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Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Updated: October 17, 3:34 PM ET
Open season at Jaws: Part I


It doesn't happen very often. October 8, 2012, brought light south winds and a massive northwest swell to the islands of Hawaii. For those at the forefront of the paddle revolution in surfing's big-wave arena, this meant a rare opportunity to tackle Maui's Peahi, also known as Jaws.

While surfing at Jaws is no new thing, it's the kind of surfing that today's big-wave core is progressing in, raising the bar to never-before-seen levels. Two years ago, the lineup at Jaws on any given high-advisory swell would have consisted of at least two dozen Jet Skis pulling an aggressive pack of tow-in surfers. But in the last two years, the resurgence of paddle-in big-wave surfing has been hitting new highs.

And that's where the wind comes in. Under normal easterly trade winds, paddling into the beast of a wave at Jaws can be very difficult. But the light southerlies supplied the lineup with picture-perfect clean and glassy conditions.

Maui's Ian Walsh has been tow surfing Jaws for years and is now a key member of the paddle-in rebirth. "It's pretty rare to get a solid swell and have really clean conditions. The amount we were able to push each other around in the lineup and actually pick where we wanted to take off without the wind affecting where we are was like a whole new world," he remarked.

Among standouts Shane Dorian, Makua Rothman, Mark Healey, Ian Walsh and Albee Layer, renowned big-wave surfer Greg Long also couldn't miss the opportunity at Jaws and was amazed by the level of surfing: "I think [these were] some of the biggest waves that have been paddled into, some of the best barrels that have been ridden, and a lot of them. By all accounts it was one of the best days of big-wave paddle surfing ever."

By the end of the day, after numerous amazing rides, it was evident that this first big swell of the Hawaiian winter season allowed the paddle-in crew to set a new benchmark ... until the next big swell.