A spiritual ceremony, deeply rooted in Maui's history and Polynesian culture, took place under unusually clear and hot skies, with barely a breath of wind.
The RED BULL JAWS, Paddle at Pe'ahi presented by Casio G'z One is a one-day big wave paddle-in surfing event that will be held on a single day between December 7, 2012 and March 15, 2013, when wave face heights reach between 30 and 50 feet, and with no assistance from motorized personal watercraft.
Led by Kupuna Leslie Kuloloio and Kumu Pulama Collier, surfers listened to the ancestral story of Pe'ahi - known to Hawaiians as Ke Kai 'o Waitakulu, or "the teary eye place". Each was presented with a special kihei, or cloak, in recognition of their expertise in big wave riding.
"You come with permission," said Kupuna Leslie. "But don't forget, the ocean comes first. You come second. Hawaiians are voyagers - the family of the sea. There is no ownership of the sea, only stewardship. We enter humbly and we have the kuleana, or responsibility, to care for it."
It was an introspective time for the riders that reminded them of the privilege that the ocean offers with every major swell it delivers, and the responsibility they carry in riding giant waves: a responsibility to take care of the ocean, and to take care of each other through the journey.
Contest Director Mike Parsons reaffirmed the value of respect that is at the core of the event: "The nature of the wave here lends itself to respect. The competition is secondary to the sharing of this magical place and this is the first time in more than 20 years of surfing this place that we have a paddle-in event. You can't sit in the water here without feeling that there is something much bigger at play. It neutralizes the 'self' and emphasizes the collective."
Ian Walsh, a local Maui surfer and the originator of the event concept, understands the humility involved in surfing at Pe'ahi.
"This blessing and calling upon the ocean is something that has been passed down for generations in Hawaii. Surfers are connected to the ocean and to have that blessing is something you contemplate before you even put that first foot in the water. Without that blessing, this isn't possible."
Students of the Kula 'o Kaiapuni 'o Kekaulike no Maui closed the formalities with the performance of an ancient chant that called upon the waves.
The RED BULL JAWS, Paddle at Pe'ahi will now wait for that one giant day of surf.
Just days prior to the opening ceremony, Maui athletes Ian Walsh, Kai Lenny and Levi Siver met up at the Pa'ia Youth & Cultural Center for a chance to interact with local youth. While there, the athletes spent time with the kids signing autographs, hanging out on the basketball court and in the skatepark, and participated in a local radio show with the kids as hosts. The event took place as part of a community outreach project in partnership with Alexander & Baldwin Properties.
RED BULL JAWS would also like to take the opportunity to thank its partners Polaris and Dakine, for providing the necessary equipment, apparel and hard goods to make this event possible.