By Diane Ako
Twenty-one intrepid big wave paddle-in surfers from around the world have been invited to take on the menacing wave giant known as Jaws for the inaugural RED BULL JAWS, Paddle at Pe'ahi. With no assistance from motorized personal watercraft to catch these monstrous waves, the athletes competing in RED BULL JAWS will drop-in on one ideal day during the period of December 7, 2012, to March 15, 2013. The ideal conditions for the event to be called "on" are wave face heights of between 30 and 50 feet, from a NNW swell direction with light winds. An official ceremony on December 7 will open the event period. To watch the event trailer and learn more about the contest, go to www.redbullusa.com/jaws.
Two years in the making, RED BULL JAWS is the brainchild of Ian Walsh, Pe'ahi's resident big wave expert. "Once we started paddling Jaws, the idea for the event slowly started to form," explains Walsh. "I was just imagining what it could do for the level of riding big waves, and it seemed like over the last few years there's a really substantial swell somewhere around the world that resets the bar and progression of what guys are capable of doing in big waves. It seems like now is the right time for a contest like this."
A vortex for gigantic deep-water swells out of the NW Pacific, the violence and magnitude of Jaws is unmatched. Once considered beyond the realm of paddle-in surfing, modern technology, equipment design and imagination have caught pace with a bold crew of big wave explorers who are driven to blur these boundaries.
"What's unique about Jaws is the speed and the power. It's different than anywhere else I've ever surfed. It has this wall to it that you don't find anywhere. You're dropping in and looking at the chance at getting a 25-foot barrel like you would at Honolua or Backdoor. Every set you could get the best wave of your life," adds Walsh.
Red Bull's panel of big wave experts selected the 21 competitors based on recent performances in waves of comparable magnitude to Jaws; a demonstrated willingness to amplify the level of big wave surfing; and career experience in riding big waves both freely and competitively.
Surfing's big wave paddle-in roots run deep in Hawaii, and RED BULL JAWS, Paddle at Pe'ahi respects and honors the tradition of big wave riding and its pioneers. While the event period for RED BULL JAWS coincides with The Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau event on Oahu, organizers for each event are in communication and will ensure there will not be any conflict. The optimal conditions to run at each of these two locations are very unique.
"We will be looking for a swell that challenges the upper limits of paddle-in surfing," says Competition Director Mike Parsons. "Over the last five years Jaws has set the bar in the big wave paddle realm. The conditions we're looking for are a strong northwest swell from 330 degrees with face heights from 30-50 feet with smooth surface conditions." Parsons adds, "Jaws is unique in that it requires a more Northerly angled swell. When the swell direction is 330 degrees or above Jaws will often be double the size of Waimea due to swell direction."
As the athletes receive and accept their invitations to compete in the event, their names and information will be made live on the official event website www.redbullusa.com/jaws. Additional photos, videos and updates about RED BULL JAWS, Paddle at Pe'ahi will also be posted on this site regularly.
Fans in the U.S. can tune-in on June 9, 2013 to catch the RED BULL JAWS, Paddle at Pe'ahi special airing nationally on NBC. RED BULL JAWS airs as part of a 15-stop event series called the "Red Bull Signature Series" which features the most progressive surfing, snowboarding, mountain biking, freestyle motocross, skiing and BMX events.