'Happy' Tahiti surfer mourned
By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Eloise Aguiar
Hundreds of people gathered at 'Ehukai Beach Park yesterday to bid farewell to big-wave surfer Malik Joyeux of Tahiti, who died in a surfing accident at the Banzai Pipeline on Friday.
The bright blue sky and cooling breeze at the service was a reflection of the young man who so many described as cheerful, always laughing and smiling, and who was like his name, which means happy in French.
People who knew Joyeux, 25, were amazed by his character, said Poncho Sullivan, who recently won the OP Pro Hawai'i at Hale'iwa Ali'i Beach, the first stop of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing championships. Joyeux was humble, dynamic and embodied the aloha spirit, Sullivan said.
"He was such an ambassador for Tahiti and the sport of surfing that to lose somebody like him it really touches everybody deeply," Sullivan said.
Yesterday the waves at Pipe-line were breaking at 3 to 5 feet, conditions were good and the water seemed almost friendly, but surfers emphasize that Pipeline can be dangerous.
"It has to have the deadliest waves in the world," said Myles Padaca, who pulled Joyeux's body from the water after the curl of the wave crashed down and caught him at the worst possible point in a break. "It makes you realize how deadly a spot like Pipeline is."
The wave was so powerful that it broke Joyeux's surfboard and severed the leash, making a rescue more difficult, said Padaca, who also had a bad wipeout that day, breaking his surfboard in two.
As dozens surfed yesterday, about 300 people, including family and friends packed the tiny beach park off of which Joyeux rode his last wave.
Gary Speece, 60, said even though he didn't know the young surfer personally, he felt a kinship with Joyeux because in the 1970s Pipeline was Speece's favorite spot.
"A lot of people know how extreme it is yet they still do it," said Speece, who has friends who knew Joyeux. "Anybody who devotes a big part of their life surfing this beach and get really, really hurt, you feel for that person. That's why I couldn't miss this."
Dressed in surfing shorts, T-shirts, bikinis and pareus, people gathered in small groups waiting for the service to began. Floral arrangements framed large photos of Malik, smiling that smile he was known for.
Kahea Hart, a good friend, said Joyeux always made people laugh and that losing him to a wave struck a chord throughout the surfing community.
"A part of everybody died out there," Hart said, adding that many saw the accident and it made a strong community bond even stronger. "This passing made us appreciate each other a lot more."
Surfers said they were stunned by the accident because other surfers had taken worse wipeouts and survived, and Joyeux was used to surfing bigger waves than the one that killed him.
Joyeux made history in Tahiti on April 29, 2003, when he rode a 40-foot 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.
"He ate it pretty bad (at Pipeline)," said surfer Reef McIntosh, 27. "He was fresh in the big-wave game. He was out pushing the limits."
Everywhere in the crowd yesterday French was spoken by people who had flown in from Tahiti to attend the services.
Joyeux's sister, brother, mother, father, sister-in-law and girlfriend were among the family present.
Thilan Joyeux, Malik's sister, said her brother was the man of her life, protecting her, concerned for her happiness and sometimes a little jealous of her boyfriends. Her mother, Helene Joyeux, brought the children to Tahiti when they were very young and raised them as Tahitian, said Thilan, 23.
"He didn't like to say he was French," she said, laughing at the memory. "He's even more Tahitian than some Tahitians."
A Tahitian dance group, Tevai Ura Nui, provided music and the beat of a traditional wood drum at the beginning of the service brought the family to tears.
Kahu Billy Mitchell, who led the service, called Joyeux's death a tragedy. But there's a purity in the sport between a surfer and the wave, Mitchell said. "Once they get in the ocean, it's them and the ocean one-on-one," he said.
Reach Eloise Aguiar at firstname.lastname@example.org.