Watch: A Wild Weekend at Jaws

Variable winds, a weird double-up lump and tricky conditions make the winter's biggest swell anything but easy for the world's best big-wave surfers

If you follow any of the brave big-wave surfers who headed to Maui a few days ago for this weekend’s monster swell on Instagram, you would have seen some fairly high levels of pure froth. Many were transfixed by early swell models, awaiting what people were forecasting to be all-time Jaws. Blobs morphed on screen spanning an entire rainbow of XXL-indicating colors. As the hours ticked by, the swell and hype grew until that first shadow cast on the open faces of Pe’ahi. But at first light on the morning of January 13th, the conditions looked ugly and difficult to manage.

Kai Lenny wasted no time strapping into his tow board, as the morning sickness was incredibly thick. Makua Rothman towed a couple as well, including one of the larger sets mid-morning. These early tows gave way to the first paddle-ins mid-morning, and it was not pretty. The crew struggled to negotiate lumpy open faces, especially with chunky double-ups that made the wave unpredictable and hard to read.

Despite the tricky conditions throughout the 13th and 14th, there were, of course, some notable highlights. Lucas Chumbo, a strong contender for the Heavy Water Award at last year’s SURFER Awards (and maybe would have won if it weren’t for Kai Lenny’s heater of a year in 2017), got an absolute beast of a left. Over the past couple seasons, Chumbo has taken to the left at Jaws like rock climbers Royal Robbins or Warren Harding first took to El Capitan at Yosemite. He seems to be completely invested in this side of the mountain.

At one point on the 14th, Nathan Florence got completely engulfed in a bomb, which resulted in one of the more amazing photographs from the swell. How’s this liquid avalanche?

Speaking of Florence bravado, current World Champ John Florence also gave the gigantic A-frames a go. Keala Kennelly rushed backside, and Francisco Porcella caught a huge one, pig-dogging it with a holding-on-for-dear-life bottom turn. And, as per usual, Aaron Gold always seemed to be in the right place at the right time.

In the end, this swell humbled everyone, and maybe even left some people broken hearted with the skewed surfer-to-wave ratio. This swell was anything but easy as you’ll see in our latest Amp Sessions above, edit by John Decesare and Jace Panebianco.