All photos: Jimmie Hepp
The KONA day at lanes on YouTube->
Jason in the spray of the breaking lip. / Super high aerial from Jason.
Jason Polakow KA-1111 and Robby Swift K-89 report:
It’s been at least 5 years since we have scored large surf and good south-west winds in Hawaii. The Kona days only come in the winter months and even then only blow a few days out of the year. Kona winds are winds that blow the opposite direction of the usual trade wind direction. So, to get a large NW swell with Kona winds on the north-shore of Maui is very rare.
These days are very unpredictable and the forecast said the winds were going to be light but I knew that anything could happen when the wind is blowing from that direction.
I woke up early and checked the conditions around 8am. The wind was already filling in and the surf was already pumping.
To score epic, uncrowned Lanes you really have to get super lucky. Days like Christmas day or the morning after the Super Bowl would fall into this category and that’s if there are smokin’ conditions on those days.
Well, for some strange reason this particular day was one of those days: A perfect lineup with not a sole on the water.
I started to immediately freak out calling Robby Swift on the phone and screaming at him to get down here immediately.
I had decided to book a helicopter as well which made me even more stressful, as I knew as soon as a kite surfer hit the water it would be all over for the helicopter. Their stings pose a real threat to the rotor blades, so helicopters like to stay at least 500 meters away from them.
Big set waves rolling in. / Robby and Jason sharing a wave.
Jason is rarely awake before around 9:30am so when I had 4 missed calls from him at 6:45, 6:48, 6:50 and 6:52, I knew something was going on. I called him back and he was obviously frothing at the bit to get out there. I tried to delay it a little as my wife is one of our videographers and I know how she loves to be woken up early to get down to the beach with the camera gear, but Jason’s insistence was too strong and we had to pull poor Heidy out of bed! When I got to the beach it was clear that it was all worth it. The wind was super strong, easily 4.7 weather, the sets were rolling in and there was not a single surfer in the lineup. It looked like Jason and I would get it to ourselves on one of the best days of the year.
By 9am Robby and myself were on the water and by 9:30 the helicopter had arrived and we were already shooting by ourselves with perfect waves and sunshine.
I started to get a bit aggressive with the conditions and I started to wipe out too many times, each time having to swim to the inside to get my equipment, which meant burning precious helicopter time.
I had told Robby earlier that morning when we were rigging the gear on the beach not to get too radical when the helicopter was here as they cost so much money to rent and we wanted to get our money’s worth and here I was, doing the exact opposite of what I told him not to do.
I swam in the water as I watched Robby have one sick wave after the other, getting more and more pissed with myself for not listening to my own advice.
Jason ended up being a victim of his own excitement once the helicopter arrived. I think he managed to get one wave, maybe two before his first wipeout. I was sailing out through the channel and saw him come up under the lip so late on such a closeout section that I don’t think there was any chance of him ever making it. I was chuckling to myself as I saw him let go of his gear and get eaten doing a back flip down the face of the wave. Happy to have the next 20 minutes of heli shooting to myself too!!
At one point I lay in the channel between Lanes and Hookipa with a huge swim in font of me wondering how I was going to get in. The current is so strong when its big, all the water is getting sucked out to sea and it’s really hard to get inside.
I decided to signal for the helicopter to ask for help.
The helicopter came over and I raised my arms out of the water making hooks with my hands to try and let him know what I wanted him to do.
After a bit more sign language he came down in-between waves and picked me up and flew me to the inside where my equipment was.
I was so pissed I was wasting all this money and Robby was getting all the good waves this was the only option I had to get back into the game.
I remember looking over at Robby as I was dangling from the helicopter skids and giving him a little cheeky smile as the pilot flew me to my equipment.
Hitchhiking in Polakow style.
Within minutes I was at my gear and sailing back out again like nothing had happened. I need to do this more often I thought to myself.
We sailed for another 30 minutes, still with no one out and sharing perfect waves together until our helicopter time was up.
It at least another hour before we saw the first signs of life in Maui with one other sailor joining us followed by a few more kite guys. What a day to remember !
I’m not sure what the FAA think about Jason’s technique of getting back to his gear. All the people on the beach certainly like it when he does it though. It’s not the first time that I have seen his scrawny little legs dangling below the helicopter and I am sure it won’t be the last now he has realized that he can get the pilots to do it. At least this time he was smart enough to get lowered down to the water before letting go as the last time, he let go from pretty high up and ended up hitting the reef and cutting himself up on the coral. It’s definitely a good way to save yourself some swimming though. I think I probably swam about 2km all in all that day between swimming for my gear, the current sucking the gear around the channel and back through Ho’okipa time after time. One time I chased the equipment around 3 entire circles from the rocks, out the back of Ho’okipa via the channel, then body surfed in only to find that the current had sucked the gear all the way out the back of Ho’okipa again. In the end I ran out of energy and just floated next to the rocks waiting for current to bring me the gear back, amazed to see that nothing had broken at all after about 40 minutes of solid poundings in the massive surf.
Robby enjoys the conditions.
I really live for days just like this. They are so rare but they do exist. You just have to be in the right place at the right time and you can still score insane waves with no crowds – just you and your mate picking off the best sets of the day in perfect sunshine. Nothing beats that !
Like Jason said, it’s almost never that you get to sail such amazing conditions on your own, and especially with a helicopter there to film you. The shots look so beautiful with the morning sunlight that you also never see as you aren’t normally allowed to sail before 11am, so all in all it was a very special day, one that I will remember for a long time.
Very nice aerial from Jason. / Robby rotates into a backie off the lip.