July 22nd at Teahupoo with Jamie O’Brien
Story by Morgan Williamson Teahupoo did it’s thing Wednesday. And not the perfect, hollow shoulder/head-high thing. More like the freight train, triple overhead, explode so hard on the reef that your spine rattles sort of thing. A lot of solid waves were ridden. Bone crushing beatings were handed out, and everyone went home healthy and […]
Story by Morgan Williamson
Teahupoo did it’s thing Wednesday. And not the perfect, hollow shoulder/head-high thing. More like the freight train, triple overhead, explode so hard on the reef that your spine rattles sort of thing. A lot of solid waves were ridden. Bone crushing beatings were handed out, and everyone went home healthy and happy. But as is the case with any session worthy of a jot in the history books, a couple happenings or more like phenomenas were the result of this Code Red swell in Tahiti. Jamie O’Brien lit himself on fire and got his self-proclaimed barrel of his life. Keala Kennelly got whipped into the heaviest wave ever surfed by a woman… Fuck, that’s up there on the heaviest waves ever ridden by anyone. And a madman named Niccolo Porcella was “here, when the wave broke there.” We caught up with Mr Jamie O’brien, the man on fire, to get the rundown on the days events.
Stab: Well, let’s start with the flames. Take it from the top.
Jamie: We woke up early that morning before dark, to do the fire. I had a hard time sleeping that night because I felt like the waves were gonna wash into my room. We were staying right on the water, I was thinking, okay its a big day. Then sure enough we were out there. I didn’t want to say anything, but then everyone was like okay, it’s time to go. And I thought: shit, it’s happening. The previous day we got like a two and half foot barrel which I thought was pretty cool. But i knew it was more than a two and half foot wave that we came here for. Sure enough I’m on the Jetski with Raimona. My buddies Chad and Keith were on the back, they’re the coordinators. They were painting this gel on me. I got the whole wetsuit on, and like 20 extra pounds of shirts and gels.
I imagine that wasn’t ideal. Yeah man, we had a bit of problem. The gel would get on my board. It would be so slippery. So they’d be like okay 30 seconds. Then start frantically applying more and more gel to my face and inside my wetsuit. The whole thing happened within 30 seconds before the wave came. Then they lit the fire. And Raimana’s goes Okay brother, this one looks good. Love you. I was like Okay, love you brother. (laughs) I remember thinking it’ll all be over in 20 seconds. The wave was coming and it looked like a pretty big one. Before I could step off the Jetski, my buddy Chad yelled You’re lit! You’re lit! You’re on fire! I was still on the Jetskii thinking, what the fuck?
How’d the step off go? I stepped off clean, set my line and grabbed rail. Then the fire wrapped around me, so I knew it was a good flame. While I was drawing my line, I was like oh my god I’m too deep. I had the oh shit factor in my brain. The barrel started to compress, and the flame wrapped around my face and burn off some of my eyebrow. Then it peeled back off my face and back over my head again. I just flew out with the spit. I felt like I won a contest or something, I got a standing ovation from the boats. It was pretty cool.
That was pretty gnarly man, definitely haven’t seen anything like that before. It was crazy man. To come to Tahiti with an expectation of lighting yourself on fire and then to get a wave that beautiful. That was the second wave we tried it on. The first one, I was lit and the Jetskii blew out the flame. I just stood in this huge barrel, and thought shit, now we got to do it again. The cool thing with the Tahiti fire was just changing it up. Trying something completely new and Red Bull gave us the opportunity to go for, so we went for it.
How was that Niccolo wipeout? That was the heaviest thing I think I’ve ever seen… I don’t even know what he was doing out there, but he was doing some crazy shit. After that wipeout, I was speechless. I would never go surfing again if I had that wipeout. The crazy thing about that swell was it was so big and so west. That it was just offering 20 ft closeouts. There were not a lot of makable ones. If you were that much of a maniac you would go, and there were a few maniacs there. Niccolo’s wipeouts were just horrendous. He took like 3 or 4. It made me appreciate life man, I was just like why would you do that. I couldn’t even believe it. That was the most next level wipeout I’ve ever seen in my life.
According to Jamie’s lensman Damien Robinson: Niccolo was just swimming in the lip, upside down with his arms popping out on a 15 ft draining Teahupoo wave. He took his beating and got right back out there. Then pulled into some crazy ones. He got another huge one. As he was coming down the face, there was an 8 ft wave barreling shelf beneath him and he jumped and went over the falls again. Then he grabbed the rope again and got back out there and pulled into a nug. So serious props to him. He was just mad-man-ing it all day.
Keala Kennelly’s got some pretty big balls, don’t she?
Jamie: When I watched Keala Kennelly’s wave it was a 20 ft closeout. I remember sitting in the boat like; oh, my god there’s an 80 footer coming. Then sure enough Keala just bossed up and went on the biggest bomb of the day. I was just baffled. You come to Teahupoo and there’s like all these expectations to reach and she out did all the guys.
Damien: Keala Kennelly just took the cake. Raimana had just scored a perfect one, and he told Keala, hey get out there, do you want one? So, she hopped on with his driver. They were out there for like two hours, some of the biggest waves of the day were coming through. She was the only one out. Then that wave came through, and I was with Raimana on the boat. He goes, Oh no, don’t let go. And then she let go. He goes, welp, she let go… That wave was insane.
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