Keala Kennelly is one of the most respected big wave surfers in the world. A couple of years back we interview Keala after she joined Shane Dorian, Paige Alms and crew to paddle into Maui’s infamous big wave break Jaws. Here Keala talks us through her mind blowing session.
The Jaws session was all-time. It is so rare that you get a swell that size out there with such light wind. I never thought I would actually paddle surf Jaws because the chops on the face at times are gnarly when you are strapped-in on a towboard, I couldn’t imagine hitting those chops on a regular board with no straps.
I had been really inspired by the photos I saw of my friend, Maui girl, Paige Alms out there charging the winter before.
When I saw the forecast on Surfline, I called Paige up and asked her what she thought. She said it could be epic. I spoke to Surfline’s head forecaster Kevin Wallis and he said Jaws was going to be the spot. So I booked a ticket the night before and flew over to Maui the next morning. Paige picked me up and we went and got all the gear ready.
The swell had been building all morning and was starting to pulse right as we got out there. It was a beautiful day, sunny, light wind, just awesome conditions.
There was a crew of guys out there getting some bombs. Paige and I paddled into the line-up with all the guys. Paige’s boyfriend Sean sat on the ski in the channel watching out for us.
We each got a medium one to start off and then I saw Paige whip around and late drop into this massive one. I was so scared for her because I thought there was no way she was going to make that drop. She made did make the drop and even though the whitewash eventually caught up to her and took her down, it was definitely the biggest wave I have ever seen a female paddle into out there. Seeing Paige get that bomb got me super motivated, I was so pumped for her.
Towards the end of the session, I swung on a set that broke wide that everybody was too deep to get at. The ones that broke wide seemed to stand up on the West bowl and be more hallow. When I had almost reached the bottom of the wave I could see it was possibly going to jack-up and throw so I grabbed my rail and tucked up into the pocket and pulled into that thing. Everything went white because the barrel kind of clamped a bit but I took a super highline and barely squeaked out. I couldn’t believe that I had just gotten barreled backside at Jaws!
We surfed until the sun was starting to set and watched some amazing rides go down by Shane Dorian, Albee, Makua and some of the other guys.
Shane was on fire and being able to be there and watch that massive barrel he packed was something I will never forget.