If it’s a surfing weekend you are hankering after, there’s nothing better to do than feast your eyes on Laird Hamilton surfing this fabulous wave…
The winter swells that that create Jaws, one of the greatest big waves of them all, come all the way from the Aleutian island chain in the far north of the Bering sea and arrive at Hawaii full of its own raw power.
It doesn’t break all that often but happens in the northern hemispheres’ winter between October to April. It may only get big a couple of times a year and huge once in a few years, but at its awe-inspiring best it is something to marvel at and keenly awaited by big wave surfers from around the world.
Jaws does have a local name – Peahi, which is Hawaiian for ‘beckon’. “You can hear it from miles away,” says Laird Hamilton of the wave’s siren song. As a wave hits Jaws’ steep reef, it moves from deep ocean to shallow water in less than a minute. This depth change can cut the speed of a 50-mile-per-hour wave in half.
It also has a second wave-rearing trick. The swells on either side of the reef, moving in deeper water, bend inward, focusing much of their energy on the center of the wave crest. What happens next is that the reef squeezes the wave inward and upward. Surfers call it a peaking wave.
The deepwater channel next to the underwater ridge also ensures that there is a safe zone where the wave won’t break. That’s where surfers are headed when they’re flying down the face of Jaws.
photo courtesy of Surf Travel Company
It’s the stuff that dreams are made from… However, it is most certainly a wave for expert surfers only – and big wave surfers at that.
It used to be that people paddled out to it – a wearying 20 minutes at least, but nowadays the doodlebugs (my name), jetskis is what I’m talking about – (and even they have changed their name to a more politically correct pwc – or ‘personal watercraft’ … the Belgium government would love that! And if that comment is a little elusive you will have to read my article on new kiting rules in Belgium). Back to the topic on hand, it was back in 1998 that Laird Hamilton and his friends came up with the idea of tow-surfing – the use of jetskis to get you out to the wave quickly, and that is now the method most generally used to get out there.
The jetskis are launched from Maliki Gulch or Kahalui Harbor. The towns Paia, Haiku, Kuau or Spreckelsville have good access to the this big wave surfing mecca. There are also plenty of good ‘ordinary’ surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing spots in the vicinity.
A genuine mecca for everyone.