Jaws (Surf Break aka Pe’ahi)

Last updated 26. Jan, 2015 by in Adventures, Adventures & Sights | N Shore, Adventures & Sights | Rd to H, North Shore, Road to Hana, Road to Hana Sites

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When the North Shore surf is big, Jaws is gigantic.

When the North Shore surf is big, Jaws is gigantic.

Rating: ★★★★½

In a nutshell: The biggest wave surfed in the world each year has been at Pe’ahi more than any other place.
Minuses: The access road can be 4WD
Sound-bite: [crashing waves, cheers and helicopters]

Disclaimer on the rating:
Pe’ahi is only “must-see spectacular” when the North Shore is having monster surf (look for high surf warnings and consult the real-time wave data chart below.)

Key Info:
Mile Marker: Between #13 & 14 (Hana Hwy aka Hwy 36)
GPS Coordinates: 20.942202,-156.300688
Facilities: None
Map: Below | Get directions
Current Wave Data: Below

Pe’ahi is Maui’s biggest surfing break, and the yearly Billabong XXL Global Big Wave contest has listed Jaws as the winning break more than any other place. When Jaws is going off, the top names in surfing flock here – and mere mortals follow to watch in awe.

What is Tow-in Surfing?

Tow-in surfing is when the waves are so large that the only way a surfer can get in to them (in one piece, anyway) is to be skillfully towed in, and dropped off, via Jet Ski. In recent years surfers have started paddling in to this break that was previously only attempted as a tow-in.

“Jaws” is certainly the most well known, and also the most geographically specific name for the surf break. The name “Pe’ahi” has become more popular with surfers trying to draw connection with local culture as of late – so it is now common to hear that name used as well. (Pe’ahi is actually the name of the much larger ahupua'a.) If two names weren’t enough, according to Kupuna Leslie Kuloloio, the traditional Hawaiian name for this spot is “Ke Kai ‘o Waitakulu”, which he translates as “The Teary Eye.”

The Bad News
Before you add this to your must-do list for your Maui vacation, here is the bad news: chances are you won’t be able to. Most years there are just a few big-wave events with the perfect conditions for surfing Jaws. So, you’re going to need some luck with timing!

If you are lucky enough to see this in person, you’re sure to appreciate the magnitude of these feats of athleticism. (Check out the You Tube video below for better perspective of how big these waves actually are.)

How to Know if Jaws is Going Off
We post High Surf Warnings on MauiGuidebook.com (tip: like our Facebook page, we also post High Surf warnings there.) Also check the chart below for real-time wave heights to time your visit within the high surf event.

Plot of today's North Shore waves

Hmax = biggest wave of hour; Htenth & Hthird = hourly avg of the largest in 10 & 3 waves
Data: PacIOOS chart of University of Hawaii buoy 187

The Pe’ahi Lookout
The lookout on the Peahi cliffs above the break are the best vantage points outside of a boat or helicopter. As far as driving to the overlook goes, the best route is shown in the Google Map below. This 1.5 mile dirt road currently is graded to a point that cars that aren’t especially low can get in or out when it is dry. That said, it can rain suddenly on the North Shore, and what looks like a sunny beautiful day can be sprinkled with sudden downpours turning the steeper parts of the road to a surface that’s as slick as ice. Depending on what you’re driving, you could get stuck and need assistance. There are a few places you can park off to the side of the road (be sure not to block access roads), so if walking 3 miles round-trip is not an option, you can drive in as far as you feel comfortable given the current conditions, and opt to walk the rest of the way.

View Jaws in a larger map

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6 Responses to “Jaws (Surf Break aka Pe’ahi)”

  1. Andrew Stewart

    27. Oct, 2013

    I want to surf jaws hawaii

    Reply to this comment
  2. Lolita

    13. Dec, 2013

    I pray for those who surf Jaws,

    Reply to this comment
  3. Kimosabey

    21. Jan, 2014

    New storm biggest in 10 years! Jan 22 2014

    Reply to this comment
  4. Dv

    24. Jan, 2014

    Just left jaws around 4pm local time. Was close to 15ft. But most sets were 10-12. One surfer out in the water w/ sled partner. Didn’t need towing in.

    Reply to this comment
  5. spiritofaloha

    16. Jun, 2014

    I have been a resident of Maui almost ten years. I was at Peahi aka Jaws on Big Wednesday Dec. 14th 2004. It was called that for a reason. The crowd was enormous as well. Lots of bad behavior. Just because you’re not indoors while you’re a visitor here or not don’t forget your manners. Treat this island with the respect it deserves. Be “pono”..do what is right. A few people in 4WD’s didn’t want to wait in the traffic on the single lane road so they went through the pineapple fields destroying them!! That is someone’s crop and private property. The list is long. You get the message. Please don’t litter or leave anything behind. Nobody’s coming to clean up after you. Soon very soon there are serial multi-million dollar homes going in here so I suspect this area to be inaccessible anyway. In the meantime, hug the person next to you. You’ll never see anything like it unless you travel the world to surf. Remember to spread the spirit of aloha I hope you have experienced here. MAHALO

    Reply to this comment
    • Mike

      19. Jan, 2015

      Hi, we are coming to Maui the first two weeks of March and would love to be able to see Jaws. I have been to Hawaii six times and this has been a dream. Could you help us in any way? Please let me know,

      Reply to this comment

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