Every once in a while, a surfer comes along and absolutely dominates a particular wave. For this to be relevant, it has to be a wave of substance, usually one with a huge barrel.
Some names that come to mind are Jamie O’brien at Pipeline, Brian Toth at Survival, and Jon Roseman at Cloudbreak. These are people that have utterly mastered a location, people that always seem to find the wave of the day. And Matahi Drollet is quickly becoming Teahupo’os virtuoso.
We decided to chat with the young Tahitian in order to hear his story. How does a kid come to rule one of the most dangerous, mind-bending waves in the world? Well, he’ll tell you.
Surfing: When was the first time you surfed Teahupo’o?
Matahi: I was 8 years old when I surfed Teahupoo for the first time. I remember it was 2-3 ft, perfect SSW swell with a light Offshore wind. I didn’t get a barrel that time but I got a couple fun ones and one closeout. I tried to act like I wasn’t scared because I was with my brother. I remember being really happy to be able to tell my friends from elementary school that I surfed Teahupoo.
Surfing: How long was it before you started getting the bombs out there?
Matahi: I start getting decent waves out there around 12, and my goal was to get one good barrel every session. I think that was the time where I started to really enjoy the wave. When I was 14 we moved to Teahupoo, and I had my little dinghy so I was able to go surf by myself. When I was 16 I started to get a little taller and stronger so I was able to paddle into bigger waves and handle bigger wipeouts. I think this is the time where I started to get bombs out there.
Surfing: Have you had any mental setbacks because of bad wipeouts or experiences out there? Can you tell us about your worst one?
Matahi: Two days ago I had a really bad wipeout. I tried to go on a 10ft west bomb, made a really late air drop, but lost all my speed at the bottom of the wave. While I was trying to do a bottom turn, the lip landed straight on my head and shoulder. It was very violent and I ended up in the lagoon. When I tried to get back on my board I couldn’t move my left arm. I think I dislocated it under water. The doctor said one or two weeks of relaxing and it’s on again. Luckily there’s no swell at the moment.
Surfing: How much terrain in Tahiti is still untapped? Do you think there are other Teahupo’os out there?
Matahi: I’m sure there’s more waves to discover, it all depends on the direction of the swells. There’s a lot of fun slabs around but it’s not as good as Teahupoo. When it’s really big Tchops is the place to be.
Surfing: Will you be competing in the trials this year? If so, what would it mean to you to surf in the CT event at Teahupo’o?
Matahi: Yes I will compete in the trials again this year. I hope we have good size barrels this year, because last year the waves were so bad. This is my ultimate goal now, to win the trials, get into the main event and go as far as I can. That’s would be amazing to compete against the best guys at my home break.
Surfing: What kids (18 and under) not from Tahiti have impressed you most at Teahupo’o?
Matahi: There are three kids that are very impressive out there: Jack Robinson, Barron Mamiya, and Russel Bierke. Jack’s style inside the barrel is unbelievable, Barron’s backside technique is incredible and Russel is fearless. They all have a common point in that they are very humble and charge really hard. Also, I’m good friends with all of them, so that’s pretty cool.