Keala Kennelly Recounts Her First Tow Session at Jaws
I had been wanting to tow Jaws for a couple years now. I had even flown over to Maui a few times chasing swells and it didn’t work out.
When I heard of the big swell that was going to be hitting Hawaii I was pumped. I immediately started putting out calls to people I thought might have a weighted tow boards, which isn’t such a problem…but I also needed a goofy foot setup, so that proved a bit more difficult.
There was a small chance I’d be able to surf in the Billabong Pro Maui on Tuesday morning, but because all the girls in the trials for had showed up, I knew wasn’t able to get into the event.
Now I was on a mission to get to the other side and tow Jaws.
After Paige Alms lost to Carissa Moore at Honolua Bay, I convinced her to head to the other side of the island with me for a tow session; Paige and her boyfriend Shawn have been inviting me to come tow with them at Jaws for a while now, so this provided the perfect opportunity.
A friend of my dad’s had been able to track me down two tow boards and he left them at Neil Pride for me to pick up. When we got to Neil Pride, Shawn (Paige’s boyfriend) wouldn’t let me take them, because he said they were totally wrong for me and I would eat crap at Jaws if I rode them. I don’t know much about boards, and he is a shaper so I wasn’t going to argue with him.
He told me to wait for his boards, which were being sanded. They didn’t get done in time so Shawn decided we would go take the jet ski and surf a four-foot wave down the coast and maybe go to Jaws the next morning. I didn’t think the swell would hold its size into Wednesday so I was bummed. I felt so defeated…I was so close to towing Jaws for the first time and now I found myself without a board and without a jet ski.
Just then a van with two guys and a ski pulled up next to us. One of the guys yelled out to Shawn, “Let go tow Jaws right now!”
I jumped out of my seat and said, “I want to go with those guys!”
Shawn pulled over and I jumped in their van. It turns out that one of the guys was a good friend of mine, former World Champion windsurfer Kevin Pritchard…
I ended up borrowing Kevin’s board (they flipped the straps for me) and towing with Kevin Pritchard and his friends Jason Priyer and Vittorio Marcelli. I was so lucky I ran into those guys!
When we launched the skis a bunch of guys were coming in. Akila Kalama said it was still 15-20 foot out there and wished me luck. When we got to the lineup at Jaws there were five other skis there but no choppers or boats; the circus had already left. Within fifteen minutes everybody was gone and it was just our two skis taking turns. What amazing timing!
Towing Jaws is so different than towing in at Teahupo. At Teahupoo, you know you are on a BIG wave because it is throwing down the line in front of you and you are just trying to hold your line in the barrel and come out. At Jaws, the big wave is behind you, so the first few waves I thought they were really small, it wasn’t until I looked behind me on the third wave I caught that I saw this big meat-grinder running up behind me.
The feeling when you let go of the rope is so strange. When you are gliding along, it feels like you are snowboarding down a liquid slope. On most of my waves I just negotiated chops as I ran for the shoulder. I was not trying to do big fade turns and risk getting gobbled up on my first session at Jaws on a borrowed board. I caught about seven or eight waves before my legs completely gave out from exhaustion.
Completely fatigued and content, we drove the skis back to the Gulch as the sun set on a truly awesome day.