Jaws, also known as Pe’ahi, is a big wave surf spot located on the north shore of Maui, Hawaii. It’s known for producing some of the biggest and most challenging waves in the world, attracting surfers from all corners of the globe. In this article, we’ll dive into the history of surfing at Jaws, the debate between tow and paddle-in surfing, the dangers of surfing at Jaws, the best surf conditions for tackling this massive wave, and some fun activities to enjoy on Maui when the surf is flat.
Surfing at Jaws is not for the faint of heart. The massive waves, powerful currents, and razor-sharp reef pose a significant challenge even to the most experienced big wave surfers. Jaws is a right-hand point break that forms when a large northwest swell hits the shallow reef just off the coast. The wave can reach heights of over 60 feet (18 meters) and has a steep, fast-moving face that requires expert-level skills to navigate.
The line-up at Jaws can be intense, with dozens of surfers vying for a chance to catch a wave. Experienced surfers typically wait on the shoulder of the wave, waiting for the right moment to paddle in and drop down the face of the wave. The vibe in the line-up can be competitive, but also supportive, with surfers cheering each other on and offering advice.
Getting to Jaws from shore can be challenging, with the best access point being the Pe’ahi Beach trailhead. From there, surfers have to hike about a mile along a rocky path to reach the point where they can paddle out to the wave.
History of Surfing at Jaws
Jaws was first surfed in the 1970s by a group of pioneering surfers, including Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama, and Buzzy Kerbox, who are credited with putting Jaws on the map. These surfers used traditional paddle-in surfing techniques to catch the waves, which required them to paddle into the wave from the beach and drop down the steep face of the wave using only their own power. Over time, surfers began experimenting with tow-in surfing, which involves being towed into the wave by a Jet Ski or other motorized watercraft, allowing them to catch waves that were previously considered unrideable.
In recent years, however, there has been a renewed interest in paddle-in surfing at Jaws, with surfers pushing the limits of what is possible using only their own power. This has led to some incredible feats of skill and bravery, with surfers catching some of the biggest waves in the world using only their own strength and skill.
Tow or Paddle?
The debate between tow-in and paddle-in surfing has been ongoing for many years in the big wave surfing world. While tow-in surfing allows surfers to catch bigger waves and reach higher speeds, paddle-in surfing is considered by some to be a more pure and traditional form of surfing. Ultimately, the decision to use tow or paddle-in surfing at Jaws comes down to personal preference and skill level.
Dangers of Surfing at Jaws
Surfing at Jaws is not without its risks. The size and power of the waves, combined with the shallow reef, create a dangerous environment for even the most experienced surfers. Anyone attempting to surf at Jaws should be well-equipped and prepared, including having a good quality big wave surfboard, a leash, a personal flotation device, a helmet, and a wetsuit appropriate for the water temperature.
Best Surf Conditions
for Jaws To surf Jaws, surfers need the right combination of swell, wind, and tide. Here are the best surf conditions for Jaws:
- Swell Direction: Jaws works best with a large Northwest to Northeast swell. Swells coming from other directions may produce waves, but they are often smaller and less powerful.
- Swell Size and Period: For Jaws to break at its best, the swell needs to be at least 20 feet (6 meters) with a long period of 18 seconds or more. This creates the big, powerful waves that Jaws is known for.
- Wind Direction: Ideally, Jaws should have light offshore winds, which help to shape and groom the waves into perfect cylinders. Winds coming from the South or Southwest are the best for this spot.
- Tide: The ideal tide for Jaws is a low or mid-tide, which helps to expose the shallow reef and create the steep, powerful wave face that surfers crave.
When the surf is flat or if you’re looking for a break from the waves, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy on Maui. You can go snorkeling in the crystal clear waters, hike to the top of a volcano, or simply relax on one of the island’s beautiful beaches. Maui is also home to some of the best restaurants and shops in Hawaii, so you’ll never be at a loss for things to do.
In conclusion, Jaws is the ultimate challenge for big wave surfers, offering some of the most powerful and impressive waves in the world. If you’re up for the challenge, make sure to come prepared with the right equipment and knowledge of the conditions. And if you’re not a surfer, there are still plenty of other activities to enjoy on this beautiful island paradise.