The People who Matter at Teaupoo
THE ALPHA TEAM: (Andy and Bruce) Even within the fighter pilot culture of the pro surfing, the brothers are still a mach above the most stalwart heroes of the reef. The difference? These two break the sound barrier every time they paddle out. Pushing themselves over the ledge time and again with a loose playfulness […]
THE ALPHA TEAM: (Andy and Bruce)
Even within the fighter pilot culture of the pro surfing, the brothers are still a mach above the most stalwart heroes of the reef. The difference? These two break the sound barrier every time they paddle out. Pushing themselves over the ledge time and again with a loose playfulness that can be maddening to peers, is joyful to fans and that is nothing but natural to themselves. Perhaps this is their secret. Making a playground of out of the torture chambers that roar in out of the blue expanse, pull there pin and explode onto this domed reef like giant grenades. Like bullfighters, the brothers do not mock their adversary, but move intimately within the realm. Avoiding the horns, making it look elegant, pleasing the crowd, accomplishing the impossible. And Bruce admits another secret: They always watch each other surf this wave. Telepathically connected. Choosing lines for each other. Guiding each other through the thunder with there eyes and will. There is a great beauty in this. Silent teamwork. We’ve seen it too many times now to doubt. Unlike any brothers that have come before, they have made a home of the death tubes of Teahupoo.
THE FIXER: (Bushy)
What does it take to translate all that energy out on the reef into a manageable synergy on shore? It takes a man willing to show up months early, willing to meet with the people, willing to make the deals, to keep the peace before, during and after the invasion. It takes a man with a head for logistics and a heart for the people. It takes a tightrope walker that must thread the precarious line between disaster and customs agents, airline pilots, cargo companies, striking steveadores, generators, hotel bookings, spoiled surfers, corporate potentates, scaffoldings, sound systems, coke machines, cyberspace, fans, spectators, traffic, gasoline prices, airport shuttles, medivac, dock fees, concerts…you get the idea. But this is the man who works behind the scenes paying that price so that we all get our free ride. This is the man who makes it happen. And without the heart of this surfer…we wouldn’t stand a chance.
THE KING (Manoa)
His courage is unquestioned. We’ve all seen his screaming drops into otherworldy waves here. Waves that look like they belong to another planet. Here is the soul that embodies the spirit of O’Tahiti. Power, grace, strength, beauty. The bridge between old and new, radical and refined, foreign and local. A man who seems made out of the elements here, red soil, green jungle, blue water. In a land where you don’t call a cop, you call a cousin, Manoa is the one to turn to when oil needs to be spread upon the waters of discontent. He is also the one to turn to when the reef is hosting giants and it is time to ride between heaven and earth.
THE SHERIFF (Luke Egan)
It’s all on his shoulders. This thing has got to work. A contest director is both a mother and a father and the child must thrive. Luke handles all this with the easy authority of the fastest gunslinger in town. It is not just his size that allows him to assume control, it is his credibility. Lest we forget: Luke Egan is one of the best surfers of all time. And his love for surfing, his understanding of the machine, his lust for perfect waves and his solid personal relationships with all the other gunslingers is what allows him to rule with a benevolent autonomy. Not so much a dictator as a teacher. A teacher in how one must behave in a position like this. With compassion, decisiveness and cool. No one has ever heard him raise his voice, but his orders are obeyed without question. We’d all go into battle with him. He’d need just lead the way. Contest directors just don’t come any better than this. It might be his Newcastle roots, but we doubt it. We think it comes from his quietness. His silent command of the situation. His drowsy eyes that strangely, miss absolutely nothing. To see him in the soft chill of the pre-dawn out on the point, all by himself, listening to the surf, waiting for it to get light enough to see, waiting for the decisions to come is to see a man in his element.
And man? That’s pretty fuckin’ cool.
(Medical and Rescue team. Doctors names: Brad Solomon, paramedic, Graham Short, Paramedic, Matt Verdollini, Emergency Doctor, Paul Fischer, Emergency Doctor)
Think it’s all fun and games? Not here, not ever. This is what an emergency doctor calls a “Pre-hospital setting”. This wave grinds surfers up like a hydraulic mortar and pistle. This wave breaks bones, skulls, backs, necks and hearts. This team starts with hair-trigger vigilance, then comes the rescue, motoring into the minefield of hissing white under the barrage of incoming artillery that wants to mash you into the razor blades. Then comes the stabilizing of the patient in a channel where mountains of water are throwing the flotilla around like matchsticks. Then the trip to shore where the world’s most exotic triage center awaits. Working together, always. There is no one second that they are not pros. And these guys have thought it through. Two full teams so that one is always at the ready. Coordinated rescue/medical emergency drills for weeks before the contest so that when disaster strikes, oh and it will, the boys who are at play in the fields of the Lord stand better than just a chance of breathing once again. That is just what these true heroes of Teahupoo do here. While we dance, they eliminate chance.
And for this crew, who do it all for us, there are no questions.
Simply this: no man will be left behind.
Without this love we would perish.
THE TIME TRAVELERS (Photographers)
Without them, without their ability to make time stand still, all this spectacle, all this phenomena, would be for nothing. It would be a wave that crashed in the wilderness that nobody would heard. We would know nothing of this place. Have no measure of our sport’s ultimate. Have no right stuff of dreams and nightmares. Without them we would not have Teahupoo, we would have… nothing. What drives these people to push themselves into harm’s way a hundred times a day with little more than a apir of fins and the truth? Money? There isn’t any. Fame? Not much. Glory? Hardly. It sounds impossible, even goofy, but deep down these guys are in it for the art. Don’t laugh, their canvas is like nothing on earth. Start with constant motion. Great spinning vortexes of blue and white, roaring above and muffled below. These people operate within the sublime. No other artist is as involved in their medium. These guys swim in their own paint. And time is everything. Capturing instants that will never happen again, allowing us all to travel back in time to regard our existence with each photo we gaze in wonder upon. Each trip of the shutter another breathless moment, another beat of a heart, another moment of passion that allows us to check our headlong rush into our future. These moments will never happen again. These photographers stop time.
They own time.
THE SACRED HOSTS (Mama and Papa Teva)
There is a house that exists on the edge of every surfers dream. This house is nestled in a garden on an exotic isle, surrounded by palm trees and the sounds of the jungle. Fruit is on the trees, and the sun shines most every day. The sheets are white and cool and clean and the drapes are floral and they spin lazily in the offshore breeze revealing a magical sky of giant white clouds and phatasmagoric spires that rise from heaven to the heavens. This house in on the edge of an impossibly blue lagoon, where fish swim in droves and the reefs are marked with gaily painted buoys and channel markers. This small house has a dock on the property where a small, sturdy boat awaits to deliver the surfer to sites of perfection out on the barrier reef. Waves so clear and true that one can see the shadow of ones board on the ocean floor as they swoop in and out of the hissing blue contours. And this house is overseen by a quiet, older native couple. And in this dream this couple feeds you and loves you like family and cares for you and puts flowers behind your ears and fruit and fresh fish and rice in your belly and smiles on your face and laughter on your tongue. This dream is a restful place. A simple place. A perfect place.
They call this place Mama and Papa Teava’s and through this garden the greatest surfers on earth have passed. And as long as there are dreams to be had in O’Tahiti, surfers will always thank their luck that such a place exists. A place where despite you ambitions or inner demons or doubts or sureties, you might just be tucked into bed at night with the smell of frangipani on your pillow and the swell of a new parents love in your heart.
THE SIRENS (the women)
Take a good long look at this photograph.
Are you mortal enough to feel their importance?
To love and to respect them?
If you cannot, than you should be shot.
THE TRIBUNAL: (Judges)
It is never a pleasant task to judge your fellow man. Nor is it an easy one. It is rife with imperfections, feelings of self worth, self doubt, duty, the battle that rages within everyman’s heart between the objective and the subjective, between out better angels and the dark waters that we all find ourselves swimming in from time to time. This is why we strive to give these positions of power to the fairest among us all. The job to evaluate and validate our very souls. To judge, even though we are told to judge not, lest we be judged. Surfing is no different, and there is a hell of a lot more at stake these days. Million dollar contracts are just a heat horn away. Surfing as a sport was never meant for points. Our best moments are ephemeral. And yet, we yoke these men with the impossible task of separating these power ballet performances into figures and stats and futures and failures. And nowhere is that more difficult than at Teahupoo. First of all, the rides are incredibly short. Seven seconds each, maximum. But what they lack in time they more than make up in intensity. It is this intensity that the judges must match in their own hearts. In their own instants. Putting all personal feeling aside, they must decide the fates of a cadre of young men on a daily basis. Never loved, but always respected, it is a lifestyle of responsibility, of conviction, of rock solid belief in one’s own values.
It is not a job.
It is a calling.
Hendrix and Donovan Frankenreiter (Honorable mention)
More than a concert, it was a happening. Woodstock comes to Teahupoo. 1500 people, locals and surfing glitterati alike, crowded the wharf for a night of music and friends. The crowd swayed to the smoky beat, surfers you would never think had it in them cavorted and danced like lunatics and there ended up being so many luminaries on stage that it threatened to collapse. Marco Luciano Occhilupo, astonishingly, sharing lead vocals. Backup singers, Andy, Bruce, Joel Parkinson, Chris Ward. Dave Rastovich on Bongo’s and keyboard. And holding it all together, the Father/son team of Donovan and Hendrix Frankenreiter. Donovan, lead guitar and vocals and Hendrix, all three years of him, playing tandem drums, smashing the beat home perfectly to the screaming crowd for two hours. And it was Hendrix, as the best Party in the history of Teahupoo came regrettably to an end, who was hoisted on top of Bruce’s shoulders to receive the loudest applause of the night.
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