In June 2000, at age 20, I had a career breakthrough when I won the Tahiti Skins International against my greatest rivals and childhood heroes at big heavy Teahupoo. Apart from being my first major International victory, I was also featured on the cover of 4 different international magazines which spread my name across the bodyboarding world instantly.
I caught this wave the day after the Tahiti skins event had finished. I was naturally still on an extreme high from winning the contest the day before and I was charged up for one last freesurf at solid Chopes. It was glassy and 8-10ft this morning as opposed to the lumpy, rogue 10-15ft bombs we'd surfed in the contest the day before.
I'd had a really enjoyable morning freesurf with mates like Kingy, Thorto, Ben Player and Ben Holland. By mid morning it was pretty crowded cause everyone was onto the idea of getting one last Chopes pit before we all flew home.
I'd drifted wide and was chatting to mates, waiting for one last wave, when a big double up set came in from the west. The main pack were all too deep on the reef and my mate Eddie Solomon, who had recently nicknamed me 'Hardballs' during that trip (a nickname which has stuck ever since!) was a bit further out than me and yelled at me "Go Hardballs!" Eddie sadly passed away recently, but that excitable yell in his machine gun American accent will echo forever in my memory.
I had to paddle hard to get over the ledge and my comp winning confidence combined with Eddie's yells of encouragement helped launch me over the ledge and into a big, open barrel. I was so amped at the time, I just remember looking up at the lip once I'd set my line and feeling such a rush of happiness and amazement at being inside this huge Chopes pit.
My arrival onto the international bodyboarding scene was definitely fast-tracked by winning this contest and having this wave featured on the cover of four of the worlds most prominent bodyboard magazines at the time.
Word has it that there is a strong possibility that the APB World Tour may be returning to Teahupoo in 2016. With the amount of talented big wave chargers around the world today that will make one hell of a show!
- Ryan Hardy