South African big wave surfer Matt Bromley recently chased a big swell all the way to Hawaii. After surfing the swell at Jaws, off the island of Maui, he followed it to Northern California to surf it again.
“It was one of the wildest trips of my life,” said Bromley. “Two and a half days of travel with my boards, with multiple COVID tests and travelling with a mask and health forms. To be honest, it was so tricky and stressful.”
Matt is hardcore and is not one to back down when things get challenging. He arrived on Maui to meet the swell at Jaws –one of the biggest paddle-in waves in the world – and slept in a tent in his friends garden.
“I didn’t actually sleep a wink that night,” said Matt of his first night on Maui. “I was so jet-lagged, and I could hear the explosions from the waves at Jaws. I was 10 kilometres away, and I could hear them so clearly. It was terrifying.”
Big wave surfing is divided into two schools. One is for those surfers who use jet-ski assist in getting into the big waves – they get towed into the big waves with relative ease. The other school is for those surfers who paddle into big waves, and it is this school that Matt was representing on this adventure. He was going to attempt to paddle into the biggest waves of the swell, using arm-power only.
The next morning at Jaws, the waves were in the region of 50-foot. Matt had a few good ones under the belt before disaster struck. “I put my head down and paddled for what looked like the wave of my life,” said the Monster Energy athlete. “I got some wind under my board on the way down and wiped out. The wave sent me so deep I thought both my eardrums were going to pop.”
Matt survived, however, and the assembled big wave surfers made a note of the swell pushing to California, and to the Mavericks big wave spot. Matt decided to get on a red-eye flight from Hawaii to California to meet the swell, again. The following day he was at Half Moon Bay and getting a boat out at Mavericks.
“It was massive,” said Matt. “The biggest, most perfect surf at Mavericks in years. There were 40-foot bombs and bigger waves on the outside ledge. I got four waves in as many hours, as it was a challenge to find the best ones in the giant conditions.”
These days Matt, and other big wave surfers, wear impact vests when surfing big waves. These vests have c02 cartridges that inflate the vest and bring the surfer to the surface.
“At the end of my surf, I pushed hard to get into a big one, but I ended up pin-dropping into the tube. I went so deep, and I need to pull three cartridges to get to the surface.”
Matt made it to the surface, and called it a day, after the most exciting and dangerous 2-day big wave swell chase of his life.
Photo: Matt Bromley, Jaws/Peahi, photo © Marco Arellano Monster Energy