One of the first times I went to Tahiti to cover the Billabong Pro was in 2002. I’ll never forget motoring up to the break and seeing broken boards floating lifelessly in the lagoon and 10-12 foot bombs detonating over the reef. The ocean was raw and angry that morning. It was still really early and the sun had yet to come over the mountains, so besides being absolutely huge, it was dark and ominous. Scary shit to say the least.
While there was a pack of guys out surfing, nobody wanted the big sets besides Andy, Bruce, and Dave Rastovich. Nobody. And while Bruce and Rasta were rushing, it was AI who led the charge that day. He was fearless. There was one wave that stood out from the rest though (pictured below). Coming straight out of the deep and unimpeded by anything, it was a bomb. Andy whipped round and was paddling for it while his brother Bruce was right there, yelling, “Go, go, go!” and then at the last second, “Don’t go!”
I’ll never forget that ride. The sketchiest, latest takeoff ever into a heaving wall of water that was terrifying to watch even from the safety of the channel. He somehow made the drop and stood tall in the barrel like a king.
Nobody could touch Andy that day at Chopes—which brings me to the point of this post—there’s a big ass swell headed straight to Havae Passe aka The End Of The Road and the world’s best are there—except AI. While I expect some of the boys to be scared shitless (rightfully so, but they signed up for this), I can’t wait to see who steps up to fill the void left by the best ever to ride there. Here’s to a good internet connection in heaven so Andy can watch the show.—Justin Coté