Heavyweights discuss Nate Florence and the best Teahupoo wave ever paddled
Interviews by Morgan Williamson
The timing of a clip starring Nathan Florence at Teahupoo, currently devouring Instagram feeds across the surfing socials, is strange. Nate paddled his Pyzel 6’8 pintail (the same board as his Pipe step-up!) into the wave you’ll see here… back in May. Why’s that strange? Uh, because we’ve only in the last week been enjoying another code orange swell at Chopes. Niccolo Porcella got a fabulous massage. Jamie O’Brien lit himself on fire. But Nathan Florence didn’t ride the wave we’re here to talk about. That happened two months ago.
Nate is the one-year-younger brother of John John Florence, and like his brother was raised at Pipe, and rides backhand barrels with the world’s top 0.2 percent. He also shares John’s penchant for dropping in late, letting go of the rail and standing tall.
And it was dear Nate who, two months ago, surfed the best paddle wave ever ridden at Teahupoo.
But! Why take our word for it? Let’s firstly hear from Nathan himself, before jumping into some expert opinion: “I don’t know what it was about the swell but me and Koa (Rothman) just got so worked up on it,” says Nate. “So we were all out there, Jack Robinson was getting some good ones, but we were just battling. Me and Koa are best friends, we’re always competing against each other. We just wanted to make sure Jack didn’t end up getting the biggest one, because he’s the youngest, but we knew he would go. That kid has like, no fear of anything. Koa got a few bombs, then went over the falls on a pretty gnarly one. He was getting the best waves out there that day. And I was like fuck, I’ve got to get a good one. Then that wave came through. I turned and went, and almost got hung at the top. I felt weightless for a second and my nose almost dipped in. I was able to pull it up and catch, and honestly after that I don’t really remember what happened. Next thing I knew I was just getting blasted out with the spit. I was just… so stoked.”
And now, here’s what some other people (who’d certainly know) think about Nate’s wave…
Jamie O’Brien (One of the top three pigdoggers in the world, recently surfed Chopes whilst on fire):
“That was definitely the craziest wave ever paddled at Chopes. It’s so heavy, when your heading over there and you know it’s going to be that big, it’s hard to know if your gonna want one or not. And he just wanted that one.
The whole session Koa and Nate were trying to one up each other. Then Nathan snagged that one and went at it like a maniac, that was just left me speechless. There’s no topping that thing.
That drop was insane, the way he grabbed rail, let go and highland out of there was just text book, backside barrel riding. He couldn’t have surfed that wave more perfect. He deserved that thing.
I don’t know man, that was his wave. I don’t know if I even would have gone. But that wave was made for him. I’ve tried to go on waves like that, but they’ve never really worked out.
After I saw the clip i was fucking with John, like hey man your little bro just outdid you. Then I thought about it for a second, and was like shit, he just outdid all of us, that was mental.”
Koa Rothman (Friendly Hawaiian royal, XXL Tube and Wipeout winner (for the same Chopes wave, above)):
“We (Nate and I) were pretty fired up. I’ve never pushed it that hard out there. We were feeding off each other’s energy, trying to one-up each other. It was like a competition. But, we’d still be super psyched for each other with each good one.
That’s the best wave ever paddled into. Barrel-wise I haven’t seen a better one that somebody paddled. I can’t believe he made the drop, that was an accomplishment in itself. Then rode out the whole thing. It was crazy.
It wasn’t like a normal trip, we were overly excited and pushing ourselves. To like, a stupid point. It really wasn’t smart what we were doing. I’ve surfed a lot of places, but paddling Chopes at that height, I get more nervous than anywhere else.
You can tell they’re brothers from their surfing, especially in tuberiding. They do the same thing, just with different style. The kid’s nuts, he’s fucking out of his mind. He’s my best friend, I’m so stoked he got that wave. I don’t think he’ll paddle into another like that ever, it’s hard to believe he did that. He definitely pushed it, over the ledge.”
Shane Dorian (Surfing's George Clooney, and best Jaws bare-knuckle boxer):
“Up until now, it seems like between the Cory (Lopez), CJ (Hobgood) and Andy (Irons) waves, that we’d reached the ceiling. I think that Nathan’s wave is on par, size-wise, with some of the biggest waves paddled in the past, but he was just much, much deeper in the barrel.
I think the wave CJ caught was bigger. The wave Andy caught, the drop was just as gnarly. But I think the big difference with Nathan’s is that he just paddled in at the perfect step. Where he landed in the barrel and bottom turned, he was perfectly situated. I think that’s the best wave ever ridden at Teahupoo, for sure, when you factor in everything. He couldn’t have ridden it more perfectly or dropped in deeper. On those big one’s you’ve gotta just hope for the best.
In extreme conditions like that he’s a definite standout no matter who’s out there. You can take the biggest chargers and stick them out at Chopes and he’s gonna be on it. He has the technique wired and isn’t afraid to push it over the edge. He just wants to send it so hard, he’s willing to risk it.”
Greg Long (Died and came back to life at Cortes, annual XXL Award winner and all-round legend):
“Straight up, out of every Teahupoo video I’ve ever seen… I would have to credit that as being the biggest and heaviest wave ever to be successfully paddled, without question. Granted there’s been bigger waves paddled into, but how technical and intense and perfectly ridden that was, it’s hands-down the craziest wave surfed out there. To have the desire to commit to it was beyond me, the fact he looked at that and said I’m going is just insane. That was some of the most incredible surfing I’ve ever witnessed in my life. That’s the type of wave that instantly puts your name into the greatest surfers of all time. And the craziest wave ever paddled into.”
Raimana Van Bastolaer (Goofyfoot charger, ball of positivity and Mayor of Teahupoo):
“I was right there, just on the top as he went! I was too high for it so I said “Go, go, go!” And he just weeeeeent for it. I was like… “Oh no.” And the next thing you know, he makes it! Looking into that thing, I was thinking, there’s no way he could make it. We were out there saying he was going to eat it. And then… he makes it.
He was here for the swell last week and he got a similar wave, but he never made that one. So it really is about being in the right place at the right time.
I think this year so far, that’s the biggest and the best paddle wave ever. And, he made it. That was heavy, man. The best guys out there so far are regular footers. Hands-down. I think the way the wave breaks, all the best guys are all backsiders, f’sure.