There are waves, and then there's the wave known as Jaws — the mammoth windsurfer-muncher that roars to life once a year on Maui's North Shore. First tackled by windsurfers well before the dawn of tow-in surfing, the barrelling beast has become the proving ground for big-wave surfers worldwide.
For some it's not a proving ground, but a playground — even in challenging conditions. For these veterans, Jaws is in their backyard, and every time the waves come to play, so do they. Among the most talented of these aquatic artists is Australian Jason Polakow — who may have surfed more at Jaws than anyone. See a few of his outings from this year in the video above.
"This winter season was the most consistent big waves I have ever seen in the last 30 years," says Polakow. "I’ve never seen anything like it. We were able to push ourselves and our equipment to the edge, making for some interesting moments on and off the water."
On this day, light winds meant surfers had the waves to themselves —until Polakow figured he'd give it a go with a vertical sail. "I was the first to try, [so I was] windsurf floating around the impact zone waiting for a set," he says. "When winds are light, you have to take a gamble and try and stay as close as you can to the impact zone."
In case you're not familiar with the terminology, "impact zone" means just what it sounds like: You have a heavy chance of being heavily impacted by a heavy wave. Which, in fact, happened. "I managed to have multiple wipeouts this day," says Polakow. "It made for a rough day but also fun to watch on video!"
Ultimately, Jason broke his board and sail before he even had a chance to catch one wave — but that didn't stop him. "I got back to the boat feeling energized from the adrenaline, and since the wind was getting stronger, we all rigged up and managed to catch a few fun waves that day!"
If that's what you call fun, we'd hate to see what you call scary!