Imagine entering The Black Pearl Horue Pro, a four-star QS event at an idyllic left reef pass in Tahiti, and then arriving to find 6- to- 8 foot, backless Teahupo’o. In 1997, the year before this highlight reel, that’s exactly what happened. 18-year-old Andy Irons won that inaugural pro event at Chopes (before it was even called Chopes), and set the stage for the next two decades of competition at one of the most exciting waves in the world. (An interesting aside: Teahupo’o would also be Andy’s last professional win, at the Billabong Pro Tahiti in 2010.)
One year later, in 1998, Gotcha took over as the presenting sponsor at The End of the Road (as Teahupo’o was often called back then), and we’d imagine quite a few of the QS competitors from ’97 opted against returning. The surf was terrifying once again, and Koby Abberton beat Conan Hayes in a controversial final. With the Billabong Pro Tahiti only 10 days away, we figured this week’s throwback clip should revisit pro surfing’s not-so-humble beginnings in Tahiti, 20 years ago.