Welcome to Teahupo’o, otherwise known as “a place of skulls.”
The island has seen an explosion of popularity in the last 15 years as it has transformed into a hot surfing destination. Every August since 1999, the Billabong Pro Teahupoo is held in the village. Huge names in surfing, from Kelly Slater to Mick Fanning ride the waves yearly. Yet, there is a reason only the best of the best are advised to ride here: the waves typically reach heights of seven to 10 feet, and occasionally as high as 21 feet.
Teahupo’o waves are routinely ranked among the 10 most dangerous in the world, a nomadic place where five lives have been claimed since 2000. Anyone in less than peak, physical condition will fail. Even the best are conquered at times.
“I watched Kelly Slater wipe out and break a rib,” Westlake said. “So, not for the faint of heart.” Westlake explained. “Once you are out there the power of the wave is staggering.”