Words Mimi LaMontagne
When the Surfing Life team first saw footage of the above wipeout, we were thinking, shit, that guy might be dead. Gone. But then we got word that he wasn’t dead. In fact, he wasn’t even rattled.
His name is Niccolo Porcella – Maui-born but raised in Sardinia, Italy – who first made a name for himself as a professional kite-boarder. Over time he’s expanded into big wave surfing, wing-suit flying and cliff-jumping. Basically, he’s an adrenaline seeking stuntman, and this was his first trip to Teahupo’o.
We jump on Skype…
So, Niccolo, what brought you to Chopes?
Well, I’ve been dreaming about it and training hard for it for about 10 years now, since I was 17. I’m here shooting for this reality TV show that I’m doing with my buddy, Jokke Sommer, who’s a wing-suit flyer. The premise of the show is for me to teach him big wave surfing, and for him to teach me wing-suit flying. One of the destinations we chose to film was Teahupo’o, so we booked tickets about three weeks ago. It was just a gift that there was this swell here. It was meant to be.
Niccolo from above. Photo: Tim McKenna / TahitiFlyshoot
It’s your first time to Teahupo’o, and it’s friggin’ massive. What went through your mind when you first got into the channel?
Anyplace you go that’s that size, you see the reality and the risk in front of you – there’s always a little bit of fear – but that just gets your senses out there and in focus. I always feel really at peace. This was my time. I wasn’t that scared, and obviously there were some intense moments, but I felt really calm out there. It was one of the best days of my life.
Can you walk us through the wipeout? We saw that and thought you might have died…
I know! I look at the footage and I think, oh my god…. I knew it was going to be heavy, but in the moment, you’re so focused and tuned into your line and what you’re going to do you don’t realise what’s happening.
It was my sixth wave, and I could tell that I was definitely too deep. I should have held onto the rope one extra second, I think, just to give me a little extra speed. But to be honest, there was nothing I could have done, because looking at the pictures afterwards, we saw there was a triple warble from the boats or the wave before. It was sucking up so deep and my board just stopped. I held on as much as I could, feeling good, and then my board just stopped. I knew that it was time to put all my training to the test.
When I first penetrated in the water, I was like, ah, this is too good to be true! It’s so peaceful! Let me just stroke to the top! And then on one hand I felt water, and the other I felt air. And then I just thought, oh shit, I'm going over the falls. This is when I thank my trainer for just being there for me, because we really work on strength and flexibility and holding my breath, and really, just working on the mind. Obviously the body can only do so much, then it comes down to the mind – you’ve gotta be able to say to yourself, keep calm, keep your core tight, and wait it out.
Photo: Tim McKenna and William Wilson
It was the most violent thing – I got annihilated. I was bounced, pin-balled on the reef, the whole nine yards. Just up and over and up and over. It held me under pretty long. My life-vest got blown off right away, and then the second wave drilled me – I actually hit the bottom even harder. Hit my back, my knees, and then I got about four more waves on the head after that… washed over the reef…
Manoa came over on the ski and his eyes were out of his head, saying that it was the heaviest wipeout he’d ever seen. I came up, spitted blood a couple of times, saw his reaction – then I just got this scream from deep inside me, just rhawghhhh! I felt the most alive and grateful that I WAS alive, I was so happy. I had a headache for two or three minutes, then went back out and waited about 20 minutes for another bomb.
Not pretty. Photo: Tim McKenna and William Wilson
Best day of your life, you’d say?
The best day of my life was marrying my wife, but this, for sure, was second best. I’m coming back every year. It’s a priority now. I’m in love with Tahiti.
And, what’s next for you?
Well actually, we’re staying on Tahiti for a little bit. We’re wanting to wing-suit over the mountains. We’re lining up permits and helicopters and all that stuff, and will do it within this week.
Well good luck mate. You’re insane, but we like it.
If you’d like to know more about their TV show (coming Sept/Oct this year), check it out at liftoffadventure.com.
We also have a full gallery from the biggest day of the swell – more bombs, more wipeouts – right over here.