big wave

Huge winter storm systems have led to a banner week of big-wave surfing in the Northern Hemisphere. Both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans have been impressively active early in the big-wave season. As usual, the action all started in Hawaii, where paddle-in surfers (above) continue to smash barriers in surf that was once thought uncatchable by paddle-power alone. For example, there wasn’t a single tow-in surfer at Jaws, on Maui. Only the rescue crews were using personal watercraft, and with sneaker set waves coming in, they came in handy.

(Above) Australian Ross Clark Jones caught a massive wave in Portugal thanks to a tow-in assist.

While there were several broken boards and bruised egos among the carnage at Jaws, there were no major injuries, and between wipeouts surfers like Shane Dorian had commanding performances.

Over on Oahu a world title battle was getting underway at the Banzai Pipeline between Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning, and Brazilian young gun Gabriel Medina. But it was local boy Joel Centeio who scored a perfect 10 in the early round of the Billabong Pipeline Masters. Round 2 of the competition had to be put on hold after conditions got too unruly Saturday. The world title could be decided as early as Sunday, if competition resumes.

Meanwhile, in Europe, tow-in surfing remains intact at Portugal’s monster break, Nazare. Australian big-wave hero Ross Clarke Jones made the trip to the North Atlantic to sample some of its offerings, and apparently liked what he found. (See video up top.)

The massive swells are linked to the same Pineapple Express system bringing heavy rain to drought-ridden California, and they may indicate the El Niño system forecasters predicted last spring is intact, despite their more recent fears that it had weakened. El Niño years are typically a boon for surfers, skiers, and snowboarders, as storms make their way deeper into the Lower 48. Whether it’s confirmed or not, surfers will take what they can get.

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