Stab Magazine | The Gallery: Jan 27th and 28th at Jaws
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The Gallery: Jan 27th and 28th at Jaws

Words by Jake Howard | Photos by Tom Servais The veteran surf photographer, Tom Servais has been jumping between Oahu and Maui all winter. Chasing northwest swells to Jaws every time it breaks, he reckons this winter he’s taken some of the best photos of his storied career (and he’s the cat that shot the iconic […]

news // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Words by Jake Howard | Photos by Tom Servais

The veteran surf photographer, Tom Servais has been jumping between Oahu and Maui all winter. Chasing northwest swells to Jaws every time it breaks, he reckons this winter he’s taken some of the best photos of his storied career (and he’s the cat that shot the iconic Tom Curren cutback image). On this last swell he jumped on the back of a ski with waterman legend Dave Kalama, kept his finger on the trigger, and once again came through with some gold.

“Two swells in a week, it’s been crazy,” says Mr Servais. “This one behaved a lot like we expected. It filled in on Wednesday after lunchtime and built quickly throughout the day.”

Everyone reckons the swell peaked overnight (which is largely why the Eddie didn’t run at Waimea), but it was plenty big just the same.

“I don’t think there was anything on the scale of what Aaron Gold rode, but it was big, and the intervals made it really challenging,” continues Servais. “There was also some trade wind on Wednesday which makes it almost impossible to make it down the face on those big boards. There were a lot of beatings.”

For glimpse into the ups, downs and dynamics of the swell we grabbed 12 of Servais’s picks and let him talk a little story. Besides being exhausted, he offers up some quality insight.

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Here’s Tom Dosland and the Pe’ahi elevator. “Style points don’t always count,” says Tom. “There weren’t very many made waves. The long period in the swell made it really hard to paddle. We were talking with Derrick Dorner and Dave Kalama and they mentioned that’s why they first started towing, that there were a lot of waves going to waste. It makes sense, there were a lot of waves that came through where nobody had a chance.”

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Three men and a jet ski. “These guys have their act so dialed,” says Servais. “Wednesday afternoon was pretty chaotic out there, but they’re still so calculated and disciplined about the risks they take, I don’t know if Shane (Dorian) or Greg (Long) even caught a wave Wednesday. Thursday morning the conditions were perfect and everyone got some. I think Ian (Walsh) got probably one of the best waves of the swell with a long, clean barrel.”

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“This might have been the best start-to-finish ride of the swell,” say Mr Servais. “Ian (Walsh) made a really nice drop, drew out a bottom turn, then was able to get a really deep barrel. He came out cleanly after the spit and kicked out.”

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“Albee (Layer) sits right on that line, right where he can find an entry into the insider slab and still dodge the outsiders. When you do that you risk getting smashed by the big sets. It’s a real dangerous cat and mouse game. There aren’t many out there that play it as well as Albee.”

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On Thursday morning a small crew went out early and played around with the tow rope. Kai Lenny got a couple before he ended up getting sick and going in early. “He literally rode everything on this swell,” says Tom. “He rode his prone paddle board, he took out his SUP and got a few, and he towed a few when nobody was around. He’s so comfortable out there, it’s remarkable to see how much confidence there is in his approach.”

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“I had no idea who this was until somebody told me it was a guy from England. Tom Lowe almost made it out of this one, he was so close. I’d almost consider it a made wave because he makes it through the hardest part but comes undone at the end. It’s incredible to me that a guy from England can show up and paddle into a wave like this.”

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“Another part of the European crew, Benjamin Sanchis didn’t hold back. When you’re out on the ski shooting you’re not always aware of who’s doing what, you’re moving around and trying to find angles and lineup shots. This photo was a nice surprise to see when I finally got to download my card.”

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Jamie O’Brien called this wave the biggest and scariest of his life. “That was a big one, and one of the few that were made on Wednesday,” says Servais. “I think it’s easy to forget how talented of a big-wave surfer Jamie O’Brien is. He does all that funny stuff at Pipeline, but this was a really challenging day to surf. To be able to make a wave like this, with all the wind coming up the face and the swell moving so fast, is no joke.”

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“There was a lot of this. If the swell hadn’t peaked at night it would have easily been bigger than that last one we had.”

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“Mark (Healey) got smashed by one,” says Servais.

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Guy on ski: “Umm, yeah, we’ve got a man down here.”

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“This is one of those behind-the-scenes moments you don’t ever really see. It gets so crazy once everybody hits the water, the prayer circle is a last chance to get everyone together, take a deep breath, focus on what’s to come and ask for protection for the man upstairs. I think this photo really shows how close these guys all are.”

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