The Jaws Challenge

I am no surfer, but the Pe’ahi Challenge, otherwise known as Jaws , bears watching at least once just for the shear audacity of the surfers competing. Every winter a swell hits the island of Maui causing a wave phenomena nicknamed Jaws, so called due to the unpredictability of the the sudden huge waves, up to 60 feet (18m), that break at this remote spot on the island’s shore.

From my understanding the unpredictability is less these days, as the surfers and competition holders can scan maps and satellite imagery to predict when the waves are going to hit. It is not unusual to hear the surfing community speaking about “a big swell” that will be hitting the island in a couple of days. Over the last couple of days the big wave surfers have been arriving on the island and today was day one of the challenge with the winner of the women’s event being won by Keala Kennelly. Tomorrow the men will be surfing.

At times the power of the waves is so strong that the surfers have to be towed in by jet ski, but increasingly they are paddling in. Jet skies are constantly circling in the zone where the waves break to catch surfers that wipe out. Surf boards can be split in two, and even jet skies can over turn if the riders don’t get out of the way quick enough while trying to rescue a surfer.

Nowadays Jaws has become quite the event. Understandably so, it is quite something to see those tiny specs surfing down the face of the massive waves. However to get out to the viewing area, which is the cliffs overlooking the wave break, means a trek down a dirty (mud or dust), rutty road. And with the number of people wanting to spectate these days, rows of cars parked along the side of the road, for me it is questionable whether it is worth heading out there. As ever, these days the internet or television provide options. Here’s the website for the competition, the 2018 Jaws Challenge - World Surf League.

Sit back and marvel.

David Johnson @crossingthethreshold