It was as if last year's big-wave campaign was but the cliffhanger for some psychotic season-ending sitcom episode. And this season, well, shit's about to real.
Picking up where things left off... On October 9 and 10, the first major North Pacific swell of the 2012-'13 winter season focused all of its pent-up might on the reef formally known as Peahi on the Hawaiian island of Maui. Most refer to it as Jaws.
A group of men and women dead set on changing the sport of big-wave riding came to Valley Isle for the early-season swell, which was forecast to top the 20- to 25-foot mark. The mantra: Paddle in at all costs, paddle deep, and worry about the consequences later. The result: “The past two days have changed my life. I got some of the biggest/craziest waves I've ever caught.”
That quote comes from Ian Walsh’s younger brother DK, who has virtually grown up in the water at Peahi. Supporting the claim, multiple XXL winner Greg Long told Surfline.com, “Everybody who surfed had some of the best waves of their lives.”
The consensus was unanimous: “Surfing just changed more in the past five hours than the 20 years before. I'm speechless. I got to be a part of it,” raved local upstart Albee Layer, who bagged one of the best waves of the day.
Ian Walsh's compound on the north shore of Maui, Haiku to be specific, serves as ground zero. It's where jet skis are tended, boards are tuned, last-minute swell and weather readings checked, and of course, tweets and Instagram photos beamed out in real time so the world can ride along with these hellmen.
Shane Dorian found his way over from the Big Island. He also found “the biggest wave of my life.” The ride was immediately nominated as a Billabong XXL Ride of the Year contender (see below).
Mark Healey and Makua Rothman made the jump over from Oahu. “I can't believe the things I've seen in the past 24 hours. Big wave surfing is forever changed,” noted Healey, who's not easily impressed and has played an integral part in pushing the limits of paddle-in big-wave surfing. He also swims with great white sharks and can hold his breath for almost five minutes, which tells you what kind of guy he is.
And proving that Peahi is not solely the domain of men, Keala Kennelly caught what might be the biggest wave ever ridden by a woman, and her sister in arms Paige Almes was out there charging hard as well.
But the scary thing is this: like the start of “Hit Men” or whatever your favorite sitcom is, things could go in any direction from here. It's still two months out from the official start of winter. All weather forecasters are predicting a mild El Niño this season, and typically that means big surf for Hawaii, California and Mexico.
Perhaps this is the early climax, perhaps Dorian's wave stands the test of time and wins the XXL title this year. But hopefully not. Hopefully, this crew reconvenes in Walsh's yard soon. Hopefully, there are more beers to be drank on the lanai as an epic day's worth of surfing is rehashed. Hopefully, this is just the start of something good. In the words of the mighty Thor, bring the thunder.
Follow Red Bull on Twitter for more updates.