Jaws is a big wave surfing break on Maui’s north coast. Also called by its Hawaiian name Peahi, the surfing spot can produce waves with face heights of more than one hundred feet as ocean swells pass over the very deep coral reef offshore at this location.
Surfers use motorized jet skis to tow each other into the giant Jaws waves. “Tow-in” surfing allows the surfers to ride bigger waves than would normally be possible since it is very difficult to paddle a surfboard into waves of such a large magnitude, which move very fast.
The tow-in surfboard is very small and heavy to deal with bumpy big wave conditions and includes foot straps to keep the surfer’s feet on the board.
The Jaws surfing spot has gained international fame as the home of tow-in surfing due to the filming and photographing of surfers riding the huge and ferocious waves. Movies such as Step Into Liquid and Riding Giants helped to popularize the location as one of the world’s most formidable big wave surfing venues.
Large north swells which produce big waves at Jaws typically occur during the winter months. The seafloor topography at Jaws is unique in that it amplifies the incoming swell energy to create well-formed waves which break to the right as well as to the left.
The Jaws wave is also known for the way the breaking lip of the wave throws forward into the air creating a giant hollow area in the middle of the breaking wave called a tube or barrel. Expert surfers tow-in to these massive waves and then position themselves inside the barrel.
Because of the pioneering surfing of such watermen as Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama and many others, Jaws was at the center of a tow-in surfing revolution that spread to many other large wave surfing breaks around the world.
The Jaws surf spot is located between Mile Markers 13 and 14 along the Hana Hwy. off Hahana Rd. Access requires parking and then walking about 1.5 miles to the seacliffs.