Loosely translated, Teahupo’o means “to sever the head” or “place of skulls.”Recognized by Transworld Surf as one of the Top 10 Deadliest Waves in the world, the waves that break near the Tahitian village of Teahupo’o are fast, heavy and unforgiving. Storms as far away as New Zealand, Australia and Antarctica produce waves that can take as long as 10 days to arrive at Teahupo’o. Due to the depth of the ocean, swells start to feel the ocean floor only about a half mile off shore, their open-ocean energy largely unimpeded until they finally reach the reef at Teahupo’o. There, the reef shelf surges the swell from a 150-foot depth to the 20-foot depth of the surf zone. Altogether, this produces massive, heavy, towering waves that break on top ofthe razor-sharp reefs.
Ryan found a trench in a reef crack and waited for the perfect wave to break. “We got into the water and we were waiting for a set to come. The sea was flat, when we could see a small bump forming at the surface in the distance. Then everyone started to whistle and suddenly the bump turned into a 15-footwall. I took a deep breath, dove and felt immediately the pressure rising in my ears. I turned back and saw this gigantic spinning cloud.”