May-ga Swell – Teahupo'o

Looking Back at Tahiti’s First Tow Swell of the Season!

Alain Riou, who just took down #7 rated ASP World Championship Tour surfer Adriano de Souza at Teahupo'o, was on a few of the biggest waves of the tow swell.
Alain Riou, who just took down #7 rated ASP World Tour surfer Adriano de Souza at the Billabong Pro Tahiti, was on a few of the biggest waves of the tow swell. Photo by Seth de Roulet.

Words by Sundance Beach Pioneer Andrew Bennett
All Photos by Seth De Roulet.

On Friday, May 10th I decided that I would take a last minute flight to Tahiti with photographer Seth de Roulet for a series of three swells that were forecast to ignite the South Pacific. My friend Baptiste, who runs Anakena Surf Camp and tows Raimana Van Bastolaer into huge Teahupoo tubes, messaged me on Saturday saying, “Looks like you made a good call, I think it will be a week of history at Teahupoo!” Our flight left California on Sunday the 12th, and it turned out the surf was more impressive than anything I expected to see in my life.

By Monday, the biggest waves I’ve ever seen at Teahupo’o were detonating on the reef. Over the next several days there were plenty of heavy wipeouts, near collisions, and gigantic tubes. Here are a few of the many memorable moments during the run of swell.

This is my favorite photo from the trip because Peter Mel is so deep and the wave face is so clean. He payed the price on this one getting taken out by the foam ball and getting cut on the reef.
This is my favorite photo from the trip because Peter Mel is so deep and the wave face is so clean. He payed the price on this one and got taken out by the foam ball and cut up on the reef.
Same wave as before, Peter Mel going for it! I like the refraction on the bottom of the wave next to the lip that looks like backwash. This was midmorning on Tuesday the 14th and on Monday the 13th, around the same time, Makua Rothman hit the reef. Something about that low tide rising being more risky?
Same wave as before, Peter Mel going for it! I like the refraction on the bottom of the wave next to the lip that looks like backwash. This was mid-morning on Tuesday the 14th. On Monday the 13th, around the same time, Makua Rothman hit the reef. There maybe something to the theory about low tide rising being more risky.
This Keala Kennelly charging! Amazing to see her going for it after the face gash she received from Teahupoo almost 2 years ago.
This is Keala Kennelly charging! Amazing to see her going for it after the face gash she received from Teahupoo almost 2 years ago.
This is my Tahitian friend Tuhiti Huamani who rides for Volcom, paddled into this one and has amazing style in the tube.
This is my Tahitian friend Tuhiti Huamani who rides for Volcom. He actually paddled into this one and has amazing style in the tube.
Nathan Fletcher only rode a couple waves, but they were nice ones. He rode the biggest wave ever ridden at Teahupoo in August of 2011, maybe he was hoping for it to be bigger.
Nathan Fletcher only rode a couple waves, but they were nice ones. He rode the biggest wave ever ridden at Teahupoo in August of 2011, so maybe he was hoping for it to be bigger.
This is Ricardo Dos Santos who was competing in the Billabong Rio Pro in Brazil during this swell. But he decided to fly to Tahiti during a short lay day in the event to catch a couple of these for a day. He made it back to Brazil in time for his round 2 heat but lost to Jeremy Flores.
This is Ricardo Dos Santos who was competing in the Billabong Rio Pro in Brazil during this swell. He decided to fly to Tahiti during a short lay day in the event to catch a couple of these for a day. He made it back to Brazil in time for his round 2 heat but lost to Jeremy Flores.
Mark Healey was getting amazing footage with his gopro on a pole attached to his back.
Mark Healey was getting amazing footage with his GoPro on a pole attached to his back.
Alex Gray travels more than anyone I know. He doesn't miss a Teahupoo swell and is likely getting barreled right now.
Alex Gray travels more than anyone I know. He doesn’t miss a Teahupoo swell and is likely getting barreled right now as you read this.
Tikanui is from nearby island, Moorea. He paddles into some huge barrels. There are a lot of talented surfers from Tahiti and the neighboring islands.
Tikanui is from the nearby island of Moorea, and paddles into some huge barrels. There are a lot of talented surfers from Tahiti and the neighboring islands that are regulars in the Teahupo’o lineup.
Seth de Roulet did a nice job of getting in the spot to shoot this photo of me on a smaller day of the week. This wave was really west and grew from 4ft to 8ft at the end bowl.
Seth de Roulet did a nice job of getting in the spot to shoot this photo of me a day after the May-ga Swell. This wave was really west and grew from 4ft to 8ft at the end bowl. photo Mike Jones/Azhiaziam.com
Here's the photo from Seth's angle.
Here’s the same wave from Seth’s angle.
Dean Bowen was paddling into some really mean and thick ones when the swell was long interval and on its way up really fast. Every hour the swell increased by 2 feet.
Dean Bowen was paddling into some really mean and thick ones when the swell was long interval and on its way up really fast. Every hour the swell increased by 2 feet.
Wade Goodall rode some really thick ones on the tow days. He made most of his waves which, usually has a lot to do with the skill of the jet ski driver towing surfers in.
Wade Goodall rode some really thick ones on the tow days. He made the most of each of his waves, which usually has a lot to do with the skill of the jet ski driver that’s doing the towing.

Check out this video from a few of the days after the big day.

Looking back, the May-Ga Swell at Teahupo’o was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. I’m looking forward to the next giant swell, and hope I can be there to catch a few bombs like these! – AB

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