THE BIG TAHITI YEAR
“The first year I went to Tahiti was the massive year. I remember I lost my first heat to Victor Ribas and it was massive. It was fucking huge. It was the year Lowey got caught inside and threw his board and almost died. I was the heat before that happened. I was scared shitless. Anyway, I paddled out for my heat and copped one of the worst wipeouts of my life to this day. It still scars me. It was an eight-footer and I came out of the barrel but couldn’t turn. That was the first big year and we all thought you surfed 7’2”s, but I came out with so much speed my 7’2” wouldn’t turn so I couldn’t kick out. I was just locked into this thing and I look up and here’s the right coming across at me. I bailed and skimmed along the water and had the longest weightless feeling, knowing I was about to be picked up and slammed into the reef. I landed and got backflipped a couple of times into the reef then pancaked in two feet of water. The water’s drained off the reef and I’m thinking, okay, I’m sweet here, a couple of scratches on my knee… then I’ve turned around and looked and there was a six foot wall of white water coming at me like a tsunami. I’m standing there in ankle-deep water thinking, what the fuck do I do now? I just starfished onto the reef and waited for the thing to hit me. Bounce, bounce, bounce all the way into the lagoon. I was sliced up, broke my board, I’m stuck in the lagoon and had to go all the way around the reef to get back out. Meanwhile, Victor Ribas has got me comboed and I’m thinking, do I really wanna go back out there? That was my first experience at Teahupoo – sliced up and dead last, 33rd.
“My wipeout wasn’t even the worst that year… not even close. The worst thing I’ve ever seen out there was Powelly’s wave that year. I was sitting in the channel watching it up close from the boat. That wave was so big and he got sooooo hammered. He was almost down for two waves before the skis got in there and found him and pulled him up by his leggie. It was radical. That same year – I’ll never forget this – Mick got one of the heaviest waves I’ve ever seen in his heat. It was probably the biggest thing he’s ever taken off on out there, it was massive. We’re all losing it, cheering and screaming our tits off for him cause it was such a heavy wave, but he was going so fast he couldn’t get barrelled so the judges gave him a 3.25. He’s caught the heaviest wave of his life and he got a 3.25. You should have seen his face when they announced it.”
This memory of Joel Parkinson’s above has been taken from SW409, The Noughties edition. There’s a hundred other clangers in there from this pre internet era of rich surf history. Don’t miss it. Available here.