The monster swell that closed out the North Shore yesterday was just what Mike parsons and Brad Gerlach were waiting for. The two tow surfers jetted into Maui for a taste of the first major swell of the winter 2002/03. Some pics, more to come..
The break at Peahi, better known as Jaws, on the North Shore of Maui is deceptively perfect. First on every surfer’s check list are legs of steel to deal with the human sized bumps on the face of the waves.
Four time runner up to the world title Cheyne Horan has certainly shaken the small wave surfer perception that dogged him for some time. From an interview on towsurfer.com, he says “I’ve nearly drowned four times in my life. One time I got hit so many times I thought to myself, I am going to die here! My body went numb and limp, I was seeing stars and I felt like I was in a different place, like never before. I felt like I was on the other side, like I had died. You have to be prepared for the worst! If you don’t know what to expect, you shouldn’t be out there.
When you’re looking over the ledge, it feels like you’re standing on a huge building getting ready to jump off. When that swell starts out at 30’-40’ and your riding it, you are just waiting for that thing to hit the reef and jack to 60’-70’, sometimes 80’ as it stands straight up. It then feels like the building that you were standing on, just crumbled from under you and you are completely free falling.”
Dave Kalama was at the forefront of popularizing the use of footstraps on boards. Initially this was with the intention of using them for aerials, then giant wave towsurfing really took off with the use of straps.
“With tow surfing, especially if I’m towing with Laird -he’ll ride whatever comes in, and I’ll ride whatever comes in. At thirty foot plus, they’re all just huge.
I don’t care if it’s 35 or 36 or 31 or 29 and a half. It’s all the same to me anyway. I know the world likes the biggest and the fastest and the prettiest, but I just want to be there to ride whatever comes in.”
Brad Gerlach styling in the mouth of a Jaws monster, with a ten foot thick lip and teeth to match waiting for the chance to swallow a puny human.
Ending the 1991 season at number two on the WCT ratings, after a few years on sabbatical leave, Gerlach has re-emerged with a new career as a surfer riding the biggest waves the planet generates.
Most surfers choose not to ride a white water wave, one where the wave preceding has left foam on the surface. The foam on these type of waves cause the board to cavitate and might result in the surfer losing traction, and spinning out. Mike Parsons turns off the bottom in the white water, keeping his rail set, hoping for no spin out.
When it comes to surfers who consistently ride the biggest waves that the oceans provide at places like Mavericks, Todos Santos, Cortes Bank, and Jaws, their committment to this cause ensures that Snips and Gerr have no peers.
Laird Hamilton is known as the guiding genius of crossover board sports, and he is truly amazing in the water. His size – six-foot-three, 215 pounds – makes him seem indestructible. Laird is the elder son of 60’s surfing legend Bill Hamilton, and is a throw back to that time when surfers prided themselves on being all-around watermen.
“Jaws Maui,” a book published in ’97, features Laird in action and is filled with spectacular photography of the men who pioneered tow-in surfing