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Robby Swift windsurfing in Jaws – Video & Interview

In late February 2016 Robby Swift had an incredible big wave windsurfing session and his worst wipeout in his life. “I was so deep when I finally pulled the vest that my ears had completely […]

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Jason Polakow about Jaws – Interview

Jason Polakow in an interview about Jaws, his mates on tour and the danger in big waves.

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Winter 2015-2016 in Hawaii will be remembered for the record ‘El Nino’ sea temperatures observed in the Pacific and a season that set a new bench mark in terms of big wave action on the islands. Maui once again lead the charge, with the insane Word Surf League’s Pe’ahi challenge first to light up the headlines, followed by another ground breaking paddle surf day on the 31st of January as the boundaries of what was previously thought possible in big wave paddle surfing were redefined. In the midst of all this surf action, windsurfers have also been enjoying a super charged Pacific. Thanks to these amazing images from Pierre Bouras and exclusive words from Jason Polakow, Marcilio ‘Brawzinho’ Browne, Kai Katchadourian and Robby Naish, we compile an insight into their sessions on and off the water, the build-up, the rides and the aftermath of their incredible Jaws heroics!

Words  Kai Katchadourian, Jason Polakow, Robby Naish & Marcilio Browne  // Photos  Pierre Bouras

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Jason Polakow Chronicles – Windsurfing Jaws 2016

Jason Polakow with breathtaking windsurfing action from Jaws

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Words & Photos JOHN CARTER

Forecasters have been predicting all year that the so called ‘Super Niño’ developing in the Pacific could deliver some of the largest surf in years to Hawaii. On the eve of the Aloha Classic, the first big swell of the season lit up Maui’s most famous big wave – Pe’ahi – aka Jaws. JC captures the raw power and beauty and the riders tell their salty tales.


The swell was forecast solid but only 13 feet at 19 seconds which is about on the limit for as small as it can get to make Jaws really work. The positive aspect was that it was coming straight out of the north. When the swell comes from the west in Maui it generally gets blocked quite a lot by Oahu and Molokai. When it comes from the north, there’s nothing in the way to block it. We all headed up there at around midday not really expecting too much but thinking that it would probably be too big to sail at Ho’okipa anyway, so we wouldn’t really be missing anything by trying.

When we arrived it was actually way better than we thought. Kai Lenny was already sailing so we rigged our sails as quickly as possible. North swell is quite different from the west swell, it stands up quite a lot on the first peak and then there’s not so much of a wall to the wave. Some of the waves are really glassy but others had a giant chop running through them which makes it really scary as you don’t want to catapult down the face at Jaws.

This particular wave was one of those amazingly glassy, perfect bombs that you dream about dropping into at Jaws. I caught it really deep and thought I was perfectly positioned on the wave but just as I was about to fade into the wave to do a drawn out bottom turn, I saw a bowl appearing way out in front of me. I instinctively straightened out my line and raced about 50m more down the line before fading out in front of the wave to start the bottom turn and it was lucky I did. The bowl grew into a huge wall that allowed me to have probably the best turn I have ever had at Jaws. If I started my turn where I had initially planned, I would have no chance of making it! As it happened, I was in exactly the right place to get a really low, powerful bottom turn and come up under the lip to carve out a cutback at full speed. There wasn’t a ripple out of place on the wave, it was really quite fantastic!

This winter is supposed to be an El Niño winter so that usually brings huge surf to Hawaii. I’m crossing my fingers for some massive waves. Having been here for about the past 15 winters, I have seen some massive swells but they don’t always coincide with wind. To give you an example, the swell we surfed last winter was 29 feet and 21 seconds when it hit the buoy so it was about double the size of this day. Let’s hope we get one like that with some wind this winter!


Early morning, looking at Jaws from the cliff, the ocean was messy because of a northerly trade wind angle (side on-shore). The swell had definitely arrived and supposed to peak mid-afternoon. At 1 PM I drove one more time through the pineapple field to check the conditions and saw a massive size set breaking. The wind had picked up a lot, so together with my partner Rudy Castorina we decided to give it a go. Launching the ski at Maliko Gulch was hectic due to the swell direction being dead north. The whole bay was closing out and the sets were washing over the ramp. We finally made it out there, rigged up on the jet-ski whilst trying to not be sea sick and joined Kai Lenny, Jason Polakow and Robby Swift who were already out. I rode a couple of medium ones then a bigger one with Jason.

Unlike most days out there where the gusty easterly trade winds make going up wind complicated, the side-shore angle and the solid 20 knots helped me make it quite upwind when a bigger set arrived. By the time I was ready for the drop I knew that I was deep and I was expecting the usual side off-shore wind to propel me down the line pretty quick. That did not happen and I found myself mid-face trying to gain some momentum to make it past the section but there was not enough wind in front of the wave. All I could do to escape the tricky situation was to make it as far as possible onto the flats. From the noise of the lip falling behind me I know the avalanche was very close to me! I hung on to my rig as hard as I could but I didn’t even feel it getting ripped off my hands. I knew I was in for an intense hold down so I focussed on relaxing to keep my energy for later. If panic takes over you’re pretty much done because it can burn all your oxygen. It felt like I was flying in the air for a few seconds before getting swallowed up by the white water. There was a few intense seconds where I was torn apart; my lycra was pulled over my face so I had to take it off before starting to use my arm to swim up.

The life jacket that I was wearing came in very handy in that particular moment! I saw some light above me and I popped up just in time to take a good breath before the next white water ran over me. I was pretty exhausted by that moment and was glad Matias, in charge of my rescue, was right next to me on the jet-ski when I popped up. That was it for my day, the man and the equipment needed a rest.  I am glad I managed that situation pretty well not only by staying calm but by being well prepared with trusted water safety and several free diving classes over the last couple of years that taught me a lot. I can’t wait for the next session out there!


After a month of not windsurfing, I felt unfit. The German and French stops of the PWA tour were windless days spent waiting. No wind meant no sailing, which meant that my muscles felt stiff when I stretched and I had an extra half pound around the waist. Having lived in Europe the previous five months, I fantasized about a Hawaiian homecoming involving logo-high Ho’okipa. Unfortunately, the waves were massive. I started driving to the west side to sail a secret spot, but Kevin Pritchard called me and said to turn around and get to Polakow’s house ASAP because we would all go to Jaws on a pair of jet skis. Could I say no and still retain my dignity? Could I tell him that I felt too jetlagged and out of practice? In short: no way braddah! I borrowed a flotation vest from Polakow to wear under my rash guard, and off we went up the coast to that infamously big wave. At Jaws itself, catching waves was chaos because of the crowds and particularly north nature of the swell and wind. Oh, and that was my first day ever riding that board, a prototype DaCurve. Best way to get used to a new shape; drop down a mountain of water with chop the size of moguls?, probably not! Early in the session, Polakow’s vest irritated my neck so much that I took it off, hoping that my big wave experience would save me if I crashed in the wrong spot, or that my extra half pound would give me enough flotation to come back to the surface! 


The biggest wave I caught that day was a bucking bronco of a ride. It was when I was out all alone before everyone showed up and all I was thinking was; ‘just don’t fall.’  Days like that, where the swell is north and the wind is more northerly, make it incredibly sketchy to ride with confidence. If you go too deep there is no bottom turning around the section. The avalanche will catch you and eat you alive! As I was dropping into that wave I was going so fast my fins began to hum, my eyes started to widen, my worst fear was spinning out to have the entire wave break over me. I initiated my bottom turn and saw the wave way, way over head. The wave wasn’t the type to run along the reef; because of the north in the swell it exploded as I reached mid face and the spit shot me even faster into the channel where I probably went as fast as I have ever gone on a windsurfer. That’s when I saw Swifty and Polakow and gave them a wave to come out! Aloha, Kai.


Being out at Jaws sailing was really awesome.  When you drop into a wave you can see the cliff a few hundred meters in on the inside, and then the landscape is all green, and then brown all the way to the top of the Haleakala. One of the best views ever from a windsurf spot!

The wave itself was easy to read this day as it formed a very big bowl from where the wave peels into the deep water of the bay. It doesn’t break everywhere like Ho’okipa for example where the wave has so many sections. At Jaws it is all about waiting for the bowl to stand, go down and try to make a turn, and before you know it you are in the channel.There are no rocks in front of you and no mean closeouts at the end of the wave, so you can really focus on where to position yourself, and try to go as deep as you can; as far as I was concerned there would be no surprises. This is truly amazing for such a big wave to break so clean!

I had one good-size wave where I was pretty deep and I tried to get close to the lip. Unfortunately I was a bit early to nail any real projection, but I still had a fun air drop into the face of the wave, enough to rev me up with a solid dose of adrenaline! After that experience I really wanted to hit one properly, and on my last wave I finally did it on a west bowl. The wave was not as huge as the big sets, but still it was over mast and a half and super fast, as all the waves are out there. I managed to come from behind the section and hit the lip from under like I normally do on smaller waves. The projection was insane and I flew very high and fast, and then landed in front of the wave, even though there wasn’t much of a wave anymore. That made my day and after that I sailed back down to Ho’okipa. Maybe one day I will have the chance to sail there again, and next time maybe I will try to stick a real aerial on a big one!

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Levi Siver Through My Eyes Ep.3 – El Nino

Levi Siver in big winter swell in Maui. Watch Through My Eyes Ep.3 – El Nino!!

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4K XXL JAWS w. Marcilio Browne

All shot in 4k, this video of Brawzinho taking on a huge Peahi is breathtaking. Stunning shots combined with spine tingling hits is what awaits.

Click here to read more: Boardseeker Windsurfing Magazine


Marcilio Browne takes on Peahi – a video by Take Shelter Productions

Take Shelter Productions released a great video featuring the Brazilian Marcilio Browne at Jaws.

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Jason Polakow, Robby Swift, Morgan Noireaux riding Jaws in January 2016

Watch Jason Polakow, Robby Swift and Morgan Noireaux catching some huge waves at Jaws.

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Interview with Sarah Hauser about riding Jaws

Sarah Hauser is one of a few windsurfing women, who has the courage to windsurf the massive waves of Jaws. Read more in our interview.

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