Northern Exposure

Big-Wave Surfing On The Islands

The lettering on the yellow tape stretched from Laniakea to Sunset Beach reads CAUTION in ominous capital letters. The salt hanging in the air and the booming sets stretching to the horizon reinforce the words repeated on the tape. CAUTION. But it doesn't matter. Not to some. Because through the pungent air, the thundering ocean, the tape barring would-be beachgoers, there is another element filtering into the senses: fossil fuel. Fossil fuel for Jet-Skis to be precise. And this day, with the buoys reading 26 feet at 17 seconds, when there shouldn't be any takers, when the lineups should be void, there are teams topping off the tank.

Out to sea, a swarm of two-man groups are weaving through the lulls, en route to outer reefs and big-wave bravado. At Waimea, there's a pack of paddle-in connoisseurs, tightly herded together near the boil, ready to push themselves over the wire. A month ago, when a sister swell with similar conditions lit up the North Shore, we ran The Eddie and the world watched. But on Monday the 11th, looking eerily similar to that day of days, there were sporadic crowds lining the cliff and only a handful of photogs were there to document the drama. On this day, those committed to The Bay did so out of a passion for big-wave surfing and nothing else.

“It's been pretty massive out here. I've been injured, so I've been watching everything pretty close. It's been some of the biggest surf that I've seen this year,” said North Shore mainstay TJ Barron. “My neighbor, Buttons [Kaluhiokalani], said that he surfed some of the biggest waves of his life today. And that's saying something for sure. It's been intense. I know we've lost some Skis.”

On the Valley Isle, the tow teams unhitched and whipped into some monumental waves at Jaws. News of the swell dominated the local media and the Honolulu Advertiser “broke the news” of local hellman, Archie Kalepa, severely injuring his left knee during a session with tow partner Buzzy Kerbox at the Valley Isle arena.

“I was too deep, too far behind the peak, and there was no place for me to go,” said Kalepa, to the Advertiser. “It broke in front of me and I tried to outrun it as much as I could but the whitewater caught up with me.

“It definitely was the biggest we’ve had in the last four years. There were a lot of new guys out there and guys from back in the old days, when if we had five [personal watercraft] out there, that was a crowd,” Kalepa said.

Stay locked to as we continue to bring you all of the drama from the winter season.