JAWS, as my memory recalls

I remember hangin with some of my windsurfing buddies on Maui who were from the Gorge; we’d hang around in the afternoon watching Jeopardy and looking at Surfer magazines during the heat of the day. Invariably the conversation would get to legendary surf breaks, “secret spots” and unridable waves as well. We had no cable TV and no internet service, so we basically had a mag, a second hand story or a full fledged rumor to pass the hours: one’s imagination was the only thing limiting the veracity of the statements thrown around in the “pig pens” on those lazy hazy days of summer longing for the winter swells…

A story was shared by one of the guys who was the most avid surfer amongst us; therefore he had the most “clout” when the subject matter changed from “blowboarding” to surfing. He had a friend that we all knew, a regular windsurfer at Ho’okipa , who also shaped his own boards and was reknowed as a dedicated surfer as well. (At that time windsurfing was looked down upon as an elitist sport, one where haoles got on the waves but did not “ride the wave”, surfers despised us; now kitesurfing has taken that lowly spot on the totem pole). As the story goes, or as my memory recalls it, a small group of surfers had traveled out to the wave off the cliffs at Pe’ahi; that break was at the end of a often muddy, usually dangerous dirt road in the Pineapple fields. On that day, while staring at the water and contemplating “going out”, a monstrous set came in off the horizon: all the surfers decided to wait for another day to try the spot. Except for Johnny V who was rumored to have paddled out against other’s advice, he sat on the shoulder and attempted to catch a wave. He didn’t paddle into a wave that day, but he did make it back safely to shore, and the legendary wave gained a little bit from the perpetuated story.

Several years passed as I was working in the Timpone shop building surfboards and windsurfing boards. I had begun “freediving” for fish, lobster, 7/11 crabs, tako, opihi and seaweed; sometimes I would go out to the Pauwela Lighthouse with my Filipino neighbors to harvest watercress. There are some “birthing” caves at Pauwela down below the cliffs just above water level. During the BIG North swells, the thundering surf becomes deafening when a set comes in if you are in the caves, it reminds you of the overwhelming power of the “pacific” OCEAN. You can see the break at Pe’ahi when it starts to pump from there, the allure was tremendous. Even though it still had not been surfed, the legendary break was continuing to be worshiped from shore; surfers, windsurfers, haoles, locals would go out and just look and listen, and “talk story” about it and fuel the flames, stoke the dreamwave!!

About this time, Laird Hamilton had begun the longboarding “revival”, and Dave Kalama fell right in step with him on that…at Timpone we were building competition style longboards for Kalama, and he and Laird would attack Ho’okipa in mast-high conditions, much to the dismay of all the shortboarders. Shortly thereafter, the two of them came into the shop with an idea for a “tow-surfing” board: they approached Timpone because of Dave’s relationship with him, and because of Timpone’s reputation of being able to shape anything; he was and is considered a “master shaper”!! He shaped them the first tow-in board for use on their jet-ski “pull-ins”. The rest is history; the boyz fine-tuned their methods of catching larger outside reef breaks, and steadily continued on their path to riding the largest wave in the Hawaiian Islands at Pe’ahi, known as JAWS. Along with Buzzy Kerbox and Dave Doerner, Laird and Dave did just that and ushered in a new era in surfing, which allowed for previously unridable waves to be surfed!!

It had become a phenomena, JAWS became truly legendary in every sense of the word. I vividly recall a picture of Josh Angulo being published in a windsurfing magazine in 1998, it was on display in a surf shop in Paia. More and more guys were towing in with their “teams”, the core Ho’okipa windsurfers were braving the spot, always with jet-ski support. And eventually the world’s best kiters were even dropping in on the Monster. National Geographic had an article on the place, it was shown in a James Bond film, cable sports shows highlighted it….Then finally it happened, some of the most dedicated surfers started to “paddle-in” at Jaws. It actually was surfable, and I found myself back on that ratty-ass couch in that old run down trailer home, sitting with a couple of my buddies in the stifling heat and “talking story” again, about some “fool” who actually tried to catch a wave off the cliffs of Pe’ahi, some guy who was just driven to give it a shot, with no notoriety, no crowds, no hoopla, no jet ski support; just him, and the mighty Pacific, soul-searching!!

…….all that flooded thru my head when I ran across this video of Albee Layer, a Maui boy paying homage to his local break, and doing some soul-searching himself!! Check it out, It’s absolutely mind-blowing: great interview, with revealing heartfelt comments about him at the end, and a 3 minute video that is a “get ready, holy shiz” adrenaline boost that blows off the roof!!!! Like SRV liked to say, “”It’s only Soul, it’s only soul…..”

Aloha, West