10 of the best waves ever ridden at Cloudbreak
Words by Jake Howard The 10 best barrels at Cloudbreak? That’s impossible, an exercise in futility given how many years perfect waves have reeled down the reef with no spectator around for miles. Jon Roseman’s diary alone could fill the whole list. And Shane Dorian as a boatman there, who knows what he got up to? […]
Words by Jake Howard
The 10 best barrels at Cloudbreak? That’s impossible, an exercise in futility given how many years perfect waves have reeled down the reef with no spectator around for miles. Jon Roseman’s diary alone could fill the whole list. And Shane Dorian as a boatman there, who knows what he got up to? But in this post-reef rights era, when it’s become open season, things are little easier to dissect. A few massive swells in that period definitely help. For our money here’s our favourites from the not too distant past.
10. Hans Peterson: N/A
No, it’s not one wave. But because the ultimate respect is due to the boatdrivers that make it all happen, Hans Peterson is credited as being perhaps the most talented boatman/surfer ever at Tavarua. A switch-foot master, Hans was known for pulling into the barrel frontside and exiting backside (or vice versa). Strange things happen under the South Pacific sun, and Hans’ abilities at the world’s best left are the stuff of underground legend. Of course no images and video are available… what would you expect? Tavi will always have its secrets.
Sequence: Tom Servais
9. Tom Caroll: 1996
Bottom turn to mid-face jam to threading a long draining barrel, Tom Carroll fit it all in on this archetype for ideal Cloudbreak setup and tube ride. It wasn’t filmed – GoPro wouldn’t exist for another 10-plus years – but the sequence that photographer Tom Servais (aka Tavi Tom) snapped is a thing of beauty. “He fits it all in on that wave, it’s one of the best surfed waves I’ve ever seen there,” says Mr Servais.
8. Reef McIntosh: June 8, 2012
A lifetime of charging Pipeline paid off for Reef McIntosh when he stepped into the spotlight on June 8, 2012. No stranger to Cloudbreak, he’s been making pilgrimages to Tavi for years, but this was something special. Along with Dave Wassel, Ian Walsh and Mark Healey the Hawaiians got down to business. Reef goes no hands off the bottom of this wave to set up for a foam ball-wrangling ride. Even the ever-modest Reef had to smirk after getting blown out of this one.
7. Bruce Irons: July 12, 2011
Like a cat with nine lives, Bruce Irons didn’t die at Cloudbreak on that fateful July day in 2011. “I visualised it five minutes before I got that wave, it will stick in my mind forever. I get chicken skin thinking about it… even though I almost drowned,” recounts Bruce. Riding Nate Fletcher’s 10’1″ gun dubbed the “Pink Pony” (originally acquired from Todd Morcom in Central America), he may have gotten pounded, but once he surfaced that mattered little. “I would have been crying if I had missed that one,” adds Bruce.
Photo: Brian Bielmann
Koby Abberton: June 1, 2005
As Kelly Slater tells it, on June 1, 2005 (quite literally, “the morning of the final”), he and Shane Dorian were lurking on the outer Cloudbreak reef at the crack of dawn. It was 15 feet and oil smooth. Pure Fijian butter. Kelly bagged half a dozen waves before anybody else showed up. Then came Snips and Gerr, Laird, Timmy Reyes, as well as one Koby Abberton. Koby was charging like a mad dog. In the days before towing had gone the way of the Hummer, he was whipped into a monster. “Koby got what was then credited as being one of the best barrels anyone’s ever gotten on a tow wave that day,” said Kelly. That kind of praise should not be taken lightly.
5. David Scard: September 20, 2010
Spit out, frothed out, David Scard’s gem on September 20, 2010 set the bar for things to come in the ensuing years. Of the Ride of the Year contender, Scardy said, “It’s the biggest, most perfect paddle-in wave ever.” It’s hard to disagree with that.
4. Dave Wassel: June 8, 2012
Dave Wassel was on Tavarua to commentate the 2012 Volcom Fiji Pro. By happenstance, an apocalyptic swell rolled in and surfing’s own Chuck Norris was there to bitch slap it. Panicked about the safety of their fragile competitors, the then-ASP called the comp off after two heats (because it was getting “windy”). Wassel took the bull by the horns and got down to some serious man surfing.
3. Kelly Slater: June 12, 2013
Pinpointing Kelly’s greatest tube ride at Cloudbreak is kind of like picking your favorite home-run from Babe Ruth, but the king’s performance on June 12, 2013 qualifies as the stuff of legend. In the quarters again Seabass Zietz he logged a perfect 20-point heat. He then dispatched John John Florence in the semis. By the time his final against Mick Fanning arrived he was rolling deep. He opened with a statement-making 10-point ride that he ranks as “one of the best of my life.” Kelly added a 9.8 to his score line and his 53rd tour win was a foregone conclusion. “The waves are the stars,” revelled Kelly. His competitors were once again left scratching their heads. “I was really trying to pick the right ones and be pretty selective,” said Florence. “But you watch Kelly and you get to learn what’s possible, I guess.”
2. Ryan Hipwood: July 12, 2011
Picking the best wave from July 12, 2011 is an exercise in splitting hairs. Number one gets the nod due to size and heaviness, but Ryan Hipwood’s freight train is right there with it. In a flurry of historic rides, Bruce Irons, who appeared earlier in this list, wrangled the next one. “If I’d fallen I would’ve been down for both waves,” told Hippo. “I didn’t have any floatation on, I had a tiny 6’10”, so it would’ve been really touch and go whether I was coming up.”
1. Kohl Christensen: July 12, 2011
July 12, 2011, the day of days at Cloudbreak. Kelly Slater called it “the swell of a lifetime.” That should tell you all you need to know. And there was underground North Shore hell monkey Kohl Christensen, swinging through on the biggest, baddest wave to ever funnel down the Cloudbreak reef. He loses his inside edge as he’s getting spit out of the barrel but that matters little. A wave of this size and scope, it’s ridiculous.
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