by Brian Bielmann
Widely regarded as the heaviest wave in the , Teahupo‘o, on the idyllic island of Tahiti, has seen its fair share of shocking wipeouts, but none generated the shock and awe quite like the time pro Reef McIntosh and Raimana Van Bastolaer teamed up to tow into some at the fabled surf spot. Reef McIntosh explains what went wrong…
“I went down there for a big swell and met up with Raimana at dawn. He was like, ‘Hey, Reef, drive the ski out there,’ and I was like, ‘Sure, no problem!’ Anyone can drive a Jet Ski in a lagoon. So I drive it out to the lineup and there’s Brock Little towing Shane Dorian into a wave. Seeing those guys, Raimana got all excited, but his usual driver, Arsene, wasn’t there; he was late or something. So Raimana says to me, ‘Hey, put the tow rope on the back of the ski.’ I knew how to put the rope onto it, so I was like, ‘Sure!’ Then he jumps into the water and says, ‘Let’s go!’
“I started looking around, thinking, ‘Is someone supposed to be jumping on this Jet Ski?’ Then I’m like, ‘Are you talking to me?’ He says, ‘Exactly, brother!’ I’m like, ‘You’re crazy! I don’t know how to drive it!’ Then he says, ‘No, brother, you can drive it! You got this!’ I kept saying ‘No, no, no. I can’t!’
“That went on for a while, then I’m like, ‘Okay fine, let’s go!’ So we head out there and I got him into a couple waves; I was getting more comfortable and thinking to myself, ‘Maybe I can do this…’ Then he sees that wave [pictured] and says, ‘Go! Go!’ So I went, he let go of the rope, and…
“So there was, like, a chop on top of the wave; it was kind of stormy and crossed up, making these little waves on top of the waves. So as I’m looking down at him I felt the wave pick the ski up, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m gliding on this thing with no control!’ People were saying that I should have turned and gassed it out the back, but I’d never been in that position before; I’d never really driven a Jet Ski in surf at all! So once I felt that the wave had me and the ski, I just ejected out the back to save myself, all the while praying that the ski would go over Raimana and not tumble down the face onto him.
“Once I popped up, I was just praying that I’d see him kick out into the channel; that’s all that mattered to me. Once I saw him do so, I was so relieved. After that I just had to deal with a bruised ego and a lot of embarrassment. Andy Irons was in the channel, and he was like, ‘You shouldn’t have been out there,’ and I was like, ‘I know!’ It was in Sports Illustrated, the “[Late Night with David]Letterman” show, “Good Morning America”; that shit was everywhere! I can look back on it now and laugh, and once I saw Raimana, I was like, ‘I told you I couldn’t f–kin’ drive!’”