Peahi/Jaws – North Shore, Maui
Jaws, or Peahi as the locals call it, has become one of the most famous big wave surfing spots in the world since tow-in surfing was started in the mid-1990s. This is one of the few spots in the world that tends to push the limits every year of what surfers are capable of riding. It is also one of the few surf spots that are constantly contenders for producing the tallest wave of each year. The waves at Jaws move too fast for a surfer to paddle into, making tow-in surfing the only option for catching one. Jaws is mainly a right that only breaks on the biggest swells of the year. It can hold up to heights upwards of 70 feet. No swell is too large for Jaws. No matter how big it gets, the rights just seems to get faster, bigger, more hollow, and even more perfect for big wave surfing. There is also a left that is occasionally ridden by those who are really brave. The left can close out on the inside and leads you right into the rocks and the cliffs at the shoreline.
Jaws is located on the North Shore of Maui in a very remote area at the end of Peahi Valley. When it was first discovered, the only way in was through the bush. To surf it, you have to access it from the water. Guys generally show up to Jaws on the personal watercraft that they are planning to tow in with, and it’s always safe to have a boat on hand as well.
Swell & Weather Conditions
Jaws needs the biggest north and northwest swells possible to work. The best wind direction is south, though when the waves are big at Jaws, guys are out there regardless of how the wind is holding up.
Tow-boards are your only option. You cannot paddle into waves at Jaws.
Jaws was first surfed by windsurfers, but not in the types of conditions that we see guys towing into today. In the mid-‘90s, Laird Hamilton, Darrick Doerner, Buzzy Kerbox, Brett Lickle, Mark Angulo, and Dave Kalama came together and developed smaller tow-in boards with foot straps, which were pulled into waves by rubber boats with outboard motors. Eventually they started using personal watercraft to pull each other at the high speeds necessary to get into the wave at Jaws. This revolutionized big wave surfing around the world. Because of these innovators at Jaws, many previously unsurfable waves around the world are now surfed with the help of PWCs. In recent years, there has been a contest each year to see who can catch the biggest wave anywhere in the world. The winning waves have been caught at Jaws several times.
Laird Hamilton Surfing Jaws:
The Billabong XXL Big-Wave Awards is the only relation Jaws has with the contest world. There is no regularly scheduled contest held at Jaws, but many of the winning waves in the Billabong XXL contest happen to have been ridden out at Jaws. Jaws is still strictly a place for hellmen who have to put themselves in the most dangerous situations to get the ultimate rush in big wave surfing. It will probably be a long time before we see some sort of annual organized event held at Jaws.
Brief Travel Info
If you want to check out Jaws, then fly into one of the Maui airports; Kahului or Kapalua would be best. Maui is a very tourist-focused island, so there shouldn’t be any problems finding a hotel to stay at. The islands are all fairly small, so if you grab a map and find your way over to Peahi Valley during a big swell, you might be in for a show. As far as surfing Jaws, you probably won’t get a chance, even if you want to, unless you get involved with the guys who do it regularly. There are lots of surf spots on Maui, so have fun checking spots like Honolua Bay and Ho’okipa, and plan on just going to Jaws to watch from the cliffs.