed two surfers on an odyssey that led to Senegal, Ghana, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti and Hawaii. They were searching for the “perfect wave,” and found it off Durban, South Africa: “A 4-foot curl that gave rides of 15 minutes and came in so steadily it looked like it was made by a machine.”

    A 4-foot curl? Hamilton and his contemporaries challenge waves of 60 or 70 feet. “Endless Summer” charts a world of beaches and babes, brews and Beach Boys songs, and surfers who live to “get stoked.” In “Riding Giants” the sport is more like an endless winter — solitary and dangerous. Even as Brown was making “Endless Summer,” modern surfing was being invented by pioneers like Greg Noll of Hawaii, who ventured 15 miles up the coast from Honolulu to Waimea Bay. It was thought to be unsurfable; a surfer asks himself, “can the human body survive the wipeout?” It could. The discovery of the North Shore of Oahu, the movie says, “was surfing’s equivalent of Columbus discovering the New World.”

    More vintage footage. The “storm of the century” descends upon Hawaii, and Noll, known as “The Bull,” determines to surf it. His chances of surviving are rated at 50/50 by the movie, at zero by any reasonable person watching it. He survived. It was “the biggest wave ever ridden” — until, perhaps, the monster that Hamilton found off Tahiti, too big to be measured.

  14. Jen says:

    WOW. You know what is so cool about that? This sport has had all of its big changes and monumental icons captured on film-WHEN THEY HAPPENED. From the 1960’s until now, you can watch all of the surfing movies and see how the sport has evolved.

    I think it’s one of the few sports that has that. They may have footage of games in popular sports, but I don’t think it compares to the immersion into the sport that you get with these surfing movies. You may have movies ABOUT baseball and football, but not of their idols at the exact time that they’re doing what made them famous.

  15. Rude1 says:

    Awww crap, I miss the opportunity to showoff my AWESOME skiing knowledge and tell you about Warren Miller. Although, I cracked up on the Warren Zevon and Werewolves of Aspen comments. You and Jen Crack. Me. Up!

    When I was a ski instructor, we always started the day with a WM Movie. Then we would go out and try to do some of that stuff…I really don’t know how most of us are still alive! LOL

  16. red says:

    Oh rude – tell us more!!! I’m dying to know. Have you heli-skied? Please tell us about your experience.

    I remember seeing one of Warren Zevon’s movies and being blown away!!


  17. Rude1 says:


    Okay, well, yes I’ve heli skied and it is beyond words! Luckily, we never had any avalanches while doing that (but have been in a few small slides at resorts). Heli Skiing is mostly insanely long runs through “bottomless” powder. That’s where the snow is so deep that when you make a turn, you basically go under the snow and pop back up as you start the next turn. It’s hard to describe, but it’s due to the physics of ski design, snow density and water content, and steepness of the slope. The funny thing is, in powder that deep, you have to learn to “time” your breathing to inhale as you pop out, take a quick look to see where you’re going, and then it’s back under. Quite a rush!

    Then, there are the cliffs… :)

  18. Rude1 says:

    I remember one day I was standing on top of a small cliff (about 15-20 feet high) looking at the landing area and this little kid (about 12 I guess) was down below and yelled up “go for it!” I hollared back “I’m a little old for that these days” and he then said, “Scott Schmidt would do it”. Scott Scmidt was the guy in most of Millers movies during the mid eighties. Needless to say, the little turd shamed me into taking the plunge. Luckily, the landing was pretty soft…

  19. Poor Minnie Temple says:

    I find all this fascinating so thanks for the post. What troubles me and makes my stomach go all funny is wondering what happens next? What haven’t we imagined yet?

  20. Jen says:

    What an AWESOME story, Rude! That is so cool. My brother used to work at Vail and I remember going out there and being stunned at the size of the mountains and how much powder there was (I’m from flatland Chicago).

    When you talk about taking a breath coming up from the snow, is it like timing your breath when swimming, so that you don’t get a mouthful of water?

    Did you actually JUMP out of the helicopter with skis on?

  21. Rude1 says:

    Ah, there’s the rub. There will always be those out there who will push the envelope either for the accomplishment, or the thrill. But, that’s how we got to the moon; people taking risks…

    WTH? From the green eye to the moon? Sometimes even I wonder what the heck I’m thinking! :)

  22. Jen says:

    Are the Warren Miller movies comparable to the surf movies, in that they capture the essence of the sport and its huge athletes?

  23. Rude1 says:

    The heli skiing I’ve done, the helicopter would hover just above the ground and we’d jump out (about a foot or two) without our skis as they were stored in a basket on the side of the chopper.

    Timing the breating is just like swimming, except you’re usually wearing a mask of some sort, and the snow against the mask acted like a very thick filter, so only a small amount of air would come through. I hope that makes sense…

  24. Rude1 says:

    I think so. His movies were a mixture of humor (his narrations are HILARIOUS!) and incredible skiing. He usually profiled those that skied for him at some point in the film.

    While I’ve never jumped out of a helicopter before, I did jump over a highway once…

  25. Jen says:

    That is so cool! I’m in awe. Not many people get to say that they’ve jumped out of a helicopter, especially to then ski down a gigantic mountain.

  26. Rude1 says:

    It’s not as hard as it seems. Skiing is skiing it’s just that out there, if you get hurt, it can take a while to get to you. ANyway, the companies that run these expeditions have pretty strict rules about who can go, what they can do etc. You NEVER heli ski without a guide.

  27. red says:

    Rude – thank you so much for indulging my curiosity. That is totally amazing – I never thought of the whole breathing thing. The adrenaline rush during such a ski run must be unbeLIEVable!!!

  28. red says:

    Minnie – I say whatever it is, bring it on!!

  29. red says:

    Rude – is it known who the first person was to heli-ski? Is there a similar daredevil (ie: lunatic) Laird Hamilton type in skiing? I mean, I’m sure there is …

  30. red says:

    Jen – about the whole being-captured-on-film thing:

    I think there’s something interesting too about surfing because there’s a partner in the sport – and the partner is (obviously) the wave. That wave in Tahiti was one of its kind – once it’s over it can never be repeated. So to have it captured on film – there’s a fleeting sense of the moment here, something you can never get back.

    A baseball game (my own personal favorite sport) is dependent upon the teams, the pitcher, the cooperation of players – the game can turn at any second (which I love) – but it’s different than having half of your sporting moment dependent upon the physics of nature.

    People have obviosuly been surfing for thousands of years – the Polynesians maybe were the pioneers?? – but each wave is its own things. No wave can be repeated exactly. Once a wave is over, it’s gone from the earth forever.

    There’s something so gripping about that. The surfer has no choice but to grab the moment. Laird Hamilton had to take his moment on that wave. That ride was the only ride of its kind in the history of surfing – in the same way that every other amazing ride is the only one of its kind – because of the differences between waves.

    It’s such a cool cooperation between man and nature – although, of course, it’s really just man fucking with nature – and he is LUCKY if he survives it.

  31. Poor Minnie Temple says:

    Yeah, I say bring it on as well. Quietly. From the safety and security of my armchair.

  32. Lisa says:

    You know, Laird Hamilton is married to Gabrielle Reece, the beach volleyball player, which is yet another entry in the Life Is Not Fair sweepstakes. I mean, my GOD, could there BE two more beautiful people married to each other?

  33. red says:

    Lisa – from my VAST research today I now consider myself a Laird Hamilton expert and yes – I agree – what????

    Here’s a bad thing, though: he was married before, and had an infant daughter. Gabrille Reece showed up to interview him and surf with him for her TV show – and dude, he LEFT his wife and daughter to be with Gabrille. Kinda slimy.

    And now I hear his marriage to Gabrille is on the rocks. Which doesn’t surprise me. The guy has one love: big waves. That’s it.

  34. Noonz says:


    While you’re out getting Riding Giants, get Step Into Liquid as well. Also a fascinating documentary, it not only featured laird, but has a ton of other wild stuff, including some American surferdudes who flew to Ireland to surf.


    And completely interesting.

  35. Lisa says:

    Yeah, I read that on Wikipedia. What a knob.

    I had even forgotten that they were married until there was an article on them in this month’s (or last month’s, I don’t remember) Allure about their house in Hawaii. I couldn’t get over how physically beautiful the three of them are — and then to see their gorgeous house in that heavenly place? It was almost too much to take in. Too much beauty in one dose.

  36. red says:

    Gabrielle Reece seems kinda cool for him (theoretically) because she’s a fierce competitor herself. And she kinda “gets it”. She wouldn’t ask him to not do what he does. She knew what she signed up for.

  37. Mr. Bingley says:

    The color of the water on those waves is what fascinates me; absolutely pure and seamless too, almost plastic-like in its appearence. How very very cool.

  38. Jen says:

    I was going to comment on the whole Gabby Reece thing too…that article was in In Style Magazine. You should SEE the photos of their house in Hawaii. Life is definitely not fair when you see the view from their wraparound porch.

  39. Mr. Bingley says:

    And I’ve been at the Jersey Shore all my life, so I know what waves are supposed to look like. Where are the cans? The syringes?

  40. RONW says:

    The thickness of a Teahupoo wave just cannot be described by words alone. That’s what sets the Tahitian surf spot apart from all others. It’s probably triple the thickness for comparable waves of that size. However, it’s only like a few seconds ride. That wasn’t by far the site where the “biggest wave ever ridden” took place. Teahupoo is too shallow and would close-out with an extra large swell. The biggest wave ever ridden, at least recorded on video, was off Maui….by Laird.

    BTW, these daredevils are not careless people. They keep themselves in top condition by following a rigorous regiment of carrying boulders and running underwater in 20-ft depths. Laird drags a log strapped to his back along the sand. Plus, for the really big stuff, with tow-in surfing via a jet ski….since it’s physically impossible to take-off by simply paddling down the slope of a giant wave….they keep ready a second back-up jet ski standing by for contingencies. And continuely heed wannabes that tow-in surfing is for a select few in the world, which it is. You gotta realize that on a very big day, the conditions in the water alone, is something quite hazardous to contend with, even without the huge breakers. Personally, I would trade a single endless summer wave, a mile-long ride on perfect waves along the coast of South Africa, for all other waves combined. Red, it’s better known as being stoked in surfing parlance.

    IMHO, Greg Noll’s riding Waimea Bay was a bigger achievement than Laird’s “biggest wave” and even his Teahupoo ride, because phsychologically Noll’s ride was equivalent to Hillary climbing Mt. Everest, if you follow. The biggest wave I ever saw on film was at a spot called Cortes Banks south off Calif. Those waves are thick too, and in my opinion, larger than Laird’s Maui wave. The swells break in deep deep water off seamounts. I didn’t believe it was possible to ride the monsters until the videos showed surfers actually taking off them….towed in. But, that’s a surf spot for you, because after the swell breaks, the tumbling stops as abruptly as it formed, upon re-entering again deep water once it’s pass the other side of the seamount below it….so relatively safer after a wipeout. It’s worth the effort if you can locate some video footage of surfing the Cortes Banks.

  41. red says:


    Thanks for the cool expert info – it’s great to hear an insider talk about it.

  42. Rude1 says:

    Sorry I didn’t get to your question sooner. I don’t know who the first Heli skier was, but there have been a few folks who “pushed the envelope” in skiing. I would probably say that Stein Erikson was one of the first skiing daredevils. He would make these HUGE jumps that are pretty tame today, but back then… Then of course my two favorites are Scott Schmidt and Glenn Plake. Both are featured in Warren Millers movies. Plake in fact is in Millers latest release. Try and find some of miller’s films from the mid-late 80s to see Scot schmidt. He was this very quiet guy who would ski some incredible stuff. Plake is a wild man (just look at his mohawk! lol) who is an insane skier.

    This is what I love about you Sheila; you are so curious about everything! So cool :)

  43. red says:

    I remember there being some women in Warren Miller’s movies, too. Amazing skiers – I remember one who had fat Pippi Longstocking braids. Why do I remember these things??

  44. Rude1 says:

    LOL, YES! hehehehe, A friend of mine was in one of his films (I can’t remember the dang name). Anyway, she and some friends were summer skiing on those roller-track things that were like great big rollerblades. They were “skiing” around the hills of California lol

  45. Dean's World says:

    Like Unto A God


    Just staying on his feet required absolute technical mastery. Water was rushing up the face so fast that he had to surf almost straight down to avoid getting sucked up and over; he had to carve left t…