Pioneering Peahi

Reliving the Peahi paddle session with Danilo and Marcio


February 24th, 2010

Pioneering Peahi


Pioneering Peahi « North Shore Big Wave Challenge


Reliving the Peahi paddle session with Danilo and Marcio

When I first started my event I was hoping that some one would paddle Jaws. I imagine that a few hardcore surfers have paddled it before, but this is the first documentation I have seen of it. The level of paddle in surfing has definitely been pushed this year and this will be remembered as a historic session. Danilo Couto and Marcio Freire share a few words and some videos about their experience.

What was it like out there? Were you planning on paddling it or were you there to tow?

DC That day we planned to paddle since the day before. There were so many tow days by then, that all we wanted was to paddle. We checked the buoys and had an idea the conditions were going to be ideal.

MF It was nice conditions for Maui. Light winds and massive waves. I mean huge waves to paddle into. I felt a bit insecure to be out there with nobody around, without jet ski support, or water patrol to aid us. Spooky really.
I’m not a tow in surfer. We were planning to paddle out since Friday. Danilo called me saying that Monday could be perfect, just what we were looking for.

Were you the only guys out?

DC Yeah, pretty much. A tow team left right when we walked down the cliff. Then we surfed by ourselves, until another tow team showed up, and stayed on the right, kind of far from us…not interfering at all.

MF It was a memorable session. Just us.

What size were your boards? Were they four fins or three fins?

DC We had 10´4´and 10´6 both four fins

MF Four fins.

Could you have been on bigger boards? How did your equipment feel? Where do you think big wave surfboard design is headed?

DC Definitely could have a bigger board. Like every outer reef, you need paddle power. Peahi is a really thick wave, but is also a down the line wave. You got to think about a bottom turn to make it to the channel after dropping in.

MF On a bigger day then that day, I would ride a bigger board, but not too big. I think an 11’0”. My Sean Ordonez gun did a great job. I rode Jaws a few times before with my board, and I knew it very well. Dropping in a big wave with a four fin gun makes it faster then a three fin board. And you need this little difference in the speed in order to move forward past the section. It’s not necessary to have too big of a gun like the old times. Also, the concave is very helpful to increase speed and hold on the wall.

The waves you guys rode were huge, what was it like dropping in at Jaws?

DC It was a really special day for us, really peaceful session, no machines, helicopters, hassle or those kinds…Hawaii has so much energy itself, and Peahi has so much mana, power, and the level of respect for the place is so high, that makes a unique spiritual experience.

MF Indescribable emotion.

That was a close call with the almost two wave hold down. What was going through your mind? Did you end up getting blasted onto the rocks?

DC The hold downs were intense, especially the second wave. I knew I was under for a while and the second wave was coming, but luckily I got half a breath and never got hurt. Main thing, dont panic…and thats what I did. I would do it all over again. Somehow you get more alive and confident after going through those moments.

MF After I didn’t get past the section I got sucked back and over. That is when my nightmare began. I was held down for a while. Right after I popped up and took my first breath the ocean sucked me back under, but not for long. The second wave broke and gave me another bad time under water. I survived the second wave but couldn’t escape from the third one. At that point I was already going low on energy. The third wave had a lot of power and broke right on my head. I remember being dragged super fast under water for a long time. I thought I was going to pass out. Fortunately, without any more energy, I was pushed toward the little bay where the rocks are smaller then the rest of the shoreline. I then rode my board in the white water all the way to the little bay. I was so exhausted I didn’t even try to save my board. I rode my board right up onto the rocks where consequently I broke all four fins & boxes off the board. I couldn’t believe I was finally safe on the rocks.

Is there anything else you guys would like to share about surfing Peahi and big wave surfing?

DC Jaws is such a hard wave to paddle into. But there are days perfect for it. I hope, those days become more frequent with prepared surfers showing up, especially the locals and Hawaiians coming to surf. It’s heavy, rocky, and dangerous for sure. Thats what makes such a unique experience. The beauty of big wave surfing is paddling into bombs. More paddle, less tow!

MF Paddling in at Jaws is the real ultimate challenge. Surfing big waves is all about what you like to do. It’s about your background and experience. It’s all about the time that you have been spending in the ocean. It’s about passion and respect. Don’t go out there for pictures, or fame, or sponsors. Go out there to charge some bombs and be self-satisfied. And make sure you are ready to get pounded really hard.

Aloha & Mahalo.





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April 10th, 2010

A Story about Peahi

After interviewing Danilo and Marcio about their Peahi paddle in session I had to follow up with Victor Lopez for a little history of the spot. He had just come in from surfing Peahi with Buzzy. They had surfed all morning and it was 15-20 and really nice. So many sessions have gone down at Peahi making it the worlds most famous big wave, I have always been curious of tales of the first few who surfed it. This is the story that he told us about Peahi and some of the first surfers out there.

“Yeah, that is the wave that we used to call Domes. Remember, it was called Domes because of the house that overlooked the break, it had dome shaped architecture. That was until the late ‘90’s when the house ended up burning down. It wasn’t until later that it was called Jaws. But it is really called Peahi, that is the Hawaiian name for the area.

The first time I checked Peahi a friend and I were on our way back from surfing really good Honolua. That was about ’76 or ’78. On the way back home my friend said we had to go look at this wave he had seen, so we went to check it out. Looking back it was probably 25-30 feet. I just didn’t know how to put it into perspective because I hadn’t been out there before.

Then another time when conditions came right we talked Gerry, and a few other friends into going to surf it. We walked down the cliff and were ready to paddle out but when we got down there the boulders were thundering and rolling so loud. We could have made it into the water by jumping on the back of a wave but coming in would have been too heavy.

Then in the late 80’s and early 90’s when windsurfing was extreme there were a handful of guys who used to ride it. Then we all know what happened when Laird and the crew got on to the spot for tow surfing and changed riding big waves forever. Before then there are basically rumors of guys surfing it…”

-Victor Lopez

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