There’s an undeniable change underway in big-wave surfing. This past October, on a freak, early season swell, guys like Ian Walsh, Shane Dorian, Mark Healey, Makua Rothman and Greg Long once again redefined the possible in big-wave paddle-in surfing by tackling Jaws with nothing more than a 10-foot gun and the paddle power of their own two hands. Previously, most people believed that because of Jaws’ immense power, speed and size, it could only be ridden with the assistance of a jet ski, with Laird Hamilton and a group of guys that came to be known as the “strapped crew” leading the tow-in push in the early ’90s. Two years ago, watercraft would have cluttered the lineup. Now, after what many are calling a historic, game-changing session at Jaws, you’re not really pushing the limits of surfing unless you’re paddling.
In the immediate aftermath of the session at Jews, the surf media was abuzz with what these paddle-in surfers had accomplished. According to Maui’s Ian Walsh, a man at the forefront of the movement and pictured here, the session was indeed exceptional, but it by no means marked the peak of what’s possible. “We haven’t seen the limit yet. If the conditions allow it, I think we could see Jaws ridden even bigger,” says Walsh. “That was a big swell, but it was by no means the biggest. It was just really clean. But if we had those types of conditions with a bigger swell, I think you’d see people out there paddling it.”
Walsh says he is baffled by how fast his big-wave brethren are changing the game. “I just have to believe that this last swell was really monumental. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was just a perfect arena. Everything lined up perfectly.”