venerdì 14 agosto 2015

Surfing Teahupoo - When Living the Dream is putting everything on the line

So many stories of surf have been told on this blog. From Morocco to Australia, Indonesia to Hawaii. I drove around Europe and traveled South America telling about every fantastic swell I've been honored to surf. Now, after we've crossed the Pacific Ocean with our UZIWAONBOARD mission, we decided to take the south west direction, straight from Tuamotus Island to a little village not very well known to the crowd, however famous for the surf addicts: Teahupoo, the surf mecca for the ones who really know how to handle a surfboard under pressure. Someone told me the meaning of the name, “broken skulls”. I forgot to check if it's true while I was there, but I guess I can believe it anyway, that name fits perfectly. Call it fate or coincidence, from the moment we entered the Havae pass by boat, everything changed around us. The swell was on, the pros were towing and, from behind the break, I could only see the smoke of the water evaporating after slapping the reef. Fortunately we could manage to anchor before dark. The tiny bay was just perfect for Lazy Jack. I couldn't take my eyes off the several waves from the close reefs. After dinner I felt like to lay down on the trampoline for few minutes. That noise was incredible and that place was real. Not a myth anymore, not a picture on Surf life nor a video on youtube. In a few hours, that swell was going to be right under my board. I felt awesome. Thinking about taking off on that wave, getting barreled and surviving a ride made my dreams way to far from reality. In that exact moment I decided I'd rather not surf that wave. I didn't even need to explain to myself why I made that decision. It was obvious. So I opened the window of my room and gave a kiss to Alice.

“Are you going to try tomorrow?” she calmly asked.

I took a breath “Don't think so darling, what I saw today is way out of my league”.

“You scare me, don't even think about it! Crazy man. Have a good night.”

Waking up in the morning, I was relaxed and glad that I was going to finally see in person that insane surf spot. Fortunately this wave is very predictable most of the times and very easy to approach the surfers even with the dinghy. So I was dreaming of a picture of me with my board on the water with the wave behind. Not surfing that wave, just having it on my background. It was at least the only way to say: “I've been in the water at Teahupoo during big swell!”.

So this is it. I should end this post telling you how beautiful was to stand in front of those waves, watching the surfers doing what they are made to do, taking epic pictures and describing the crystal water we were in. That was heaven on coral reef.

However, as you can imagine this story doesn't end like this.
Until this moment I was the good guy, who made a decision and took the best from it. Suddenly I found myself to be another guy, the one who thinks to be born for surfing. The one who starts to talk with anyone in the water. The one who takes the chance to jump on a jet-sky with Jack Jonson and feels like to score his own epic wave.

Very easy. You cannot show the ball to a Jack Russel and don't throw it. I just waited until the waves were small enough to try, paddled to the break and waited for mine. Usually I would be here describing how good was the feeling of jumping on that massive hill, but not this time. The swell suddenly dropped down making the take off doable even for a keen like me. For two hours we didn't have any “bombs” on the spot and I took my chance. I didn't even have the time to sit completely down on board when a big set came out from nowhere. I didn't even paddle so much, I understood straight away that I was right on the impact zone. Looking rapidly around me I saw that every other surfer was going to be hit as well, but even that was not going to save me from drowning or hitting the reef. I remained as calm as never before, I tried not to stare the lip of that first monster and looked only the base (that makes the wave look smaller), but didn't work. So I dropped the board on my side, hyperventilated for a few seconds and tried to go down as much as I could. When the lip touched the surface my only hope was not to be aspired by the power of the wave and be rejected straight on the reef. But hopes in that situation are just the way to feel less responsible for our own decisions. In fact I was not hoping, I was fighting for my life. I never underestimated that massive wave and I guess that is the reason why I'm here now. I couldn't even protect myself, my arms and legs were powerless so I just accepted that energy, kept my adrenaline under a stroke limit and tried to think about the next move. I was never breathless, however it's always a good sensation when you feel your board pulling up your ankle, trying to take you away from the darkest place on earth. Reaching the surface I was expecting to be suddenly hit by the second wave of the set, but luckily she was still three seconds away. I quickly inhaled and down again. This time was all another story. I touched the reef underneath in the same moment I tried to dive. The second hit was a real blast, the water was boiling and rocks were everywhere. I could feel them scratching my shoulders and my feet. When I came back to surface, my board was not pulling on me anymore. I looked at it and saw my board snapped into two pieces. I released the leash and swam to the left trying to avoid the deadly right wave, but I didn't even have the time to worry a bit because the fantastic duo, Mathai Drollet from the water and Trevor Jonson with the jet sky, was already there to take me out of hell. I saw it on the video so many times how to do it, they make a little round and you have to take the hand while jumping on the back of the sea scooter. Believe it or not they arrived one meter from me and than couldn't come closer because of an incoming wave...

Mathai never left me, showing me where to swim and a few seconds later I was on the back of the jet sky, with Alice taking pictures of the big ego surfer just few seconds before he passed out.

After all, I thought to find myself in a corner, maybe scared to surf again or having some nightmare while sleeping. Honestly there are a few snapshots before the first impact I will never forget. But at the end of the day, I feel a kind of proud.

I know it sounds crazy but I can not imagine my life to be different.

Surviving Teahupoo was a very good welcome to Tahiti!!!!!