Big Swell in Jaws, The Mother Wave

From my first encounter with Jaws some 20 years ago, my life since that day has forever been changed. It’s kind of strange how one wave can shape your life and become your sole obsession. I find myself sometimes forgetting how amazing the wave really is and it’s not until I get another dose that all the memory’s and feeling coming rushing back. Once you’ve been bite you become part of that wave forever, or at least until you get married!

Every year I try and prepare myself for the winter season ahead.
Last year I almost drowned and was held down for over 1 minute so this year I really wanted to make sure I was ready for anything. During the Hawaiian summer I spent some time back in Australia learning different techniques about expanding your lungs and learning about the nervous system, anything that might make me more confident on the water. I wanted to be ready for this season and not get into a situation like I did last year.

Words: JP (Red Bull Content Pool)
Sport : Windsurfing Wave
Date: 15.03.2011
Location: Jaws, Hawaii
Country: USA

March 15th, 2011 was one of those great days that you may only get every few years.
I have lately been really enjoying the opportunity to venture up to Jaws on my own.
My ski is parked on the beach all the way down in Sprekalsville so it takes a good 30 to 40 minutes to motor up the coast. I was on the beach at 7:30am in the morning with no one around, packing and strapping my equipment to the sled.
It’s definitely not the smartest thing to do, as you are vulnerable to a number of things that can go wrong. Huge waves close out from Hookipa (A) all the way down to Kanaha (B) and debris floats all around you at times from the high surf line the night before.

You have to be on your game from the time your feet hit the water. It gets me into a sort of Mojo that sets the tone for the rest of the day. You arrive at Jaws already alert and you are just aware of everything around you. I find it a real part of the Jaws experience but I guess I feel that way because nothing has gone wrong yet.

Jaw’s is the ultimate challenge and with each passing season the level of performance is getting pushed more and more. Surfers are now paddling into the wave and windsurfers are going deeper and busting aerials. It’s sometimes hard to forget the traumatic experience I had last year but with education, training and the right frame of mind I find you can block that out. Confidence is everything out there and by early afternoon I started to settle into a nice groove.

The wind that day was super strong offshore, making it difficult to really push off the top. I go so overpowered at times off the lip it was sometimes hard to set the rail and cut back with confidence. I had been trying to set up some aerials all morning but just could not get the right set up. The west bowl bends in hard at times so you have to be super deep to hit the right part of the wave. I found that it was near impossible to air that section without getting blown out the back of the wave. The wave bends in so much its near straight off shore by the time you want to air back in. I started trying to air the more north facing waves making it easier to air in without getting 500 knots of wind in your sail. You really need a lot of speed coming off the bottom as the wave is travelling so much faster than a regular wave. Timing is everything out there and I was concentrating on getting around the first section and then bottom turning back up into the peeling lip.

I had two airs off the end section that day. You have to have so much speed as your cutting back in order to project out and down the face of the wave. Once you’re in the air and dropping down the face of the wave you have to be totally sheeted in and committed to making it to the bottom before the lip catches you. The airtime you have dropping down the face is just unbelievable. With the size of the wave and all the wind getting pushed up the face you just seem to drop forever. Next time we score it good I plan to get myself in a more critical part of the wave, for sure.

About 5-bomb sets came threw that day and I was lucky enough to score 1 of them. When it gets over 15 to 18 foot the wave really starts to barrel and if you get the right one it stretches out super clean like a mirror and you can draw the fastest bottom of your life. All your weight can be transferred to the rail of the board without thinking your going to skip out. The sail is bent over until it is practically scraping on the water. Every once of feed back from the rocker line of the board and the foil of the fins runs threw you toes and up your body.
The bottom of the wave is so smooth sometimes you can just concentrate on the lip. I cannot explain how insane it feels to be looking up at a triple mast high barreling lip.

The other amazing thing about Jaws is how low and close the helicopters can get to you. You literally feel that you’re going to collide into the helicopter as you drop down the face of the waves. The jet wash can knock you down sometimes so you really have to watch your line. If you hit the jet wash your basically done. 70 to 80 knots of wind instantly hits the sail and sends you into a flurry of cartwheels.
I can see the passengers in the back of the helicopter so clearly sometimes I can practically see their facial expressions. It must be the ultimate rise for them. They can basically ride Jaws along side of you but without the fear of getting wiped-out.

One of the highlights of the day was seeing this guy jump from his jet ski as I dropped down the face of a set wave. I was wondering to myself what he was doing sitting in the impact zone. I soon realized his ski was not running but I was already committed to drop down the wave. I steered straight towards him full speed. He was screaming at me but I could not make out what he was saying. I guess he was a little worried that I might also hit him. He dove from the ski right in front of me and at that point I new I had to get around the ski as soon as possible. If a 700-pound ski would hit you it would be game over for sure. I didn’t look back as I went passed but I knew the ski was going over the falls.

There is always something spectacular happening at Jaws whether it’s a ski going over the falls, a huge surfing barrel or someone getting smashed onto the rocks.
Jaw’s always draws huge crowds on the cliff tops and there is no other wave on the planet that compares to its size and power.

Looking forward to the next session up there!

Story by JP courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool.
Photos by Erik Aeder, Tracy Kraft and Bob Bangerter courtesy of Red Bull.