Kelly Slater Conducts a Clinic at Teahupoo, Tahiti

by Chris Dixon

As the sun set on August 17, at Teahupoo (Cho-poo), Tahiti, nervous pro surfers gathered for the Association of Surfing Professionals’ Billabong Pro Tahiti pondered Surfline’s ominous forecast for the next day. A serious groundswell, borne of a massive storm in the Roaring Forties, was forecast to send a huge pulse across Teahupoo’s ludicrously shallow reef. August 18 dawned glassy, utterly still, and bombing – with thick, murderous swells running in from 4000 foot deep water and turning themselves inside out before a gallery of the world’s best.

The first heat of the morning saw eleven time, 42-year-old world champion Kelly Slater put on an absolute clinic against fellow pros Sebastian Zietz of Hawaii, 26, and Glenn Hall of Ireland, 32. Slater combined four decades of ocean experience with a preternatural talent that seems to put him at one with the very molecules of the ocean.

If you have a half an hour free, you’d do far worse than to watch the ASP’s excellent coverage of the entire Round 1, Heat 1. If you don’t, fast forward to 7:50. While most of the surfers paddling into waves at Teahupoo crouch low and grab the rail of their surfboard to maintain some semblance of control amidst Teahupoo’s tornadic violence, Slater almost casually manages a hands-free drop into a maelstrom that could coldly kill or maim him in an instant. I’m not sure if anyone on earth, including current number one ranked surfer Gabriel Medina, is capable of surfing a wave like Slater’s  9.40 (out of a possible ten).

Simply incredible.

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The Billabong Pro Tahiti

Code Red Teahupoo, 2011 – The biggest Teahupoo ever surfed.

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