Five Wipeouts Worth Revisiting from the Pe'ahi Challenge

Chris Mauro

Though it's been a month since the Pe'ahi Challenge, the landmark paddle-in event remains a trending topic in surfing circles. Like all instant classics, this historic event had its share of triumphs and tragedies. Below are a handful of the latter, which are worth a closer examination to find out what, if anything, could have prevented the carnage.


Koa Rothman's Air Drop to Body Whomp
The Hawaiian big-wave surfer skipped down the face of a wave during Round 1 at the Pe'ahi Challenge.

Koa Rothman showed no signs of giving up on this heaving monster, even as it doubled in size during his final strokes in. Remarkably, by the time he got to his feet his odds of pulling this crazy drop looked solid. But nothing is over until it's over at Jaws. Just when things looked good a giant gust of wind turned his board into a kite. Koa was tossed sideways and forced to eject. He wisely dove head-first for his life, doing his best Mark Cunningham impersonation, bodysurfing down the face. The act likely saved him a much more traumatic trip over the falls.


Ian Walsh's Good Deed Gets Punished
The big wave charger came close to making a massive Pe'ahi wave, but lost his balance as the lip closed in.

Ian Walsh was expected to come out swinging at Pe'ahi, and he didn't disappoint. But after pushing himself over the ledge of this beast and surviving the air drop Walsh was greeted by a lengthy wall in front of him that was throwing hard. Translation: Decision time. And unfortunately there was no easy way out. Had Walsh straightened out he would have certainly been obliterated. His only option was to outrun the falling avalanche. He nearly made it too, but a cascading chunk of lip he tried to sneak through proved a little too heavy, and from there things went downhill in a hurry.


Shaun Walsh's Over Under
During the Semifinals of the Pe'ahi Challenge, the big wave surfer goes head over heels.

If you blinked during Shaun Walsh's late attempt at this monster you missed one of the heaviest wipeouts of the day. Fortunately the slow-motion replay captures the severity of his sickening trip to the bottom. Did he ever stand a chance? In retrospect, it looks like maybe. But when the nose of his board inadvertently went under upon takeoff, his ride was over before it started. His punishment for the crime? A painful trip over the falls and a lengthy hold-down.


Kai Lenny's Rescue Gone Wrong
A jet ski driver gets caught in front of a breaking wave during the Pe'ahi Challenge.

Of course, the surfers on site aren't the only daredevils. The brave souls who man the rescue sleds are there to go straight into the maelstrom when things go wrong. This comes with obvious risks, as seen here during this botched rescue attempt of Kai Lenny. Things looked to be going okay as Lenny boarded the rescue sled, but even after the driver opened up the throttle, his ski couldn't outrun the frothy beast. To his credit, the brave driver hung in there as long as he could, until a giant backwash knocked them both off and into the pit.


Niccolo Porcella's Kite Boarding Karma

Okay, we're cheating. This was one happened in early January (not during the event). But c'mon, it's just too good to ignore while on this subject. Niccolo was feeling pretty tricky with this Mission Impossible exit strategy, and it looked pretty clever, too, right up until the roof caved in on his face. All kidding aside he deserves full credit for creativity. Bravo, Niccolo!

P.S. By the way, our second cheat is the photo of Shane Dorian up on top of this page. Looks like a nightmare about to happen, right? But he pulled it. See for yourself.

Dorian's Ridiculous Drop
Shane Dorian pulls off one of the heaviest air drops in the history of big wave surfing while warming up for the Pe'ahi Challenge. Video by Bruno Lemos.


Paying the Price at Pe'ahi
Check out some of the most memorable wipeouts from the 2015 Pe'ahi Challenge.

A medley of more carnage for your review.