IN 2014 TAHURAI HENRY PADDLED ONE OF THE HEAVIEST WAVES EVER AT TEAHUPOO. SUBSEQUENTLY, RECEIVING THE BEATING OF A LIFETIME, RESULTING IN SERIOUS INJURIES THAT SIDELINED HIM FOR THE BEST PART OF 2015 WITH EXTENSIVE REHABILITATION.
It was early in the morning on the final day of the Billabong Pro 2014 that everything happened so quick. I woke up early to check out the waves, knowing that it was gonna be big and west!
When I got to the beach and saw a huge one breaking up the reef, all the way to the west bowl, that was it…Oh my gosh it’s big!
I went back home to grab my board and paddled out by myself.
There was already a couple of surfers getting warmed up before the 7 o’clock call.
As I was paddling out the guys were not really catching the big ones because the tide was super low and the bombs wouldn’t let you get in easily so they were picking the right ones. The 8 footers looked like 12 footers pretty much and a couple of guys got hurt before the comp started.
I finally got to the channel and there were no boats yet, it was pretty early around 6 o’clock.
The weather was kinda cloudy still, not really inviting conditions. Just one of those days.
After starring at some bombs from the channel I decided to go and try to get one before the 7 o’clock call was made. Little by little the boats started to get to the channel but still no skis around for the rescue.
I could hear from the microphone that the guys from the tower were asking us to catch one more as they were launching the comp pretty soon!
It’s kind of embarrassing when you know that it’s gonna be that big and perfect for the rest of the day but you are not gonna be able to surf.
I waited about 20 minutes before catching my first wave, the one and only I got that day.
The ocean was moving at the back and everyone was looking at each other while paddling out further to not go over the falls, at that point I told myself ” hey man, this is your last chance to get a wave pretty much” so I paddled towards the west bowl knowing that it was gonna be the take off zone.
The wave was finally facing us so I started paddling as hard as I could, no one was telling me to go, the only person I could hear was Walshy (Anthony Walsh) telling Thorto to give it a go! As Thorto just got there 2 minutes before it was my turn and he was sitting even more up the reef.
Knowing Thorto I hesitated for a second thinking that he might go but finally he wasn’t at the right spot and told me to go. I knew that I was already a bit late but man I really wanted that wave!
I was at a point where I couldn’t pull back anymore, the wave doubled up and I realized that I was late. I air dropped and tried to land it, somehow I did but lost all my speed. The only thing I could do was trying to set my line as the wave went faster than I was going.
The barrel went dark really fast but everything seemed to be in slow-motion, the foam ball hit the slick of my board really hard and then I copped my board straight in my face, I felt like I was in a car accident already feeling dizzy.
The wave took me and the lip sent me straight on the reef, on my back and neck first. I got smashed really hard and the pressure held me in the same position on the reef, on my neck, my legs came all the way to my face and I kept that position for a couple of seconds, I could feel my back cracking a couple times and I think that I lost consciousness for a second or two.
Then the wave started to smash me again, I lost my fins and the power ripped my wetsuit apart but I still had my board. I finally popped up at the end of the reef where the left meets the right on the closeout but I couldn’t breath.
I was facing the mountains and I was that tired that I couldn’t even swim and grab my board next to me.
I got lucky that my friend Domenic Mosqueira swam down to come and get me as he was sitting at the end of the west bowl shooting us. He took me out of the impact zone, I was still trying to breath properly but I felt that something was really wrong in my back.
The ski finally arrived, Dino Andino was driving it, the boys put me on the sled of the ski, he went fast directly to shore and that’s how I felt that I’d broken my back, I felt that my bones were not connected normally so we had to go slow.
It was the worst pain I’ve ever had that’s for sure, he gave me a ride back to the shore and two of my friends helped me to get to the emergency room because I couldn’t walk by myself still in shock.
The doctors of the event took care of me until the ambulance sent me to the closest hospital.
Being in the ambulance while crossing the Teahupoo river was not the best feeling, the first 10 minutes were on a rocky road before getting to the main road, imagine the pain…haha!
I got to the hospital and they made me wait for so long before taking the time to help me.
I ended up watching the final day of the comp from my bed cheering for John John!!!
After 3 months I started my rehab with a couple of doctors, one of them was my Chiro friend Ben Eastwood that helped me the most!!! As a Bodyboarder it’s good to have a Chiropractor friend boys hahaha!
My injuries resulted in 2 dislocated vertebrae from the middle of my back, twisted six of my neck vertebrae and also twisted my tail-bone. I strained a couple of my back muscles and a couple of ligaments too.
I’ve been swimming a lot to give my back more strength during the past year.
After 16 months I finally got to surf big waves again and I couldn’t be more happy to do it with some of my best friends at my home break!
Teahupoo delivered us the best Christmas gift on the 23rd of December, 2015.
It was 8 to 10 feet perfection for most of the day then a couple of 12 footers came in with a huge 15 foot bomb at the end of the day! It was scary and I was happy to be back on the boat when that big one came in haha!
I scored with my friends Michel Bourez,Tikanui Smith, Thorto, Ryan Gallina, John Duval, Jack Robinson and a couple more, the boys were charging really hard. I had so much pressure on getting a solid one, It took me a while before I got my first wave.
My first wave was my best ride of my year 2015, I got a good one and was really deep, very happy to come out of a solid barrel after all that time out of the water. After that I got more confident and a bit later went for a bigger one, the wave spat very early while I was bottom turning. I couldn’t see anything and wasn’t sure to come out, I finally got eaten by the foam ball of the west bowl down the reef!
It was a great life experience for me, a day that I will never forget.
I want to take the time to thank everyone that helped me coming back to surf waves like that, it’s the best feeling in the world and for nothing I will stop doing it
I’m getting ready for the 2016 season to hopefully get more bombs!!!
Words by: Tahurai Henry