Why the Jaws Comp should NOT have been called off for the day


10 foot boards twisting like toothpicks spat into the wind.

An odd remembered image kept flashing into my mind watching men and now women, getting bucked off giant waves and falling into oblivion at Jaws. It was the boards. You ever lost a board off the roof of a car travelling sixty miles an hour? It spins and spins like a toothpick spat into a gale before landing and getting crunched into smithereens by a B-double. The biggest yardstick reached at Jaws the last 48 hours: what the human body can withstand. Without death or injury.

Pressure, impact, time underwater. The human organism can remain viable at higher thresholds than previously thought possible.

With inflatable vests and jetskis to roar in and drag surfers out of harms way it now seems like the upper limit as far as surviving big surf goes has no limit.

Billy Kemper skipped once, twice at the apex of a thirty, forty footer and wore the peak of the violence on the head. He was blacked out when they got to him, but knew before he went that the inflatable vest would bring him to the surface and a ski would rescue him. He knew before he went.

And thus, he went anyway. That has changed big wave surfing beyond recognition.

Albee Layer said heats should have continued and that it was ego that made it dangerous. “I think part of the reason is that there’s quite a few people who charge a lot harder than their talent.” Albee continued. “There’s a way to go surf today and be relatively safe. It’s just when you get too many big egos in a heat… like that first heat just pushed each other too deep right away.” He also said he was “not a big wave surfer”, so his opinion may be skewed.

Kemper wanted to keep going. You want the biggest gnarliest waves in the world for the Big Wave Tour, well here they are, he said…..or words to that effect. His post heat presser just as the comp was being called off for the day have disappeared into the ether.

To call off a Big Wave World Tour event for safety reasons back the BWWT into a corner fraught with illogical contradictions. Big wave surfing is unsafe. Pipeline at 6ft has killed numerous people, maimed many others. Including in competition. The Mens Championship Tour has never really recovered from calling off the event at giant Cloudbreak in 2012. It’s a gladiatorial sport, marketed heavily as such. Spectators want the adrenalised rush of seeing people at the limit putting every thing on the line. The attraction is vicarious thrill-seeking via carnage and triumph. Calling it off robbed the event of an historical session. Maybe few waves would have been made. Successful rides are not the point as we saw in the Final, where Billy Kemper bested Kai Lenny with two non-makes.

Of the three co-efficients which govern the point spread yesterday event day was easily a Gold. By calling it off and running it today as a (smaller) silver co-efficient Mike Parsons and the BWWT have effectively decreed that the pinnacle wave size and standard for their sport : a Gold Coefficient, is effectively off limits. Beyond the realm of human achievement. That seems an unneccessary crippling of a Sport desperately trying to achieve mainstream recognition in a marketplace crowded with the genuinely extreme. If the Maui guys were ready to rumble, they should have let them have their head.


*Image credits
Creator:TOM SERVAIS Copyright:©tomservais