I have learned in the past, when making travel plans; “Mother Nature” always throws me a curve ball. Six weeks ago, My sponsor “Hobie” made arrangements for me to fly to Australia to help promote Hobie SUP boards and race in a series of down wind SUP races with my team mate Byron Kurt. Sure enough 7 days before I was to leave for Australia; a huge storm began to form just off Japan and after further studying the storm track and wave models, it looked to have all the characteristics of a perfect storm producing solid 60′ ft waves and light winds aimed straight for Hawaii. To make matters worse, I was on call to compete in the Jaws Tow surfing championships on Maui which was in the holding period and set to run on the next huge swell, condition permitting.
I had a tough decision to make and the clock was ticking. Either way, my sponsors were behind me; but I was gambling on speculation, so I decided to wait and see how the storm developed day by day. After 4 days of internet surfing; I decided to go with my gut feeling and fly to Maui in hopes of tow surfing, and possibly SUP surfing Peahi, “Jaws”.
I arrived on Maui with Hobie team riders TJ and Bryce Saemen and met up with good friend and photographer Tim Ditty. The Baxter family had a truck waiting at the airport and within 2 hours we were backing the skis in at Kahalui harbor to get a quick tow session in before dark with the new building swell.
After spending so much time in Maui back when I was competing windsurfing and kiteboarding; I was very fortunate to get to know the Baxter family who sponsored me in and took me in as a part of their family. I watched thier kids grow up and excel at every water sport imaginable. I grew very close to their son Connor who I treat like my little brother and help train to become a solid waterman every time I’m in Maui and now I stay with them every chance i get.
The next morning; Connor and I took TJ and Bryce out to Peahi “Jaws” with the skis to get them dialed before the swell was in full effect. We did a bunch of swimming in the pit and practiced pick up drills as well as drive the skis through the rock zones where lost boards can be picked up when the shit hits the fan on the big days..
That night we spent several hours getting all the boards ready and skis outfitted for an early morning assault. The word on the street was that this swell was so big that all the harbors were threatened to be closed to any boat traffic, so we made a plan to launch the skis an hour before sunrise to make sure our skis were in the water no matter what. That morning, our plan worked flawlessly and we drove the skis up the coast to Peahi “Jaws”. My adrenaline gets pumping the minute We round the last reef point and you can see the spray from the waves breaking at Jaws a mile a way. It was a bit nerve racking taking TJ and Bryce out for their first time because any mistake gets magnified x 10 and you are being watched by everyone. it was all about patience and baby steps for the Saemen brothers.
The morning started out slow because of the inconsistent swell, but by mid day we got into the groove and started getting some good sets and having fun. The swell was out of the West at 20-25′ ft hawaiian (40′-50′ ft faces)with light offshore winds. My boards were weighted pretty heavy which made a huge difference in making the bottom turn with the bumps and the speed to make the west bowl. By the days end, there were 3 to 4 skis and about 15 -20 boards washed up on the rocks.That night we were in bed by 7:30 pm and up at 4 am to do it all over again.
The 3rd day the swell dropped with sets still hitting 30′ ft faces and I decided to bring my SUP gun to give it a shot. You only live once, right!!!!! It was probably one of my heaviest big wave SUP sessions I have ever attempted because the swell was out of the West and 15 tow teams were still going. My first wave was pretty heavy with the bump and offshore winds holding me at the top and then finally pushing over the edge for the roller coaster ride of my life. I was leaning so hard on my bottom turn to hold an edge and just folded my paddle and exploded in an avalanche getting pulled like a torpedo hoping my leash didn’t break. It’s kind of funny when your getting ragged dolled under water; the more you fight the worse it gets and if you just relax, it seems to make the punishment more enjoyable..I caught one more and called it quits to fight another day with better conditions.
We towed for another 2 hours, got lunch and then I took Connor out on his newly weighted board until dark. he really excelled and after every wave, he always had the biggest smile on his face. It was really awesome to see so many new young guns charging so hard.
The next morning I SUP surfed with Dave Kalama, Jamie Mitchel, Slater Trout Kai Lenny and friends at Sprecks and finished with a great breakfast talking story; then we packed up the boards, cleaned and packed away the skis and flew on the redeye home.
I want to thank all my sponsors, friends and family that made this last minute water world trip possible.
Aloha and i hope to see you all in the water soon…………