Kind surfer had bright future
The beloved Tahitian who died at Pipeline was viewed as an up-and-coming star
Malik Joyeux was a well-known big-wave surfer who embodied the aloha spirit and was hospitable to his friends and strangers alike.
"He was a very warm-hearted Tahitian with lots of aloha. If you knew him, he treated you really well. If you didn't know him, he would treat you like he knew you all of his life," said Liam McNamara, a professional big-wave surfer.
Joyeux, 25, a native of Moorea, Tahiti, died Friday at Banzai Pipeline, apparently drowning after wiping out on a wave. An autopsy will be performed today to determine the exact cause of death.
Fellow surfers, who described Joyeux as a great waterman and a humble person, are still in shock. "It's a tragic accident. It hits home hard," said Jamie Sterling, 24, a big-wave surfer who knew Joyeux for the past eight years.
Sterling said he was at Pipeline Friday morning and saw Joyeux catch a handful of waves. He was in a good rhythm that day, surfing Pipeline really well, he said.
"I was talking to him moments before. It was a really crowded day," Sterling said. Water conditions were pristine and glassy with 6- to 8-foot waves and no winds.
Sterling said he admired Joyeux's surfing style. He surfed goofy-foot (right foot forward stance) like him. "I looked up to him for his ability and his kindness," he said.
The tragedy continues to replay in his mind. "Life is just so precious. It brings everything in perspective on how crazy the sport that we do is," he said. "Sometimes I wonder why do we risk our lives to do this."
He recalled paddling in a panic to the spot where a large wave drilled Joyeux into the ocean. Sterling and fellow surfers shared those feelings as they searched for Joyeux, he said.
About 10 to 15 minutes later, surfer Roy Carter spotted Joyeux's silhouette -- with the help of two other surfers -- about 10 to 12 feet from the surface and about 50 yards from the shoreline of Ehukai Beach Park.
Carter, still shaken by the incident, said he grabbed Joyeux and "body-locked" him to someone's longboard as they brought him to the shoreline, with help from lifeguards.
Joyeux is best known for surfing the biggest wave in Teahupoo two years ago. "He was the most up-and-coming young big-wave surfer at Teahupoo," Carter said.
Sterling said that Joyeux was wearing a leash while he was surfing. The leash, attached to his broken surfboard, he said, was found intact. "The leash didn't break," he said. Sterling said he does not know whether Joyeux took it off his ankle or the force of the wave yanked it off. "Nobody would really know that part of it," he said.
Fellow surfers also said Joyeux had no bruises or lacerations to his head.
McNamara said, "Malik was a great surfer. He wasn't out of his league. He didn't do anything crazy or stupid."
"He went for a wave that he normally went for at any given time, and something just went wrong, went terribly wrong, and (he) ended up losing his life doing something that he loved," McNamara said.
McNamara said Joyeux had a positive attitude and always had a smile on his face. "He didn't have a bad bone in his body," he said.
Pipeline's thrills risk dangerous spills
Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore is one of the most popular surfing spots in the world -- and one of the most dangerous.
"People need to realize that Pipeline is a very dangerous wave. Surfers who surf there are putting their lives on the line every time they paddle out," said Liam McNamara, who has suffered three major injuries there in 8 years. In one incident he received 50 stitches to his head and face after being dragged against the reef.
Getting slammed against the shallow reef is "basically the equivalent of falling off a three-story building," said McNamara, who also broke his femur at Pipeline. McNamara said he considers waves at Pipeline that are larger than 10 feet safer than those under 10 feet.
"More incidents happen under 10 feet," he said. "As it gets bigger, the wave breaks further out in the ocean, which makes it a little safer." As the waves shrink, they break on top of the reef, making it more dangerous. Wearing a helmet at Pipeline, he said, is always a good idea.