Saturday, June 22, 2024
From The MagPro RidersPatri McLaughlin

Patri McLaughlin

Super Swell Saturday

“There are only a few days in a lifetime that the waves get this big. They’re the biggest kiteable Jaws waves I’ve ever seen!”

words by Axel Reese

Big wave kiter Patri McLaughlin had one of his best days in Jaws to date; January 16,  aka, #superswellsaturday, will go down in the history books. The storm that raged thousands of kilometers north of the Hawaiian Islands created a huge swell on the North Shore of Maui, Hawaii. This swell attracted thousands of people to the cliffs of Peahi, and was viewed by millions of people online.

Mike Coots photo

“We knew long in advance that the swell was going to be epic, but I never dreamed it would be that big.” says the 31-year-old Patri McLaughlin. “We had already had a few good swells over the past couple weeks. Two days before on January 14th, we had a nice warm-up session and it was pretty big, but it was nothing compared to Saturday. Usually I’m not nervous before a Jaws swell. I’m usually pretty relaxed, but the evening before January 16th was different. I could hear big waves from my house which is located in between Paia and Ho’okipa. The waves were so loud the crashing thunder made it hard to sleep. First thing in the morning I jumped into my truck to go look at Ho’okipa and it was giant. The swells stretched out across the entire North Shore. I knew it was going to be the biggest swell of the year, and possibly the biggest swell of my life.”

Early Start

“Normally we launch the jet ski at Maliko, because it’s only a 10-minute drive up to Jaws. The boat ramp in Maliko is pretty beat up, and you have to time the launch with the sets. When we pulled up I was worried we wouldn’t be able to get the ski in the water. The water was surging in and out so bad that the ramp would go completely dry, then flood over the top when a set would come in. It reminded of a tsunami. Once we got up to Jaws I couldn’t believe how big it was. I’ve never seen it that big and that windy.”

Frankie Bees photo

Jaws

“When we arrived there were close to 60 jet skis on the water. There were 15 boats, two helicopters, and even a plane circling overhead. There were thousands of people posted up on the cliff watching. Everyone knew it was going to be giant and a bunch of guys flew in from Oahu and the main land,” explains the big wave kiter. 

Robby Naish, Jason Polakow, Robby Swift, Marcilio Browne and a few other guys were there to windsurf it. A lot of surfers were hoping to paddle into a few, but the waves were so big and windy that they only towed in using jet skis. Patri McLaughlin was the only kiter out. 

“It was really not easy for kitesurfing. I have seen really big swells over the years, but I’ve never seen it so big and consistent all day. It was scary!”

The windsurfer Adam Warchol went super deep on his first wave. It was close to 65 feet. He got absolutely smoked. Check it out on YouTube. It was pretty impressive. Patri caught around 20 waves throughout the session. 

“There aren’t many people that kite out there because the access is super difficult. You need to launch off a jet ski, and it’s a really difficult wave to kite. The wind is crazy offshore.”

Erik Aeder photo

Super Scary

“It was super scary, it was massive. I was really nervous. I dislocated my shoulder three months ago and I had only kited a couple times before this swell. Watching the waves before going out I was pretty sure if I fell on one of those monsters it would rip my arm off. I didn’t want to miss this though. After I caught a couple waves the nerves went away and I just had to trust myself that I wouldn’t fall.” 

After a couple waves Patri began to hunt down the bigger waves and attempt to go deeper into the more critical section of the wave. He didn’t fall at all throughout the session.

Equipment

Erik Aeder photo
Michael Gilbert photo

The Duotone team rider used a 6 metre Neo SLS and the wind was 25 knots. 

“On the bigger waves there is so much turbulence that spins off the lip of the wave that the kite can get caught in a swirl and fall out of the sky. It’s terrifying when you’re mid-face on a big wave and the kite just loses power and begins to fall out of the sky.” 

This added a whole other stress element that you don’t have to deal with on a smaller day. 

Erik Aeder photo

What board does he use?

“I use a custom board designed by Duotone’s surfboard designer Sky Solbach. It’s not a board for every wave, it weighs 12 pounds. It has to be heavy to deal with the speed and chop out there. It’s also very narrow at 16.5 inches wide, and it’s 5’11” long”.

Still Buzzing

Patri is still stoked about the big Saturday at Jaws. 

“The website www.surfline.com hired a helicopter to broadcast what was happening on the water for four hours via livestream on their website. My girlfriend Olivia Jenkins was at a photoshoot in the Caribbean and watched the whole session.” 

“After three hours on the water my legs were so tired and I was mentally tired as well. The last wave I caught was huge. I kicked out in the channel and saw Billie Kemper on the next wave. He looked tiny, I thought to myself, ‘that’s it, I’m finished. My legs can’t handle a wave like that, and if I fall right now I might die.’” 

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