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Greg Noll at Makaha in December 1969. Brock Little pulling in at Waimea during the 1990 Eddie Invitational. Darrick Doerner and company towing Outside Log Cabins on Jan. 28, 1998. Laird Hamilton at Teahupoo on Aug. 17, 2000.
As far as monumental and iconic moments in surf history goes, Teahupoo, Tahiti, on Aug. 27, 2011, may surpass them all. The day brought hands down the biggest tube rides in the history of the sport, as well as some of the most voluminous waves ever ridden. But what truly put Aug. 27 over the top was its convergence with technology.
Nobody died that day, which is a blessing and a miracle, especially considering the action was live and streaming, literally. With a world tour event encamped at the "end of the road," webcast equipment and satellite feeds were in place and ready to document everything as it unfolded. So when the swell finally detonated on the reef -- preliminary forecasts had hinted at what was possible two weeks prior, another benefit of technology -- real time images and video were beamed from the smallest corner of the South Pacific out to the world, where it was consumed by millions and millions of befuddled onlookers.
Ultimately it was California's Nathan Fletcher who put himself in the spot of all spots, riding what has to be considered the gnarliest, heaviest, and most terrifying in history … and lived to tell the story.
"At one point it felt like I was in a bad spot but wasn't going to fall, then I was getting to the end after making it through some whitewater and realized I wasn't going to make it. I held on, tried to keep my bearings and got rag-dolled like all hell. I came up, grabbed my head and couldn't believe it was on my shoulders," Fletcher told ESPN back in September 2011.
Billabong has assembled its vast array of documentation into "Code Red," a compelling documentary about a day that will forever change surfing. The film premiered this week on Network A, an action sports driven YouTube channel. It follows two of Australia's hardest chargers, and Billabong team riders, Laurie Towner and Dylan Longbottom as they navigate their way through the experience.
Network A will also be webcasting the Billabong XXL Awards, which will take place at 7:45 p.m. PT May 4 . Numerous rides from the Aug. 27 swell are in contention for big-wave surfing's top prize.