Stab Magazine | Yuri Soledad on the wave that held his fate
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Yuri Soledad on the wave that held his fate

Words by Jake Howard  Tiny men on mountainous waves is the flavour of the winter, and we’re all a little desensitised. It’s the season of the next big thing, and last Thursday an especially cartoonish bump was ridden by Yuri Soledad at Jaws. While all eyes were on the Eddie at Waimea Bay, sets of ridiculous […]

news // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Words by Jake Howard 

Tiny men on mountainous waves is the flavour of the winter, and we’re all a little desensitised. It’s the season of the next big thing, and last Thursday an especially cartoonish bump was ridden by Yuri Soledad at Jaws. While all eyes were on the Eddie at Waimea Bay, sets of ridiculous proportion blasted the Maui’s north shore. Yuri, who’d teamed up with the nordic inspired Chuck Patterson (who was riding a pair of water skis), watched one set closeout the entire reef…and then he challenged it.

“We got out the back and there were already a couple of teams out,” describes Yuri. “A set came and we decided to just wait and let the boys go. I could have gone on a wave in that set, but then I would have lost my turn in the rotation and wouldn’t have been in the spot for the next one. Right after the next set came and it was a monster. It was closing out from point to point. I was like, Holy shit, that’s a huge one. Chuck even asked me if I was sure I wanted it. And I told him, yeah, this is the one.”

After towing Chuck into a few waves earlier in the morning, Yuri took his first attempt of the day.

“I let go of the rope and started to make the drop. On your backside you have to look over your shoulder, so I was trying to see what the thing was going to do while trying to handle all the bumps,” says Yuri. “From the moment I let go of the rope my foot started to slip out of the strap, so as I was making the drop I had to readjust and refocus.”

“I remember looking down the line and the west bowl was already coming. I never even made it to the bottom really,” Yuri continues. “To show the full potential of the wave sometimes you have to go all the way to the bottom, even if it means losing some speed, but I knew midway down I had to do something. When I saw the whole west bowl closing out and I was like, Holy shit, I’m going to die here! I had to kind of pump it and then I took a super high line to get enough speed to go around the section. As I came down from the high line my board was flying. I’ve never felt speed like that, ever. All the while my foot was still coming out of the strap.”

“When I finally rode out of it. My legs were burning and my heart was beating so fast. Everybody in the channel was going off. Guys came up and started congratulating me. I can’t even tell you how big the wave was. I was just trying to survive, I didn’t want to die,” surmises Yuri.

Ten years ago Yuri would have immediately been hailed as a record-breaker and his wave would have been plastered everywhere, but with tow-surfing having fallen out of vogue some of the luster’s been rubbed off of his accomplishment. Or not. Yuri’s been paddling Jaws since Laird started towing it and more than just about anyone, the man’s paid his dues.

That moment when you think, fuck this might kill me. Photo: John Patao

“To me paddling is still the way to do it, but you’re lucky to get a swell like this once in your lifetime. I don’t know if I’m ever going to surf a swell like this again in my life. To let some of those giant waves go by without anybody catching them is a waste. Once in a lifetime, whenever the buoys and the swell is that big, that’s when you can bring out the skis. If there was ever a day to tow, this was the day,” says Yuri. “Everybody kept claiming it was the ‘Brock swell,’ and literally that thing has so much mana, so much energy. It was crazy. Once I saw the buoys I knew it was game on. We hadn’t seen buoys like that ever. We knew Jaws was going to be insane. I brought my paddle board along with me in the morning thinking that I was going to paddle, a couple of guys did. Will Skudin got a couple, Albee Layer got that one, but those guys were basically sitting inside. The big sets were taking some time to come in because of the long period swell. At times it was manageable to paddle because it had the lulls, but then every so often a huge set would come through that was three times as big as any of the other waves. And we had to challenge the biggest waves to ever come through Jaws.”

Start counting bodies. Photo: Elliot Leboe

In a surf world infatuated with hyperbole, it has to stand as one of the rides of the winter thus far, but Yuri prefers to look the other way.

“Some of the old timers there were claiming it was the biggest wave ever ridden at Jaws. For me I’d rather stay humble and let the hype go by. I don’t really worry too much about what other people are saying. I’d rather feel the energy and emotion that I felt on that wave. I don’t want to get caught up trying to figure out how big it was or if it’s going to be one of the waves in the XXL. I just feel blessed.”

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