Teahupo'o is a reef break which mainly breaks left, but the outer reef also creates right breaks that surfers must be cautious of when paddling out. Teahupo'o is also renowned for the consistent number of barrels it delivers. It is a rewarding location and is widely regarded as being on the 'must-surf' list of every enthusiastic surfer.
Teahupo'o's legendary reputation for wave riding is partly due to its unique form. An extremely shallow coral reef, which ranges up to 20 inches (51 cm) beneath the water's surface, is responsible for a very hollow-breaking wave. The wave's unique shape, with an effect of almost breaking below sea level, is due to the specific shape of the reef beneath the wave. Its semi circular nature, which drops down sharply creates a 'below water' effect and the extreme angles in descent create an instant instability to the wave. A steep wall of reef causes the entire mass to fold onto a scalloped semi circle breaking arc. The wave bends and races along into a dry reef closeout and the lip of the wave is often as thick as it is tall.