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The roughly twice-daily ocean tides ebb and flow on different timescales and to different heights depending on the relative orientations of the Sun and Moon. It is the gravitational pull of these the two bodies that are responsible for our tides, a fact first explained by Isaac Newton. When the Moon is full (and again when it is new), it, the Earth and the Sun are nearly aligned – a situation know as syzygy (one of my favorite words). In this orientation, the tidals forces combine to amplify the tidal surge; we have a spring tide. Throw in some big surf and an unusually close Moon, and you’ve got quite a shorebreak.
Nature laid a huge Christmas present under Maui’s collective trees on December 25th: a 23-foot NW swell that was just big enough to power the local break Pe’ahi, commonly known as Jaws. While “small” compared to the up to 70-foot waves Pe’ahi is famous for, the swell was still big enough to tap the deep reef offshore and produce some massive, fast-moving breakers, and the off-shore/cross-shore winds stood the waves up just a bit more and provided a nice rainbow breeze. Because of the speed of the wave (up to 30 mph), generally only tow-in surfers tackle Pe’ahi (see why on this video).
Thanks to an off-roading lift from our friends Carl and Ivy, we got down to the lookout above Pe’ahi and took some video footage that you can see in the YouTube clip below. I strongly recommend watching this while looping “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” by the Ramones.
BTW, this is the second time Pe’ahi has broken this month, the last being December 7-8.