Mike Stewart: he hit the reef at Teahupoo while bodysurfing | Photo: LH.prod

Mike Stewart suffered one of the worst wipeouts of his career at Teahupoo, in Tahiti.

The 55-year-old waterman is one of the most experienced wave riders. He won nine world bodyboarding titles and still competes professionally at the highest level.

This time, however, he was not injured riding his Science bodyboard. Stewart was pushing his personal limits by bodysurfing in one of the heaviest waves on the planet.

"I got the call from the crew at 'We The Bodysurfers - The Movie.' There was a big swell coming to Tahiti, and after analyzing the forecast, I was all in," explained Mike Stewart.

The Hawaiian made it to Tahiti and got in the water. The waves were pumping, and Stewart was having a great time until things went terribly wrong.

A Lesson Learned

He was also perfecting a technique that made him navigate faster, out of the barrel and onto the shoulder of the wave.

"I tucked both arms in to go faster and ride in front of the whitewater snowball. The idea was to penetrate the wave face better and avoid being sucked over onto the dry reef. But it was a miserable fail," said Stewart.

The veteran bodyboarder and bodysurfer dove into the face of the wave and immediately felt he was about to have a close encounter with the sharp Tahitian reef.

Mike Stewart said he suffered the worst bruises of his already long career in the waves and that it was only the second time he got stitches from surfing injuries.

The injuries were captured through the lens of Tahitian surf photographer Léa Hahn. "It was a sore lesson that I don't plan on repeating," concluded the Hawaiian waterman.

Teahupoo is a place Mike Stewart knows very well. In the late 1980s, he was the first Western surfer, alongside Ben Severson, to ever take on the Tahitian reef break.

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