Rowley and his girlfriend/videographer Minnie Vuong, from Torquay Victoria, have based themselves in Hawaii for three months to catch and document the monster North Pacific winter storm surf. Rowley and Vuong flew from the island of Oahu to Maui Tuesday night, and arrived at the infamous Peahi ‘Jaws’ cliff top before sunrise to see the 50-60 foot waves (15-18m) for the first time.
The surf at Peahi, aka “Jaws”, is considered the worlds biggest and most dangerous and until recently has been considered impossible to catch and ride without the use of a jet ski ‘tow-in’ and foot straps.
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.
“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” Rowley said. In doing so Rowley became the first Australian surfer to paddle into the infamous waves at Jaws. 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”.
During the historic session Rowley rode a special 10’2” (3m) Al Merrick quad fin surfboard designed for 30-40 foot (10-12m) waves, but it nearly wasn’t enough. “My 10’2” is my biggest board but Jaws is so big and so powerful it felt like I was riding a toothpick- I need an 11 foot plus board!” Rowley and other surfers surfaced from wiping out under the waves thanks to buoyancy jackets 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, I don’t want to surf big waves again without one.”
Rowley’s biggest ride involved a vertical freefall take off from the top of a wave, which could have ended in disaster. “I was going to catch that wave no matter what happened, it was massive and I was in the right position and it was my time to go for it. I stood up and the wind hit me and tried to rip my board from under my feet as I started freefalling, I couldn’t see a thing but I pushed down as hard as I could and made the ride. 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”.
Rowley’s biggest wave fulfilled his personal ‘Charge For Charity’ quest to paddle-in to a 50-foot wave whilst raising money for Breast Cancer Australia. “I caught the biggest wave of my life and achieved my goal wave height- now I am asking people to donate.”
To donate to Rowley’s Charge For Charity, visit www.jeffrowley.com for details.
Rowley’s rides from Jaws will be entered into the 2011-12 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave surfing awards. Rowley remains in Hawaii preparing for more giant surf which may hit somewhere in the North Pacific in coming weeks. The 2010/11 XXL awards were won by Shane Dorian and Danilo Couta with rides at Jaws last year.