“Biggest waves I've ever seen at Teahupoo,” said Billy Kemper about Code Red II yesterday – one of those sessions that will forever be etched into the memory of the few who went out there.
Early in the morning of July 13 2022, marine authorities designated the whole area around the isle of Tahiti as code red. The swell was so big, the wind funky, water gushing into the lagoon – and the message was clear; stay out of the water. Code Red means at least a 24 hour halt on all water activities. A few hours later and the road into Teahupoo was closed, police controlling whoever attempted to drive to the End of the Road.
But from first light, a crew of the world's hardiest big wave surfers had already been out there. Before the call to forbid access to the water was even made. The likes of tow partners Chumbo and Eimeo Czermak, Matahi Drollet, young Gilbert Teave, Billy Kemper, Koa Rothman, Noa Beschen, Justine Dupont, Tereva David were all there.
And yet, only a dozen or so waves were ridden -- total. And what's more nutty, is the last time Code Red came around, in August, 2011, some of this crew were just toddlers. Gilbert Teave would have been five-years-old. So this 'thing' in 2011; they've been brought up with it. 'The day of days!' an unobtainable mythos that will never be seen again. Now, though, they've created their own legacy. And even before that, Laird Hamilton defined what was possible back in the year 2000. This session, this week, is two decades in the making.
“I've never seen Teahupoo like that, waves were crashing through the lagoon, streets flooded. Huge waves and no takers in the morning. And then, it was some of the craziest surfing I've ever seen,” said videographer Diego Balestro.
Yeah, the day started slow. Glacially slow. Surfers were watching, analysing. Nerves were starting to peek through the cracks and take root. Manutea Tahimanarii got whipped into the first wave of the session by Matahi Drollet. He charged and shot through the tube, kicked out — but got caught inside by the west section. Cut his head, lost his helmet, but he’s OK after being rescued in the lagoon.
After that, anxiety took hold. A gap in the action while surfers watched again, assessed. What it needed was someone to break the deadlock.
18-year-old Eimeo Czermak, full of youthful belly fire and spiritual poise beyond his years, took it upon himself to wrangle the first proper bomb. He had teamed up with Chumbo, who knew where to sit, or maybe, he just turned nose to air and sniffed this thing out, waiting for a set that could block out the horizon. And then, at exactly 10.47am, it came. Marching deep off the reef, standing, feathering, Eimeo whipped in, looking like a dot against that hulking mass, only to get obliterated on the end section. But can you imagine what he saw before going down?
Luckily we asked him in the channel: “I felt like I was going to fall four times on that wave. I made it until the end, then dug the nose. The wave was bending so hard, I wasn't even looking where I was going, just looking at the nose of my board. The wipeout was nuts, I got so totalled. But I think it was the biggest wave of my life.”
And Chumbo? “It was insane. You know. I can't believe it. It's kind of sketchy but we just enjoyed it.”
During the session, Kemper pulled into one of the biggest, rawest, Teahupoo tactical nukes we've seen. “Today was not a day to play games,” he told MSW. “We had to be very precise. The call is about everyone getting home safe. Remember, we are riding waves for our heart, nothing else.”
Tereva David was at the last Code Red in 2011 but didn't catch a wave. This time though, redemption. Comparing the sessions, he said. “I think that one was taller but less perfect because of all those bumps. Both were hard so surf, hard to read for drivers and surfers.”
And about yesterday? “Honestly, I'm just happy to be alive.” Tereva's story, coming soon...
“A few people managed to pierce the police blocks to get through,” said Diego. “It was the day of days, the dream of filming giant Teahupoo finally came true.”
MSW forecaster Tony Butt said: "This swell was something else. The massive swell that hit Tahiti on Wednesday originated from a system that crossed New Zealand around Friday July 8, and another system that developed way southeast of New Zealand, just off the ice shelf.
"By Saturday July 9, both storms had merged together to form a massive system that intensified and expanded as it moved slowly east. By late Sunday it was centred almost directly south of Tahiti, and had developed a huge area of storm-force southwest winds.
"The system then turned towards the northeast as the wind maintained its strength and moved NNE. The strength of the wind and the size of the windfield, combined with the fact that it moved in the same direction as the wind itself, meant that the swell generated was humungous.
"By late Monday the ocean south of Tahiti contained a large expanse of wave heights over 40 feet, with a significant proportion of the swell heading in a northerly direction, straight for Tahiti.
"Even though the wave heights in the storm centre weren’t quite as big as the 2011 swell, this one was generated closer to Tahiti. It was also better angled for a more direct hit, whereas in 2011, the main bulk of the swell was heading more towards the ESE. Both of these factors meant that the two swells were very similar in size when they arrived."
"It will diminish in size as it radiates out, but the super long periods contained within the swell (which arrive first) will enhance places like Puerto Escondido, aka Mexpipe."
MSW Swell Recap
Biggest bomb: Hard to say, but our money's on either Eimeo Czermak's trend-setter or Kala Grace's wide, wild ride. Take a look at the vid above and come judge with us.
Wipeout: Probably Manutea. To break the deadlock at the day-of-days and get smashed by the end section is next level (he's ok!).
Swell peak: 15@17 seconds in the evening yesterday, right before last light.
Froth-o-metre: Chumbo. It's always Chumbo. And if for some reason it's not Chumbo, it's someone around him. This guy radiates it.
Full send: Yeah, all the surfers went wild. But Anuanua Lucas, lensperson, swam from the marina to the spot, about 2kms, on the heaviest swell we've ever seen. "I couldn't miss this session," he said. "If boats were banned, I had to get out there." Gnarly.
Selfie time: Tereva David. One of the first vids sent through to MSW towers was Tereva getting a selfie from Code Red 2. And we're here for it.