Winter comes early in Hawaii with arrival of 50-foot surf

While skiers and snowboarders are waiting breathlessly for a new winter to arrive, those who get to feel it first are actually surfers in Hawaii, and if you ask them, they’ll be the first to tell you winter arrived with a bang on Tuesday, as 50-foot swells generated from the first north Pacific storm of the season slammed the north shore of Maui.

As the northern Pacific storm system comes alive each winter, powerful swells begin marching across its vast expanse. Within days those swells make landfall, hitting the reefs of Hawaii before reaching the U.S. mainland days later. These massive walls of water carry tremendous energy, which is unleashed as they detonate in spectacular fashion.

Naturally, these massive waves are impossible for big-wave surfers to resist.

Tuesday was opening day of the big-wave surf season at Peahi, a break on Maui that’s also known as Jaws. Not surprisingly, several of the world’s best big-wave surfers were there to greet the first swell of the season. They’d been charting the storm since its embryonic stages as a low-pressure disturbance.

Fortunately for the surfers, conditions couldn’t have been better, as light trade winds and sunny skies coincided with the swells that had come from the storm traveling across the Pacific more than a thousand miles north.

“Some of the most perfect big waves I’ve ever seen!” is how South African big-wave surfer Grant Baker described it on his Facebook page. Baker has won several prestigious big-wave events, including the Billabong XXL Big Wave Award. He was joined at Peahi Tuesday by several other XXL award winners, including Makua Rothman, Mark Healey, Greg Long, Shane Dorian, and Keala Kennelly.

Dorian, a former Top 32 ranked surfer who grew up competing against Kelly Slater, scored the wave of the day. After surviving the initial drop of a solid 30-foot wave, he pulled back up the wave face and stood smack dab in the middle of Peahi’s jaws. (See Video.)

Shane Dorian stands tall in mouth of this Jaws monster. Perfect conditions made for some of the best paddle-in conditions ever seen at the renowned big-wave break. Photo: BrunoLemos/BillabongXXL

When California surfer Greg Long saw the swell headed for Hawaii on Sunday, he jumped on a plane Monday, and caught this wave Tuesday. It’s that commitment that has made Long one of the best big-wave surfers in the world. Photo: BrunoLemos/BillabongXXL

Makua Rothman made the trek over to Maui from his home on Oahu. His little island hop helped net him what many are calling the biggest wave of the day, making him an early favorite for the paddle-in category for this year’s XXL Big Wave Awards.

Tom Dosland and Tyler Larronde try the teamwork approach to this monster. To give you a sense of scale, those boards they’re riding are between 9- and 10-feet long. Photo: Zak Noyle/Surfer Magazine. Click the photo above to see Noyle’s complete photo gallery.

Shane Dorian figured this wave was worth a try when he first spotted it, but had second thoughts as he got a closer look…probably a good decision. Photo: Zak Noyle/Surfer Magazine. Click the photo above, or here, to see Surfer Magazine’s full coverage.