PHOTOS: Ho’okipa Surfers Battle Dangerous Waves

March 6, 2012, 5:32 PM HST · Updated March 9, 5:24 PM
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By Madeline Ziecker

Maui surfer Simon Russell after a rough session at Ho'okipa. Photo by Madeline Ziecker.

After a brief hiatus with small waves and minimal wind last week, surf on Maui’s north shore is again on the rise with this week’s large northeast swell.

On Monday, March 5 at noon, sets at Ho’okipa were rolling in rapidly at 10 to 15 feet.

Though the waves seemed powerful and enticing for some of the North Shore’s reckless surfers, only one lone rider could be spotted fighting the current at Ho’okipa – local surfer Simon Russell.

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A small group of tourists and locals gathered near the middle of the beach to watch Russell as he received set after set on his head, visibly tiring as he paddled in the crushing surf.

Russell surfed for an hour alone, battling the strong surf and rip currents with little reward, until a Ho’okipa lifeguard picked up the bullhorn and ordered him to paddle in.

Surfer Graeme Kronewitter and a Ho'okipa lifeguard watching the surf.

“It was pretty much non-stop, wave after wave,” said Russell as he dried off, safe on shore.

Russell said that the Ho’okipa lifeguard on duty had called him to shore because he was concerned about Russell’s safety. There had already been a messy jet-ski rescue earlier that morning, and the lifeguard didn’t want to take the risk of Russell getting swept out by deadly rip currents.

“I’ve surfed worse conditions, but it was like snowboarding out there with all the white water.”

Maui surfer Graeme Kronewitter was getting ready to paddle out and overheard Russell recounting his brief experience with the lifeguard.

After confirming that Russell was from Hawaii, Kronewitter said that he could convince the lifeguard that Russell was equipped to handle the surf without need of a rescue.

An unidentified surfer takes on dangerous waves at Ho'okipa. Photo by Madeline Ziecker.

However, after his taxing session at Ho’okipa, Russell decided to travel to Kahului Harbor surf spot, “Ledges” to ride with pro-surfers Albee Layer, Matt Meola, Francisco Porcella, Niccolo Porcella, and others.

“The harbor is one of the best waves on the island when it’s breaking. There’s a lot of staph bacteria there though, so you have to be careful with cuts,” shared Russell as he presented a wound on his foot which he had just received during his Ho’okipa session.

Russell had the right idea, agreed pro-surfer Francisco Porcella after his session at Ledges:

“Ledges only breaks every so often, so when conditions over here are prime but Ho’okipa is messy we head to the harbor. It’s a fun wave.”

Spectators grimacing as a lone Ho'okipa surfer gets pounded by a large wave. Photo by Madeline Ziecker

Photo by Madeline Ziecker.

Photo by Madeline Ziecker.

Simon Russell and a Ho'okipa lifeguard discussing the dangerous conditions. Photo by Madeline Ziecker.

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