We the end-users see the video clips of the biggest waves ever, and get to think, 'Wow, that one was big,' or 'that was a heavy wipeout.' Giant sessions are kind of rare, but when the numbers on the buoys lock in, big wave surfers drop everything and that journey can really become part of the defining experience of chasing and scoring. The difference with this macking North Pacific swell last week, is this time, COVID has made things a whole lot more challenging. Getting from your home in, say, Cape Town, to being in the take-off zone at Jaws is a long and complex journey.
Matt Bromley has done his share of big wave swell chases and is advanced in the art of pressurised big wave travel, but his mission to score Jaws and Maverick's last week took it to a whole new level.
This is Matt's journey as recounted to Craig Jarvis.
It was one of the wildest trips of my life.
Two and a half days of travel with my boards, multiple COVID tests and travelling with a mask and health forms. To be honest, it was so tricky and stressful.
I arrived in the evening before the Jaws swell and slept in a tent in my friend's garden right there at Jaws. I didn't actually sleep a wink that night. I was so jet-lagged, and I could hear the explosions from the sets at Jaws. I was 10 kilometres away, and I could hear them so clearly. It was terrifying. Then it was time to wake up and get in the zone.
Heading out to Jaws in the morning, we saw some quite incredible big waves. It was huge. My third wave was a colossal bomb, probably one of the best waves I have ever had out there. Just a beautiful big drop and I pulled up into hook, almost got a big barrel, came over the foam section into the channel. It was just one of the most incredible rides I've probably ever had. It was just so big and blue.
After that, I went and sat way out beyond the pack, and a massive set came. I saw this wave, and it looked like it had a wall stretching to Cape Town. It started looking like it was going to bend in on the reef, and I immediately thought that if I make this wave, it'll be the wave of my life. So I put my head down and paddled. On the way down, I got some wind under the board and did this sideways airdrop, and I stuck it, but I landed with my foot on the side of the stringer, which sent me going the wrong direction, turning into the lip of the wave.
The wave sent me super deep underwater, and I thought that both my eardrums were going to pop. I was so deep that I pulled two cartridges on my vest. The beat-down was severe, but I felt good, you know. I was strong.
I came up, got my one good breath, and saw that there was a bigger wave behind it. I went down again and got rattled so violently
I came up, got my one good breath, and saw that there was a bigger wave behind it. I went down again and got rattled so violently. I pulled another cartridge, so I was now three cartridges inflated. I was like this giant bubble, and another massive foamie washed me to the inside but washed me out of the zone.
The guys paddling up the second set wave all looked back, and they said afterwards that they could all see my board still tombstoning. I popped up just before that second wave hit. I got one more wave after that and just watched Kai Lenny stroking into bomb after bomb, putting in an incredible performance.
Then I couldn't believe it, but I saw another pulse coming in, and it looked like the side of it focused on Hawaii, but the brunt of it was going to hit Maverick's. The reading for Mav's was insane; it was going to be huge and light offshore, which hardly ever happens.
I headed off to Maverick's on the red-eye flight.
I arrived at 6:30 in the morning, and it was crazy, absolutely massive. The first glimpse I got was of Kai Lenny dropping into a 40-foot bomb from way outside the ledge, out the back. It was incredible to witness. I just said to myself, ok time to kick into gear again.
My first wave was this massive peak out the back, with a wall on it. It stood up way out the back, and I was furthest out. I dropped down this thing, and as I was dropping down, it started to feel the ledge. I went over this second steep ledge in the middle of the face and stuck it, and bottom turned. The wall was drawing off the reef, and I pulled up into the hook of it, and just narrowly escaped. The wave exploded over me, and I came shooting out into the channel. I was so stoked; like an unbelievable way to start the session.
I surfed for five or six, hours and caught four waves. The waves were big, and there was a lot of wash, and it was hard to find the good ones. You wanted only the good ones; the rest were a bit unplayable. I had two more fun waves, and then I paddled in under the lip of a big one, and it moved in under the ledge.
It was towards the end of my session, and I went hard for this outside bomb. It was a big one and ended up pin dropping out the lip onto the ledge. I remember the view in this vast barrel, a massive barrel but without my board. I had what felt like a full 5 seconds of silence, just going up slowly, and over the lip and into the wipeout. I went so deep. I pulled three cartridges again because I wasn't coming up. It was one of the most severe beat-downs of my life, and after that, I called it a day.
I was absolutely broken but still so pumped. I felt blessed scoring Jaws and then Mavs, but I can't wait to return home to my wife and Christmas. The Christmas holidays. Shew.
Part of my mission was to get some footage for my movie Over The Edge, and between Jaws and Maverick's, we could not have asked for anything more to finish up the film. We went from 50-60 foot Jaws, and then the day of the year at Maverick's, which was pure gold.