VIDEO: Rowley Paddles Into 50-foot Surf at ‘Jaws’ Maui

January 6, 2012, 3:48 PM HST · Updated January 6, 4:06 PM
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By Wendy Osher

Big wave surfer Jeff Rowley paddled-in to historic waves at Peahi (also known as Jaws) on Maui as a large swell arrived in the islands earlier this week.

The paddle-in feat in conditions described as 50-feet-plus, is considered a first for an Australian, according to Rowley, who called the ride “unbelievable.”

“I’m so proud to be the first Aussie to paddle in at Jaws, it was a historic day and we pushed the limits and survived,” said Rowley.

Jeff Rowley. Photo credit: Minnie Vuong.

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Only the most experienced surfers brave the waves at Peahi, which is considered challenging to catch even with the use of a jet ski ‘tow-in’ and foot straps.

“The waves were moving about 50k’s an hour and the wind was absolutely howling so every instinct is telling you it cant be done, but we did it- its unbelievable,” said Rowley.

Jeff Rowley at Peahi, Maui. Photo credit: Minnie Vuong.

Rowley and a small group of big wave surfers including Shane Dorian and Garret McNamara pushed the boundaries of big wave surfing by refusing to ‘tow-in’ and choosing to ‘paddle-in’ to the monster waves, according to a media release.

Rowley is on a three month visit in the Hawaiian islands, accompanied by his girlfriend/videographer Minnie Vuong, as they anticipate winter storm surf from the North Pacific.

During the session Rowley rode a special 10-foot, 2-inch Al Merrick quad fin surfboard designed for

Jeff Rowley with Channel Islands 10'2" surfboard. Photo credit: Minnie Vuong.

30 to 40 foot waves. “My 10’2” is my biggest board but Jaws is so big and so powerful it felt like I was riding a toothpick,” said Rowley who would have preferred an 11 footer.

Rowley was able to surface from wipe out conditions during the session thanks to a buoyancy jacket and a new emergency inflatable airbag wetsuit.

“Having a buoyancy jacket and the emergency inflatable wetsuit definitely gave me piece of mind that I would surface after a wipe-out,” he said.

Rowley’s biggest ride involved a vertical freefall take off from the top of a wave.  “It was like trying to catch and ride a Tyrannosaurus Rex with your bare hands- the best thrill but you’re so glad to be alive,” he said.

Jet ski chaos. Photo credit: Minnie Vuong.

Rowley’s biggest wave fulfilled his personal ‘Charge For Charity’ quest to paddle-in to a 50-foot wave while raising money for Breast Cancer Australia.

Rowley’s rides from Jaws will also be entered into the 2011-12 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave surfing awards.

*** Supporting information courtesy: Jeff Rowley

Dave Wassell, Jeff Rowley, and Alex Gray. Photo credit: Minnie Vuong.

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