Sunday, July 21, 2024
From The MagIn-DepthSESSIONS | OLIVIA JENKINS AT JAWS

SESSIONS | OLIVIA JENKINS AT JAWS

“When you first meet Olivia Jenkins you would never know how hard she charges. She loves girly things and she’s super humble. I’ve never heard her boast, or even bring up the fact she’s kited the biggest wave ever kited by a woman. When people praise her for charging she blushes a bit and laughs it off. I’m sure she’ll continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible with a kite for many years to come.  Last April (2018) Olivia Jenkins and Gisela Pulido kited Jaws. When Gisela said she was going out to Jaws I knew it was time for Olivia to have a crack at it. Olivia has been working her way up the past five seasons kiting different outer reefs on Maui and even joined the boys for a swell strike mission to Fiji. Honestly, I was expecting both girls to play it as safe as possible out there. Shoulder hop a few of the smaller ones. Olivia charged though. She was taking off behind the peak and really putting herself in the danger zone. I ran rescue on the jet ski and I was terrified. I don’t mind putting myself at risk, but watching my girlfriend do the same thing is scary. After we got in I told her if she wanted to kite Jaws again she would have to jump off the jet ski in the impact zone and take a set on the head (obviously I would never make her do that). She didn’t flinch and she said O.K. That’s how I knew she was ready for another session.”–Patri Mclaughlin.

You have to edge as hard as possible to stay on the wave in the offshore winds. Eric Aeder photo
“Every wave I work on getting deeper into the pocket of the wave.”—Olivia Jenkins Ilan Artzy photo
Sophie Wall photo

IN OLIVIA’S WORDS: In late November 2018, the World Surf League (WSL) big wave tour had an event out at Jaws on Maui. I was watching the live stream from my couch and saw that the wind was picking up early in the day. They ended up cancelling the contest because the waves were too big and it was too windy for the surfers. My boyfriend, Patri Mclaughlin, and friend Jesse Richman found out that they cancelled the event and rushed to pre-pare their kite gear to go out and kite Jaws. It was going to be huge and too big for me. The boys came back from their session and were so excited about the day they had. They kited some of the gnarliest conditions they had ever been out in. That night we continued to look at the forecast. The wind would be sticking  around the next day and it seemed as though the wave height was going to be smaller (but that it would still be big enough for Jaws). Jesse and Patri looked at me and said, “so, are you going to come with us?” Since only three people can fit on the jet ski, two kiters and one driver, I had not thought that I would be going with them this time. Patri had kindly offered to drive safety while I kited. My heart started to race due to a combination of excitement and nerves. That next morning, the WSL contest continued out at Jaws, so we could see how the conditions were on their livestream. It seemed as though they would complete the con-test by midday, and the wind had already picked up. We got all of our kite gear packed up in the backyard, and launched the ski into the water about five-minutes up the road from our house. As soon as we arrived up to Jaws, they were just finishing up the final heat of the surf contest. We looked at it for a while on the jet ski and then decided to give it a go. To my surprise, Jesse and Patri looked at me and said, “you’re up first!” I got my kite up in the air and it felt surreal to be the only person in the lineup at the time. Jesse then pumped up his kite and joined me. Patri was on the ski doing safety in case either of us fell. When riding waves of that size, we make a point to always have someone driving a rescue ski in case something goes wrong. I feel pretty lucky to have Patri out on the water with me. He gave me my first kitesurf board, and now he is giving me tips on how to ride Jaws.

Si Crowther photo

It had been seven months since I had been out there last. It took me quite a few warm up waves to get into the rhythm. I think I was more nervous this session than the first session. I even lost my board at one point, and had to body drag out of the impact zone while Patri drove the ski to the inside to pick up the board. The wind was more offshore than my previous session in April, and I was incredibly overpowered on my six meter kite. The offshore wind causes you to fall out of the back of the wave often. In addition, the wind was swirling from the waves before, causing a tornado like effect in my kite. After quite a few warm up waves, I decided to go for a few bigger sets.I caught a bunch of fun waves, and tried to go deeper and deeper as time progressed. I remember one wave where I tried to stay deep, and next thing I hear is a loud crashing noise. I became engulfed by the white water from the wave breaking behind me. It was an amazing feeling to come out of that. 

I did crash once, and this was my first crash ever out there. I was kiting pretty fast down the face, when the swirling wind caused me to lose power in my kite. I hit a chop in the wave and went over the handlebars of my board. I felt my body turn upside down, so was unsure where the kite was in the air. By accident, I crashed my kite. Luckily, I was not pushed deep, and there was not another set behind this wave. I was able to relaunch my kite and continue riding and caught a lot more waves. 

Eric Aeder photo

There was another Jaws swell with wind the following week that I went out and kited with Jesse. It was an amazing experience to have kited it two times in such a short period of time—something none of us were expecting. I feel like every time I have gone out there, I have improved on some technique in big wave riding. I just got a new Jaws kitesurf board, so cant wait for the next big swell with wind! 

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