The Hawaiian winter season kicks off with a bang at Jaws
As the first big swell of the 2020-21 season formulated in the North Pacific, all eyes trained on Jaws for a day of incredible surfing.
Phones started buzzing on November 29. Sixteen-to-17 feet at 18 seconds and light winds. At Jaws, Hawaii's feared big wave, 17ft means at least 40ft (12m) of wave height and 18 seconds means thick, well-organised lines of swell rolling in from the horizon.
By dawn on December 2, things had got bigger. The buoys were now reading 21ft (6.4m) at 17 seconds. A collection of the world's best big wave surfers were buzzing around the parking lot of boat launch, preparing gear, talking the unfolding conditions. "It's gonna start to thump when that gets here," said Ian Walsh after checking the latest forecast. "Definitely don't want to be getting caught inside by those."
Off went Walsh into the darkness, along with Kai Lenny, Billy Kemper, and the rest of the squad of Jaws chargers.
From the moment there was enough light to see, it was clear that it was on – the winds held light and mountainous lines pitched over the reef. The morning was all about paddling, and Walsh, Lenny, Kemper, and Nathan Florence scratched into some true bombs. By afternoon, the tow teams were in place. Lenny, of course, got busy doing mind-bending manoeuvres on 40-footers.
All across the Hawaiian Islands on December 2, from Oahu's famed Waimea Bay to Pipeline, to nearby and unnamed outer reefs, big wave surfers feasted on the first swell of the season. It had been a slow start to the 2020-21 Hawaiian season, but, yet again, the ocean made sure it was all worth the wait.
As is tradition here, we had filmer Ryan Moss on the scene at Jaws, to document the day, from the pre-dawn jitters at the boat ramp, to the triumphant moments at day's end. Enjoy the show… but not too much – the winter's still young!