Once again extreme windsurfer Jason Polakow chases the deadly waves of Jaws and survives to bring the story home.
I was in the gym on Jan 30, around 10.30am, when I got the call from Erik Ader telling me that he had heard that a few paddle surfers were already heading out to the line-up at Jaws. The swell was actually not forecast to arrive until the following morning so I decided finished my workout and then see what was up. I called Erik back around 11am to see if he had any more news about how the paddle surfers were doing. He told me that a 15- to 18-foot set (50-foot face) had just rolled in and cleaned out the line-up.
I basically went into full-on panic mode and drove as fast as I could to get home to organise my equipment and get down to the beach where my ski was stored. In my panicked state to get out there I forgot to check the ski for fuel. I had a 45-minute trip to get up there and within the first five minutes, the fuel warning light came on. I had to make a decision what to do and quick. Either go back in and refuel or risk it and try to make it up to Jaws.
Sets were already bombing the reef so I decided to keep going. I thought to myself that if I ran out of fuel I could always anchor the ski on the outside and swim in. Luck was on my side and I made it to Jaws safe and sound. Only five paddle surfers and one windsurfer were out. I quickly anchored the ski, rigged my equipment and headed out there.
Myself and Brawzinho had about a two-hour session all to ourselves apart from the handful of paddle surfers that crowded the take-off. Most of the guys that were paddle surfing I knew well so everyone was relaxed and hooting as we dropped into the waves super deep.
It was one of the cleanest sessions I have had up there in a long time. Waves were just getting pulled clean and you could really draw some nice bottom turns. Its just the best feeling in the world looking up at a 50-foot face and laying down the rail as hard as you can. I suppose its like when you're snowboarding on a huge mountain and all you see is fresh powder ahead of you as you lay into your turn.
One of the highlights of that day was trying an aerial. It's really scary setting up that deep especially on a west set like that wave was. You bottom turn and look towards the channel and think to yourself that you're never going to make it, but the wave bends in on the reef as it breaks and you find yourself in the right spot to hit a big air. I tried to get back inside, but with the westerly direction of the swell and the gusty wind I just got lifted so high in the air and then slammed down on top of my gear. Setting up for a big aerial at Jaws is the scariest thing for me, but then again it gives me the most adrenaline as well.
By the time some of the other windsurfers got out there at around 4.30pm, the wind had already turned more offshore making it very difficult to get into the waves.
With a nice two-hour session in hand already, I decided to stop around sailing around 5.30 and deal with my other small problem. No fuel!
I proceeded to pack up my equipment and get out of there before the sun went down, but my anchor was stuck on a ledge at the bottom and I just could not get it off the reef. I finally resorted to cutting the anchor line, making my position even worse, because without an anchor there was no way to stop me from floating out to sea if the engine did run out of fuel!
I slowly made my way back with another support ski to Maliko, but from that point he was going into Maliko and I still had another seven miles of ocean to cover. I thought about going into Maliko with him, but once again I just decided to keep going. I thought to myself: if I could just make it to Mamas Fish House and get to the inside, I would be OK.
I took off down the coast and the surf was just pulsing with huge set waves. I saw 20-foot sets break from Turtle Bay all the way down as far as I could see towards the airport. Those few miles were so scary for me as it was getting dark, I had no anchor and the sets were so big I don't think I could have swum to the beach even if the ski did run out of fuel!
As luck would have it, I made it to the inside reef at Mamas and I then just idled home in the dark until I reached Camp1, where I store the ski.
They say you learn something every day. Well, I really did learn a huge lesson from that experience – that I can go to Jaws again on an empty tank, maybe even further next time!
Photos © Tracy Kraft / Red Bull Content Pool