Joe Surf: ‘Place of Skulls’ claims another victim

Saw the movie “Point Break” on Christmas Day and enjoyed it. Though it’s not really a surfing movie, the one surfing scene is impressive — so much so that my son whispered to me during the movie that it looked like part of the visuals must be animated.

It wasn’t. Though the surfing scene was set somewhere off the coast of France, it actually was filmed at Teahupo’o, also known as Chopes, off the coast of Tahiti.

The primary scene showed the movie’s two main characters dropping in on the same wave, an extremely dangerous stunt in waves that big and powerful.


Obviously the two main actors weren’t doing the stunt — the surfers were big-wave riders Bruce Irons and Dylan Longbottom. The two crisscrossed down the face of the wave, pulled into a giant barrel and got spit out safe and sound.

The filming didn’t end well for another surfing stuntman, Laurie Towner, a regular at Chopes. Towner wiped out and went face first into the reef.

This is how Towner described his experience on Instagram:

“Teahupo’o gave me a good old-fashioned flogging yesterday on my third wave. I let go of the rope on an evil little west one. It was a pretty slow swell, (and) although I should (have) kicked out, I decided to go anyway. I could tell the lump of swell was going into the channel, which generally means it’s a close-out or a really fast west one. I hit my head on the bottom (and) must have blacked out, because the next thing I can remember is being in the lagoon gasping for air in calm water.

“I got myself a broken jaw, some stitches in my lip (and) eyelid, whiplash to my neck (and) back and a couple of small (puncture) wounds that went through my neck (and) into the back of my mouth that apparently just missed an artery. Just want to thank everyone who helped me … yesterday — really appreciate it! I’m all good (and) as positive as ever!”

Such danger at Chopes is not surprising. According to Wikipedia, Teahupo’o’ loosely translates in English as “to sever the head” or “place of skulls.”


Man-made perfection

Some are calling it the best man-made wave ever, and it figures Kelly Slater has something to do with it.

The 11-time world champion and his Kelly Slater Wave Co. have produced a video of their “perfect” man-made wave. The video was shot Dec. 5 in a “secret spot” that Slater says was “about 110 miles from the coast.” Which coast is not clear, though some social media sleuths have surmised that Slater’s secret spot is in Lemoore, south of Fresno in Central California.

“This is probably like when I won my first title and it didn’t sink in for quite a long time,” an excited Slater said in the video after seeing the final product. “Seeing that, I’m 100% positive our team built the best wave that anyone’s ever made. It’s a freak of technology.”

After watching it, Slater donned a wetsuit and surfed the wave, dropping into a perfectly shaped barrel.

“We wanted to make sort of an elite-level wave,” Slater said. “You can always scale it back.”

Check out the video at

Wavegarden has been recognized as the leader in man-made wave technology, but the company wasn’t willing to say much about Slater’s wave.

“We have nothing to say other than what we saw in the video is a great-looking wave,” Wavegarden’s director of communications, Felip Verger, told

“We have followed a strict policy of not commenting about our competitors, no matter who they are or at what stage they are in their developments, because we can only talk about what we know. … By this we mean the real data and facts, such as energy consumption, wave frequency, surfers capacity, initial investment, etc., etc.”

JOE HAAKENSON is a Huntington Beach-based sports writer and editor. He may be reached at