Big Wave Surfing at Jaws

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Jaws is the name given to a big wave surf break located in a place known as Pe’ahi, which is on the north shore of Maui, Hawaii.

The name “Pe’ahi” is actually said to come from the Hawaiian word for “wave”, albeit the hand gesture and not the sea crest, while the name “Jaws” comes from the film of the same name.

Three local surfers names John Potterick, John Roberson, and John Lemus are the ones who gave the break its name.

They were surfing here in the mid-70s and likened the sudden change of conditions to a shark attack.

Contests and Waves

Jaws produces some of the biggest waves in Hawaii and can exceed 60 feet during the winter months, when big wave surfers converge on the area.

The biggest wave ever surfed here occurred in January 2016, when Pete Cabrinha rode a 70-footer.

He earned the Billabong XXL Big Wave Award for his efforts and was also given a prize of $70,000, as well as a place in the record books.

Aaron Gold also has a place in those books, after surfing a 63-foot wave on the same day.

It’s not a surf spot for the faint of heart, though.

Even the best surfers can struggle with the big waves at Jaws and its unique location means that helicopters have to be flown in to help those who become injured and stranded.

Paddle vs Tow Surfing

Most surfers at Jaws use the tow-in method. In fact, in the early days, the destination was popular with Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama, who helped to invent the method of tow-in surfing.

They were part of a big wave surfing crew known as the “strapped crew” that earned a name for themselves tackling these waves.

Chris Bertish was the first to surf the big waves at Jaws after paddling in.

The South African big wave surfer managed the feat in 2001, and it has been repeated multiple times since.

Kelly Slater Paddling Surfing Jaws

Interesting Tidbit

The opening scene of the James Bond film, Die Another Day, was filmed at Jaws back in 2001.

The scene shows James Bond (played by Pierce Brosnan) and two others as they surf the waves on the shores of North Korea, before coming ashore to infiltrate a Korean base.

In actual fact, the surf scenes were shot by Darrick Doerner, Dave Kalama, and Laird Hamilton at Jaws and the shore scenes were filmed in Cornwall on the south coast of England.