The Power of Coral Reefs in Action-Teahupo’o

Alright, so its time to take a look at the other side of corals.  There certainly is plenty out there on the fragile, endangered side of coral reefs, but let’s hit pause on that for a second and witness the awe corals can create on a large scale.   One such place is a surf break near a village called Teahupoʻo (pronounced CHO-PO) on the southern coast of Tahiti, French Polynesia.    This particular break is a reef break where the water goes from deep to shallow very quickly which causes a huge swell to stack up and break in a very short distance.

Reef and Platform (Photo credit: betta design)

What Makes Reef Breaks So Powerful?

The Tahitian islands are volcanic so they are formed vertically which is what produces such a steep drop off from coral reef to deep water.  Typically reef breaks have sloppy waves since the water keeps getting piled up towards shore and only has one place to exit, over the reef.  In the case of Teahupo’o, the waves which have been measured at over 30ft break in less than 20 inches of water and are very clean since there is a channel right next to the break for the water to move through.  The steep nature of this coral reef creates a sick wave that actually appears to curl and begin to break lower than the water around it at its base.  This wave should definitely be left to the expert rider unless you are ready to have your face dragged over a jagged coral reef by 2 stories of moving water.  You can see here how the reef falls off from 1-2 feet of water off into deep blue ocean.  All in all, its pretty amazing that corals can grow in these turbulent conditions and actually survive.




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