In case you have never seen the awesome wave of Teahupoo, here is a video.

The amazing Laird Hamilton rides the famous giant wave of Tahiti. Immediately, people started calling it “the greatest/largest/highest/biggest wave ever ridden!” in a quest for view count spectacular.


Fact is, the wave at Teahupoo is amazing in many respects. Still, it’s not the biggest wave by far, not even the biggest surf-friendly wave, nor the biggest wave surfed. But it has certain qualities that endear it to the camera (more than to the surfer).

For one, it is located at a shallow reef right next to a deep channel. That makes it possible for camera crews and rescue boats to sit right next to the breaking wave for an almost perfect shot. Indeed, the first time I saw the swell at Teahupoo was on a poster where about a dozen boardshorted surfers sit next to a wall of water that looks 100 foot high – without batting an eye, indicating that they knew the wave was not going to hit them.

The conditions are frequently perfect for shots. The waters of Tahiti are relatively calm, and the swell originates far, far away, in the freezing waters of the Antarctic Ocean. When they get to Teahupoo, they are monstruous, but they lost all the misshapenness of their origin. The lower frequencies dissipate, only the big carrier wave makes it to Polynesia.

All but one thing stymies the Teahupoo enthusiast: how on earth do you pronounce the name? And, secondarily, what does that mean?