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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Dec. 4) – Malik Joyeux may have been one of Tahiti's most world famous surfers, but on Saturday, Tahiti's surfers paid tribute to one of their own with a special ceremony at a surfing site off the north coast of Papenoo.

[PIR editor’s note: Papenoo is located on the north coast of Tahiti, northeast of the capital city of Papaete.]

The 25-year-old Joyeux apparently drowned Friday after wiping out in what expert surfer Jamie O'Brien of Hawaii described as a "freak accident" on a large wave at Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Hawaii's main island of Oahu.

Tahiti's surfers gathered at 1 p.m. Saturday at the popular surfing spot at the mouth of the Papenoo River. They formed a giant human circle in the water, all of them sitting on their surfboards. A pastor standing on the nearby beach said a prayer. The surfers then threw frangipani flowers into the water before breaking up the circle.

Before leaving the water, the surfers beat the water with their hands as a final farewell gesture to their departed friend and fellow surfer.

Twenty-four hours earlier, a similar ceremony was held on Oahu's North Shore. Surfers gathered in a prayer circle, holding hands as they stood on the beach near the area where Joyeux had taken off on a wave Friday morning. The wave's lip came over Joyeux, the force of the wave breaking his surfboard in half and ripping the leash off his ankle, according to a report by the Honolulu Advertiser.

Pascal Luciani, president the Tahitian Surfing Federation, said, "The conditions of the waves were average at the time of the accident".

Bodo Van Der Leeden, lifeguard captain on the North Shore, told the Honolulu Advertiser that Joyeux was one of dozens of surfers riding 6-10 foot (1.8-3 meter) waves when the wave's lip "hit him square on".

Surfers and lifeguards spent 10 minutes searching as a human chain before they found Joyeux's body underwater more than 200 yards (182 meters) east of where he was last seen, Van Der Leeden told the newspaper.

French Polynesia President Oscar Temaru issued a statement Saturday declaring, "Malik Joyeux was an example for (French) Polynesian youth. French Polynesia has lost a great sportsman who brought honor to his land."

Funeral services are to be held in Hawaii. Malik's brother, Teiva, told the Honolulu Advertiser that his body would be cremated in Hawaii and that his ashes would be scattered both in Hawaii and in Tahiti.

Joyeux and his family are from Tahiti's sister island of Moorea. The family includes his brother, Teiva, 29, his sister, Thilan, 23, his mother, Hélène, and his girlfriend Kamakea Bambridge, 23.

Joyeux began surfing at the age of eight. During the past two years his international reputation had skyrocketed as he earned himself a reputation of specializing in surfing giant waves. He offered photographers who specialized in surfing photos some exceptional images never before captured.

There was a film project underway involving Malik and his brother, Teiva, a world famous kite surfer. During a recent interview by the French State owned and operated Télé Polynésie television station, Malik said the film project represented "a dedication to his life".

Joyeux was known in the surfing world as a "free rider", a surfer free from the constraints of international competition. He simply traveled around the world in search of the biggest waves.

The Honolulu Advertiser reported Sunday, "Malik made history in Tahiti on April 29, 2003, when he rode a 40-foot (12-meter) barreling wave, the biggest wave anyone had ever seen at the famed surfing site of Teahupoo. Teahupoo's waves are considered to be as treacherous as those anywhere in the world."

[PIR editor’s note: Teahupoo is located on Tahiti’s southeast coast.]

He achieved a world first at Tahiti's legendary Teahupoo surfing site in July by tow-kiting into a wave. Towed in by his kite-surfer brother, Teiva, Joyeux started out in the trough of one of the most dangerous waves found anywhere. At the critical moment, Joyeux let go of the towline to glide on the wave and come out again a few seconds later. Joyeux and his brother were the first to attempt and succeed in combining the two sports to tame the world's biggest waves, the SurfersVillage.com Internet website reported on September 1.

On October 2, Joyeux was among several top surfers who rode some giant waves of five to seven meters (16 to 23 feet) produced by a big swell. Jet Skis were used at a frantic pace to try and bring each surfer at the top of a wave ready to ride Teahupoo's famous tubes off Tahiti's peninsula.

Therefore, it was somewhat ironic that Joyeux should die while trying to ride a relatively small wave of less than 10 feet (3 meters). Jamie O'Brien, winner of the 2004 Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters at the same Banzai Pipeline where Joyeux lost his life Friday, "is considered one of the best surfers at that break," the Honolulu Advertiser wrote Sunday. O'Brien's house is directly in front of the Pipeline.

He watched from the beach Friday as Joyeux was wiped out. "It was a pretty bad wipeout, but nothing like we haven't seen before. The whole time he was under water and everybody was scrambling around looking for him, I kept thinking he would pull through, because he's so strong.

"It's a dangerous wave," O'Brien continued. "It makes you realize how important life is, and how careful and respectful you have to be every time you go out there, no mater how big it is."

He told the Honolulu newspaper that despite a number of surfers at the Pipeline Friday, Joyeux "got the wave by himself, and was just in a bad position. It was just one of those things, a freak accident".

Joyeux was visiting Hawaii and hoping to compete in the trials for the upcoming Pipeline masters, his brother Teiva told the Honolulu Advertiser.

December 6, 2005

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