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For surfers in Hawaii, latest swell is one for the ages

December 8, 2009 |  8:38 pm

While the surfing spotlight has focused on Oahu's North Shore and most recently on the spectacular action at Waimea Bay, the tow-surfing chargers have been busy at Hawaii's outer reefs and particularly at Jaws off Maui, where the waves were... well, watch the video.

This El Niño-supercharged winter is shaping up to be one for the ages and it's nice to see Jaws, or Pe'ahi, breaking so large again after a seemingly long period of relative dormancy.

The surf was larger at Jaws than it was at Waimea Bay, which is typical during the right swell and why the Jaws crowd requires jet-powered personal watercraft to tow surfers onto fast-moving swells, and to use the vessels for rescues.

Sean Collins, chief forecaster for Surfline.com, said the swell is one of the five largest ever to slam Oahu's North Shore, comparable to El Niño-fueled episodes in 1998 and 1969. The extreme surf is expected to continue for several days in Hawaii and it will reach California and elsewhere on the West Coast beginning Wednesday.

In fact, several of the surfers who competed in the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau contest on Tuesday planned to catch red-eye flights to San Francisco for the short drive to Mavericks near Half Moon Bay. It remains to bee seen whether it'll be too stormy to hold the Mavericks contest this week.

The greatest performances at all these locations, and many others, will become entries in the Billabong  XXL Global Big-Wave Awards, a yearlong contest that ends in the spring. Judges, this time around, will have their hands full deciding winners in several categories. But they're not complaining.

-- Pete Thomas