More Top Stories


Bigger and busier 2023: PM

31 December 2022

Other Sports

Double gold for Darts

21 January 2023


Covid-19 cases stable: TMO

10 January 2023


Population policy endorsed

10 January 2023


PM Brown vows to change law

23 January 2023

Rugby league

Moana target 2025 World Cup

11 November 2022


We’re halfway there!

16 November 2022


From the river to the ocean

18 November 2022

Teahupo’o delivers worst-ever wipeout

Wednesday 29 July 2015 | Published in Regional


TEAHUPO‘O – It’s being described as perhaps the heaviest wipe-out in surfing history.

Onlookers initially thought big-wave surfer Niccolo Porcella? might have died when he was sucked up to the crest of a monster wave at Teahupo‘o? in Tahiti last week and slammed back down onto the coral reef, disappearing from sight at the famed surf break.

Now, the 27-year-old surfer has spoken of the minutes he spent being repeatedly pummelled under water before emerging in the churning whitewash, only to start spitting up blood.

His reaction is not what you’d expect from someone who has just endured a near-death experience.

“The best day of my life was marrying my wife, but this, for sure, was second best,” he told Surfing Life magazine.

The Hawaiian-born, Italian-raised surfer is a habitual thrill-seeker who also dabbles in kite-boarding, wing-suit flying and cliff-jumping. He told Surfing Life that he was on his first trip to Teahupo‘o to do some filming with a friend when the monster swell hit on Thursday last week.

Teahupo‘o, off the south-west coast of Tahiti, is recognised as having one of the heaviest swells in the world, renowned for delivering a consistent barrel wave.

What makes the wave even more treacherous is the shallow coral reef, estimated to be just 50 centimetres deep at some places where the wave breaks.

Porcella said he had just been towed on a jetski into his sixth wave of the day, when he fell from his board and hit the water.

“It was the most violent thing – I got annihilated,” Porcella told Surfing Life.

“I was bounced, pin-balled on the reef, the whole nine yards. Just up and over and up and over. It held me under pretty long.

“My life-vest got blown off right away, and then the second wave drilled me – I actually hit the bottom even harder. Hit my back, my knees, and then I got about four more waves on the head after that – washed over the reef.”

The training he had done beforehand – on strength, flexibility, holding his breath and controlling his mind – helped him to cope with the intensity of the moment, he said.

He said he eventually surfaced, “spitted blood a couple of times” and saw the relief on the face of the jetski rider who came to his aid.

“Then I just got this scream from deep inside me, just, ‘rhawghhhh!’. I felt the most alive and grateful that I was alive, I was so happy. I had a headache for two or three minutes, then went back out and waited about 20 minutes for another bomb.”

It would be understandable if he wanted to take a break from such extreme activity and regroup after such an ordeal, but Porcella had other ideas in mind.

“We’re wanting to wing-suit over the mountains. We’re lining up permits and helicopters and all that stuff, and will do it within this week,” he said.

Teahupo‘o – often referred to as Chopes – is the surf break where Australian surfer Mick Fanning will return to compete on the world tour next month, after his own close shave when he survived an encounter with a great white shark in South Africa.

Fanning posted a surfing video on Instagram this week, with the caption: “Can’t wait for Chopes!!!”

While Fanning and the rest of the surfing pro tour athletes are recuperating at home between events, a small group of big-wave specialists have been feasting on one of the most dangerous swells seen at Teahupo‘o for a long time.

A handful of underground surfers, including Hawaiian woman Keala Kennelly, have been riding waves that witnesses say matched the legendary “Code Red” swell that hit during the Billabong Pro in 2011.

“It went from 10-12ft in the morning to tow only conditions by lunch,” photographer Ray Collins told The Australian newspaper.

“It was 20-25ft walls of death and somehow no one was seriously hurt. It was one of the most surreal experiences I’ve had in the ocean in my 30ish years of being in and around it.

“The spit from the tube would rain down on us in the boat for five to 10 seconds like a fire hose.”

Thanks to the jetski drivers, nobody was seriously injured.

“Most of the time they would be in to pick the wiped-out surfer up and to safety before the next wave hit them. They are the best rescue jet ski drivers in the world,” Collins said.

Surfers are now anxious that Teahupo’o hasn’t delivered such an amazing swell a couple of weeks too early.

The next stop on the 2015 Men’s Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour is the Billbong Pro which is being staged at Teahupo’o from August 14 to 25.