THE 2003 BILLABONG PRO TEAHUPO’O: DAY THREE

posted by / News / May 7, 2003

Surf: Brilliant, sparkling flatnessEvents held: Local grommet soul sessionNature’s call: I’m comin’, I’m comin’Predicted: It can only go up from here“Got stickah?”Gaston is a 12- year-old boy with caramel skin and a bad haircut. He opens his hand wide and looks up into my eyes while his buddy tugs at my pocket. Gaston, the obvious leader of his two smaller friends, cracks a joke in French and they all giggle hysterically. And why wouldn’t they? They own this town.”Come, follow here,” he says in delicate English. The smaller boy joins him on his little B.{{{M}}}.X. bicycle while the other runs along in his bare feet. We pass under the big, white banner that announces one’s arrival at the Billabong Pro Teahupo’o, the one event that turns this sleepy village into a bustling, surf-centric metropolis overnight. Grown people who fill the area are talking, buying and selling. Rushing past, the three boys do so without a hint of difficulty.”Look,” says Gaston, stopping to point at the ocean.At the place where the Havae stream meets the Pacific are a group of young boys out playing in the water.”Our friends,” he adds. The three boys wait for a second, looking up for appreciation. Then they turn and run down the embankment of smooth, rounded lava rocks to surge into a session already underway. Two of the kids out are sporting supermarket rash-chest boogies. The others just have their bodies. Gaston and his friends pull beside them, splashing and chatting ecstatically.

Thirty seconds into their session, a crystal, 6-inch right comes crumbling through. The two with the boogie boards turn around and jump into the barely existent foam. Gaston hoots and does a twirling dive to go through. One of the boys on the board pops up into a knee-riding stance and eventually springs off of one side. Above the rocks, under a small palm, an elderly woman waves at him in acknowledgment. The boy, who looks to be no more than the age of five, raises his slick, brown arms clasped in childish pageantry. “Merci, merci,” he squeaks.Gaston turns and applauds the younger boy’s ride. His hair makes him look like a little Polynesian skate-punk at a mid-80s Bauhaus concert. After the display, I do the only thing your pro surfing correspondent can do — place a half-dead surf sticker with their stuff and walk away, hoping the 44 puts in a similarly inspired performance tomorrow.– Hagan Kelley

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