“It’s the most magical wave I’ve ever ridden,” says Graham Ezzy. Jaws, a big wave surf break located on the coast of Pe’ahi, Maui, can produce waves north of 60 feet tall when it's pumping. Once considered the largest breaking wave in the world, Jaws has become a legendary spot that beckons the few surfers capable and willing to ride it. Graham Ezzy, a professional windsurfer who grew up near the break in Maui, knows it better than most. “It’s special for how calm it stays even with its size,” he says. “At most spots around the world, when the waves are over 20 feet, the ocean turns into survival at sea, but Jaws stays calm and open despite waves the size of mountains.” The channels to the left and right of Jaws make for a cleaner, more defined ride. Don't misunderstand him though, the power of Jaws is undeniable. “It’s still scary,” says Ezzy.
Photo: John Carter
“Riding this force that is so much more powerful than myself is humbling but also addicting." - Graham Ezzy
Approaching waves the height of six story buildings, fear inevitably courses through the body beforehand. Something can always go wrong. But once you catch a wave, instinct takes over. “In the moment, the fear fades away,” says Ezzy. Conquering these giants requires the right mindset though, and Ezzy always prioritizes safety, staying keenly aware of the commanding forces at play out of respect for the ocean and self preservation. “Riding this force that is so much more powerful than myself is humbling but also addicting,” he says. The adrenaline induced by riding such a heavy wave often leaves Ezzy feeling withdrawn afterwards. “I feel kind of shitty after, “ says Ezzy, “like an endorphin hangover. The next day, I think about my session, and I always wish I went harder.”
On smaller waves, this isn't a problem, as Ezzy rips as hard as he wants. Bigger waves carry heavier consequences though, and the margin for error is slim. “In a normal session with 10 to 12 foot waves, I can go harder,” says Ezzy, “but when it’s big, there’s a limit to how much you can push it.”
Photo: Fishbowl Diaries
“I feel kind of shitty after, like an endorphin hangover.” - Graham Ezzy
Pushing the limits of windsurfing himself, Ezzy has brought new tricks and style into the sport. He pioneered the “no-handed push loop,” a backflip with hands off the boom and in the air. He was also the first to carve the “taka,” which looks like a a 360 degree cutback, in waves of consequence. Before Ezzy, surfers only pulled the trick off in mushy, onshore conditions. Much of his inspiration spawns from traditional surfing.
Like any good athlete, Ezzy has drawn inspiration from other windsurfers as well. He looks up to Jason Polakow, a top Aussie windsurfer who revolutionized the sport with radically aggressive wave riding as well as Levi Siver, who really defines the act of free surfing in the sport. As to whether Ezzy rises to those ranks, time will tell. But he's less worried about his legacy and more concerned with catching the next wave. “I don’t know if I’ve thought about legacy before,” he says. “I worry more about who I don’t want to become, rather than who I want to be.”
Over the next three months, Ezzy will continue honing his craft, training and competing around Europe for a few events before heading back to Maui in the fall. “It’s an amazing time of year in Maui because the waves are just starting to roll in,” says Ezzy. And come the early winter months, you can bet Ezzy will be charging the swell at Jaws once again.
From June 26th through the July 16th, 10% of your purchase of any product in our shop will go towards supporting Graham Ezzy. For action sport disciplines like windsurfing, funding doesn't always come easy, and elite athletes often times have to incur large personal costs to compete at a high level. The Frynge is proud to provide a platform that allows readers and customers like yourself, to have a direct impact in supporting athletes like Graham. So be sure to check back each week for new stories, gear and apparel!