Stab Magazine | With John John On Safety, Eli Olson Caught This Unfathomable Offshore Bomb

With John John On Safety, Eli Olson Caught This Unfathomable Offshore Bomb

We’re not ones to get fixated on inches and feet, but is this the biggest paddle wave… ever?

cinema // Nov 30, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

While Jaws was busy being “too unsafe” for the world’s best big wave surfers (besides Kai Lenny, who had the presence of mind to pack a rope in his competition kit), Oahu’s outer reefs were equally massive and blessed with a steady offshore breeze.  

Dave Wassel, North Shore lifeguard and a true connoisseur of outer reef delights, called it the best he’d seen this particular wave (pictured below) in 15 years.

Screen Shot 2018 11 29 at 4.37.02 PM

Mark Healey, who lost in the first (and only) heat of Jaws day one, told Stab that he was headed back on the next flight to Oahu, as he’d been told the waves were the biggest they’d been since the last Eddie. “I’m gonna try to get a wave before dark!” Mark proclaimed, shortly after his loss (sadly, traffic did not allow it).

But while the majority of mountain-tamers found themselves between Jaws, Waimea, and the left pictured above, Oahu’s Eli Olson decided to avoid the pack. With the help of his friend (and still injured) John John Florence on ski-patrol, Eli entered the lineup, alone, at one of Oahu’s rarest and most mystified outer reefs.

“This wave hardly every breaks,” Eli told Stab, “and when it does, not many people know about it. So we had to take advantage.”

The waves were so big that Eli initially wanted to tow.

“Then at the last second I was just like, ‘No one is gonna care if we get towed into a big wave.’ So I decided to man up and paddle.”

Without the help of any human landmarks in the lineup, and having very limited experience at this break, neither John nor Eli was sure where he should sit.

“I really wished I had had someone to surf with,” recalled Eli. “It makes you feel a lot better when you get caught inside with another person.”

John eventually dropped Eli off where they thought they had seen the last set capping. As it urned out, they were a little off.

“I got lit up by a 30-foot set right away,” Eli said. “It was pretty heavy.”

Luckily John was quick to retrieve his friend, and more importantly, the reigning 2x World Champ had gotten a great vantage point of where the set broke.

“John showed me where that set capped and explained how to line-up with a few features on the shore. Besides just being the best surfer in the world, he has this incredible understanding of the ocean. Even when he’s just riding the jet ski, you can tell how perfect his timing is with the waves and chops. It’s uncanny.”

Luckily for Eli, John’s positioning was correct. When the next set loomed, Eli says he’d never something so big and menacing. He held his ground.

“Every part of me wanted to scratch to the horizon,” Eli said. “But I knew if I wanted to catch the wave, I’d have to trust that it wasn’t gonna break on my head. I remember telling myself, out loud, ‘Hold the line, hold the line.’ If I hadn’t forced myself to sit there and hold onto the rails, I would have been halfway out to sea trying to escape the thing.”

But somehow, he wasn’t. Eli sat there as the wave started to raise and feather, at which point he realized he was in the perfect spot.

“I flipped around and just started paddling. I knew if I wanted to catch that wave, I’d have to put my head down and just go, so that’s what I did. I kept getting sucked up the face until I finally felt that push behind me. Then I just popped up and looked down to the bottom. It looked so big. I’d never seen anything that big before. I did a little drift at the top that actually felt super dramatic, although it looks pretty minor in the clip. I still wasn’t even halfway down. There were a lot of chops, but my 10’5 Pyzel handled them super well. The drop felt like forever, then I started coming back up the face it kinda grew again. The wave was super long – way longer than Jaws.”

Eli caught two more waves before the wind became too much to bear. Rather than calling it a day (or winter), he went straight to the other outer reef spot, which as seen in the picture above, was also pumping albeit with a slight crowd.

“I got some of the best big lefts of my life that day too,” said Eli.

He also got a few incredible Pipe waves on both the come-up and come-down of this massive WNW swell.

“Even last night, Pipe was like 6-8 foot and so fun,” Eli concluded.

There are only two questions that remain:

  1. Have we ever seen a bigger successful paddle wave (this one measured around 70 feet, using Eli’s 10’5 Pyzel as a makeshift ruler)?

  2. How will this next major Hawaii swell (set to land December 5th) compare?


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