interesting facts about Maui’s big wave surf spot


It is both a terrifying and exhilarating experience. Are you ready to be engulfed by the skyscraper-sized waves of Jaws / Peahi?

Jaws is arguably the largest, heaviest, and fastest wave in the Pacific Ocean.

When the extreme surf spot bares its teeth, you hear the thunderous roar of the waves crashing over the deep water reef.

Jaws, also known as Peahi, is Maui’s best-known surf spot and produces waves ranging from 30 to 80 feet.

The conditions change quickly here. Subtle changes in the size and direction of the swell can drastically transform the location from a peaceful surf area into a death-defying arena in no time.

Take a look at some interesting facts about the famous Hawaiian big wave surf spot:

1. Jaws is located off the north coast of Maui, Hawaii. The coordinates are 20.946401, -156.301415;

2. Jaws was named by surfers John Lemus, John Potterick and John Roberson in 1975 after the Hollywood blockbuster “Jaws”. They were the first to catch waves in Peahi;

3. At first, Pipeline Master Gerry Lopez called it “Domes”;

4. In the 1980s, Dave Kalama, Mark Pedersen and Brett Lickle followed in the footsteps of the pioneers and sailed Peahi with their windsurfing kits;

5. Jaws became one of the most famous waves in the world in the 1990s when Laird Hamilton and Kalama, alongside Darrick Doerner and Buzzy Kerbox – the “Strapped Crew” – and also Rush Randle, Pete Cabrinha, Mike Waltze and Lickle “invented” towed surfing;

Laird Hamilton: a pioneering surfer at Jaws |  Photo: Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton

6. Laird Hamilton was the first surfer to be towed into the Peahi wave by jet skis using a surfboard fitted with foot straps;

7. The phrase “Pe’ahi” has also been adopted to honor the local Hawaiian culture;

8. According to native Hawaiian activist Leslie Kuloloio, the traditional name for the big wave surf spot is Ke Kai ‘o Waitakulu, which means “The tearful eye”;

9. Jaws has been ridden by surfers, windsurfers, kitesurfers, bodyboarders and stand-up paddles before;

10. Peahi is a submerged reef break that operates at all tides;

11. Jaws is primarily a right barrel wave and works best with northerly swells (NW-NE) and southeast winds (E-SE);

12. For long left-handers, the swell must come from the west;

13. The best time to surf or watch the big waves crashing in Peahi is between early November and late March;

14. The nearest wave buoy to Jaws (Station 51205) is located 15 miles off Haiku-Pauwela at coordinates 21.0195, -156.4272;

15. Jaws provided several XXL Prize winners in all divisions (Paddle In, Tow-In, Biggest Wave, Ride of the Year, Wipeout of the Year, Tube of the Year, etc.);

16. Peahi is an unpredictable beast. What might seem like a perfect wave might very well turn into a monstrous fence;

17. In 2001, Hamilton, Kalama and Doerner acted as James Bond liners in the opening sequence for “Die Another Day”. The action was shot in Jaws;

Peahi: Jamie Mitchell clears big time at Jaws |  Photo: Miers / WSL

18. In the same year, South African big wave surfer Chris Bertish became the first athlete to paddle a wave of Jaws using only the power of his arms;

19. During the first two decades of the 21st century, Jaws went from a towing arena to a tough big wave surf spot;

20. The dangers of Peahi include a strong sea wind and choppy bumps which sometimes interfere with the surfer’s navigation;

21. Going left at Jaws will give you either the best ride of your life or the worst ride of your life;

22. Getting caught inside Jaws is one of surfers’ worst nightmares, as they could very well be dragged towards the rocky cliffs;

23. To access Maui’s big wave surf spot, you can launch via Maliko Gulch or paddle directly to the lineup via Hahana Road off of Hana Highway;

Jaws: the view from the canal |  Photo: Noyle / Red Bull

24. If you don’t have a boat or jet ski, the best wave to see surfers tackle the giant water mountain is to stand at the lookout located on the Peahi Cliffs;

25. Are you a spectator? Bring a pair of binoculars and a camera with a telephoto lens to watch and capture all the action;

26. On January 20, 2011, Mark Visser became the first surfer to ride Jaws at night. He used a special board and life jacket equipped with LED underwater lighting technology. The Australian rode 12 moonlit waves;

27. Chuck Patterson was the first athlete to tackle the massive waves of Jaws using a pair of skis;

28. Are you ready to surf Peahi? Take a 10’6 ” x 21’3 / 4 ” x 2’3 / 4 ” surfboard;

29. On great days you have to be patient – carefully analyze the behavior of the waves, wait your turn and commit to your chosen one;

30. Once you have fallen into your wave aim towards the west bowl maintain a straight line;

31. A wipeout in Jaws is violent. The lip is heavy and thick but won’t hold you back for long like in other big wave surf spots;

Keala Kennelly: Falling Into the Abyss at Jaws |  Photo: WSL

32. Jaws isn’t the only extreme surf spot for men. Keala Kennelly, Paige Alms, Andrea Moller are some of the most experienced women on Peahi on big days;

33. Despite a few close calls and serious injuries, no one has ever died while surfing Peahi;

34. According to veteran wave chasers, the hot water temperature (which reduces panic levels) and inflatable life jackets make it less dangerous for life;

35. In December 2015, Jesse Richman made kitesurfing history after being attacked at Jaws;

36. Kai Lenny, Jason Polakow, Camille Juban, Robby Naish, Levi Siver, Robby Swift and Marcilio Browne delivered the most spectacular big wave windsurfing performance at Jaws;

Jason Polakow: Windsurfers were among the first to ride the waves at Jaws |  Photo: Hepp / Red Bull

37. No windsurfer has been quite blown up in Peahi. Nonetheless, Josh Angulo, Robby Naish, and Lenny got close on several occasions and may have been lightly covered by the lip of the wave;

38. “Riding Giants,” “Step Into Liquid,” “Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton” and “Mad Dogs” are four films that best portray Maui’s infamous surf spot;

39. On January 22, 2015, 65-year-old surfer Gary Linden crashed into a big wave in Jaws;

40. On February 11, 2016, Landon McNamara missed take-off but managed to continue bodysurfing against a giant wave at Jaws;


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