Jaws went XXL crazy the other day. Ian Walsh has been at the forefront of high performance surfing at Jaws since the tow days. Which means when he says something like the above, it actually means something.
Surfline caught up with him on Saturday evening, after another epic, though smaller day.
Can you take us through the arrival of that swell at Jaws?
There were big waves in the morning, but it really kicked in around 12:30 to 1:00. There were a few really clean, long-period frontrunners to the swell midmorning, but I wanted to save myself a little bit. I was kind of anticipating what might be coming and make sure that when it was really there I wasn’t cramping up or feeling beat up. I wanted to make sure I was ready for the best part of the day rather than just milking every single hour of it. That’s normally what I do, but the morning was a little bit slower. It was a nice change actually. Greg [Long], Shane [Dorian] and I woke up really early and checked the buoys. We saw that it was slow so we stalled our entire operation. I stalled our boat in Kahului first, then I pushed back the launch of the skis from Maliko so it was hour by hour. That gave us a little more time to reset, eat a proper breakfast. It was a little more civilized than our normal junk show in the dark at Maliko. And we got to launch in the light, usually we’re running around launching with headlamps on. This was just a lot more civilized. We got to really think about what might be coming up.
Sounds like you got to enjoy a cup of coffee before things got started?
No coffee on the big days, I’m too skitzy as it is. But yeah, I definitely enjoyed a nice bowl of oatmeal.
What about highlights on the day: what stands out?
I think the highlight was the day itself. Everything around the day — I’ve never seen big waves like that in my entire life. I don’t remember even towing Jaws when it was that clean for that long. It was clean all day long and just kept getting bigger and bigger with every set. Some of the waves that came through were just mesmerizing. You visualize these type of waves over and over, and Shane and I were watching an old tow-in video in the morning before we went down to Maliko to launch, we were just kind of visualizing and looking at some of the waves, and trying to figure out how to get little chip-ins. But then when you’re out there and you see it, it just stops you in your tracks. Your body’s telling you, ‘Okay, get out of the way,’ but visually, it’s hard to explain some of the waves that came in unridden. It literally stopped a lot of us in our tracks. The energy, the power, how much water was pulling up the face, it was a trip. It was a crazy day.
Your brother, DK, suffered a pretty serious injury out there. What happened?
DK’s situation was pretty heavy. It full-on hit his head, and wrenched his neck and back pretty bad, and everyone snapped into shape pretty quick. It’s kind of ironic that Greg was feeling kind of sick in the morning, he was throwing up at my house, and then he was the first on DK. He stabilized him, got his spine in alignment, and make sure he stayed flat on the sled. That was a highlight for me because I watched the other side of it when DK was there to help with Greg’s assistance at Cortes Bank. And so to see it come around full circle like that, it’s pretty surreal.
“I’ve never seen big waves like that in my entire life. It was clean all day long and just kept getting bigger and bigger with every set. Some of the waves that came through were just mesmerizing.”
What are some of the best waves ridden that you saw?
The best waves? God, it’s hard to think of just one. Everyone that dropped into one, every wave you see someone on, they don’t even look real. Every wave. Even if a guy took off on one halfway out, it looked like the biggest wave ever. I got to see Aaron’s wave. That wave was heavy. He had a line that almost allowed him to get around that thing. I was working on DK with Greg and a few other guys when that wave came through, but I saw it, it was wild. It’s all kind of a blur. There were a lot of empty waves. Shane had a good one.
Did you get a couple?
Yeah, I got a couple, for sure. I don’t really want to talk about myself, but that was the best day of big waves I’ve ever been apart of. Period. Just to be in the water and see everything happening and be part of the session, it’s the best day of big waves I’ve ever been a part of. That’s it.
Were there any tow guys waiting in the wings?
No, I don’t think anyone towed. There might have been a few guys that came out and waited to see if the wind came up or something, but basically we were able to maximize on the opportunity just by paddling. I think we pushed the boundaries quite a bit. If anyone did want to tow they were very respectful and gave everybody room. I was kind of in a little bubble, to be honest. I was just so lasered-in on the day, I had like a three-foot bubble around me. Then DK got hurt and that put a speed bump in my day. We had to regroup after we got him to an ambulance and heard he was going to be all good. That was a big shock for me. I would rather sacrifice my own body than to see any one of my brothers get hurt. It’s really hard to see one of them in that critical of a position with possibly a really hurt spine. That was right when the day was starting to get going. Once he was stable we heard he was going to be all good, then we went and saw him in the hospital right after we got out of the water.
What’s the takeaway form the day?
It’s another example of how necessary it is to be prepared and having everyone know what to do. When shit goes bad it can be neutralized pretty quick and safely and that’s what we train for. Other than that, I don’t know.
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