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Kitesurfing one of the biggest waves in the world

Published 7th October 2021 by Sensi Graves

 

Jaws aka Pe’ahi is Maui’s biggest surf break. When Jaws is firing, the biggest names in surfing descend on the island to ride the behemoth wave. The cliff overlooking the ocean becomes inundated with spectators, cameramen and fans. It’s a magical, terrifying spectacle to watch humans hurtle down the face of this massive wall of water. 

For one Maui-resident, Jaws has always been a goal. Kitesurfer Olivia Jenkins first rode Jaws in 2018 and has since sessioned it numerous times. We sat down with the Duotone team rider to go behind the scenes of what it takes to ride one of the most iconic waves in the world. 

You accomplished a pretty big feat this past year when you were featured on the cover kitesurfing one of the biggest waves in the world. How did you prepare mentally and physically for it?

Olivia: I kited Jaws for the first time in 2018. Prior to this session, I spent a lot of time in the gym. I also spent a lot of time kiting waves on the outer reefs in Maui, which would often get pretty large. I took some freediving courses and the BWRAG surf responder course, which taught me breath-hold training exercises and how to respond to different situations that may arise when entering into the world of big wave surfing/kiting. Additionally, I spent time talking with friends who had already kited and surfed Jaws to really get good insight and tips. 

What kind of equipment do you need for that kind of situation?

Olivia: I use a weighted custom kiteboard, a Patagonia impact suit, a Patagonia inflation vest, we have a jetski with a safety driver in the channel, I typically set up and bring around 2 kites and two bars on the jetski with me.

Walk us through the day-of. What time did you wake up? What did you eat? What were you focused on?

Olivia: I will usually wake up around 7am to check the buoys and then drive to Hookipa to see how big it is. We can kind of gauge if we think Jaws will be breaking by the size of the buoys and if Hookipa is closing out. Paddle surfers are usually out there at sunrise to get the glassy conditions, so I will call my friend Annie Reickert who I know will be out there already for a report. Normally before I go out and kite Jaws I try to have a meal in the morning that will keep me energized throughout the day. This in the past has been oatmeal with a bunch of healthy add-ins. We wait for the wind to pick up, which is usually around 11 am and then if it is windy enough we start to get the gear and jetski ready. On these days, I typically focus on one step at a time and try to remain calm because If I start to focus on how I will perform, this causes anxiety. 

Do you get nervous?

Olivia: I am definitely always nervous when kiting Jaws. In fact, the nerves begin as soon as we start to see huge readings on the buoys about 24 hours in advance. However, I kind of thrive off of these jitters.

 

Do you have any 2022 goals that may rival that feat?

Olivia: Each time I kite Jaws, I hope to get a bigger and better wave where I am deeper and in a more consequential position. So I guess a 2022 goal would be to do just that! 

What would you say to someone that wants to ride Jaws?

Olivia: I would say it is essential to put in the time to prepare for it. There are many ways you can do this. Obviously, you will want to put in the time kiting waves and spend time training in the gym. I would advise spending time improving your static and active breath holds. It is essential to formulate a safety team – to gather a team of people that you trust (and that trust you) and acquire a jetski – you don’t want to rely on a stranger who happens to be out there to save you if something goes wrong! You also want to spend some time on Maui talking to locals and getting insight into the wave and the conditions. Spend some time kiting the outer reefs on Maui on big swells, as when it can get pretty solid out there and is good preparation for Jaws! It also helps to get a few poundings on the outer reefs. You will want to gather all the right gear in terms of boards, kites, inflation, and impact suits. Overall, preparation is key. 

What are you working on now in watersports?

Olivia: I want to progress in a wide variety of ocean sports, especially within kiting, surfing, and wingfoiling. In terms of kiting, I want to work on improving in all disciplines such as wave riding, twin-tipping, foiling, etc. I want to continue progressing in wing-foiling, especially in terms of freestyle. I am surfing a lot more now and want to improve in all disciplines – shortboarding, longboarding, and prone foiling. I want to get barreled more. I think my progression in surfing will strengthen my abilities at kite wave riding. I guess I want to be well rounded and be confident to get onto the water in any type of condition. Along the way, I hope to create fun new interesting projects and share my adventures with the world. 

 

 

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