Cheyne Horan Surf School


Here are some photos of the biggest wave of the event and my first wave wipeout courtesy of Stephen Kornreich and his website Last photo is courtesy of Darryl Wong and Surfline.

Jaws contest big wave Cheyne Horan Jaws contest big wave Cheyne Horan Cheyne Horan Jaws Peahi World Cup of Tow-In Jaws contest big wave wipeout
Cheyne Horan at Jaws photographed by Darryl Wong

The Tow crew meet at Jaws for the first World Cup of Tow-in Surfing

By Cheyne Horan

The horn sounded and echoed though the valley, as the Hawaiian blew into
the conch shell. The dawn was breaking as we gathered into a circle - all the competitors, safety team and the Hawaiian spiritual men.  Everyone put their left hand on the shoulder of the person next to them to form a circle and the blessing began. The Hawaiian said it was the biggest seas he had ever seen and told us to take care of each other. He gave us  all a tea leaf for good luck and one for the jet ski and safety team.
The waves were giant as we arrived in the dark at Maleiko Bay to launch the
jet ski. We were in the second heat. It was huge and it looked  like low tide because all the rocks were showing. I jumped out to get the tie downs off the ski. As I was walking back alongside the truck, a wave came crashing over the ramp and nearly knocked me over. Robby Seeger, my tow-in partner, was already behind the truck and was hanging on tight as the wave smashed into him and swung the ski around dangerously. I ran and jumped into the truck as the wave came crashing at the door, engulfing the truck in water. I felt the whole truck move with the force of the eight foot wave that had hit us. A reporter went flying past the truck as the wave took her legs from under her and washed her into the cliff. It is funny now thinking about it, but it was no laughing matter then. The wave washed right up the valley. We could have been swept back into the ocean. We decided we’d better wait until light to launch.
We launched fine second time around, out through a pass that runs for about 100 metres, with waves breaking either side. The surf was pumping as we entered into open ocean where the giant swells were peaking. We travelled over to Jaws, and could see the huge rooster tail sprays coming off the tops of these mighty waves.
  Inside I felt jittery, looking at the pitching faces of the waves marked with grooves and chop and lumps from the wind.
“What are we doing?" asked Rob.
“Let’s go,” I said. We unloaded the spare boards on to a support boat, threw the  tow rope in the water, and we were away.
My first wave was small, 25 feet, just feeling it out, still with the jitters, doing a couple of turns and kicking out, getting into a little rhythm before the contest started. I felt  comfortable after my third wave, then started going for it. My last wave of the warmup session, I came from behind the peak and up into the bowl, then dropped down and freefell into the pit. I thought, “I'm in for a massive wipeout. I'm gone.” As I landed and got my balance back, the wave heaved down the line. I couldn't turn as I was still getting over the air drop and near spill. Finally, I managed to lay it over and came flying out of the turn from deep and out on to the shoulder.  Okay, I'm warmed up. I asked Rob if he wanted to warm up.
“I'm already ready," said Rob.
All the competitors gathered behind the contest boat for a quick briefing then, “Bang,” the green flag went up and the World Cup Of Tow-in surfing began.
The rules were simple. Each team member surfed for 30 minutes, then the driver and surfer swapped places. The best three waves of each surfer counted towards the team’s total.
The surf at this point was 30 to 40 feet. As they hit the reef, the waves jacked up another 15 to 20 feet. The wind was  creating all kinds of chop on the face, making the drop very dangerous. Victor Lopez was driving and his partner Archie Kalepa was surfing when he had a very intense wipeout and was dragged 100 metre under water. I watched as his head popped up just before the next wave was upon him. The safety team scrambled in and got him out, but his board was washed on to the rocks. He went up to the support boat and was thrown another surfboard and he was straight back into it. I didn't want this to happen to me. Hopefully I could do everything right and make every wave. I was in the next heat, and was telling myself, “Relax and go for the tube.” I knew I could do it. My heat started and a bomb came. I dropped in late and as I set up for the barrel, the wave bottomed out and I freefell into the pit and fell.  My WORST nightmare. For an instant everything stopped as I lay flat on the face of one of the heaviest waves in the world.  Helpless. Then, all hell broke loose. The wave exploded on me, picked me up and threw me deep. My eyes were open and all I could see was black. With the lifejacket on, I was swimming to the top like a torpedo but it still took forever to see light. Once I saw the light, I kept reaching to feel the surface. At the top, there  was another wave exploding just metres away from me. As I dove under with no air, it throttled me and sent me back into the black - an area I was becoming very familiar with. I got to the top and Robby was right there on the ski to pick me up, before the next set could get to me.  My head was continually getting sucked back under, and I just kept stretching my arm out so he could at least see my hand above the surface.  All of a sudden, I felt him pull me out of the  water and onto the safety sled like Hercules, and we were out of there, just before the next one was about to pounce on us. My board was gone on the rocks. We raced straight around the priority buoy and out to the support boat and they threw me my spare board.
My next wave was gi-normous. Some say it was the biggest wave of the event. As I launched into it, looking down the face as it was jacking up on the reef, the wave just grew underneath me. The face of the wave had huge chunks of chop in it. I told myself to relax and go. I hit the first chop and it nearly threw me off, then bounced off one after another, each one nearly sending me into another wipeout. When I thought I should have been nearly at the bottom I realized I wasn't even halfway down. Meanwhile, the wave shifted and lurched and started steepening down the line. I looked up at this huge mass of water and prayed to to be able to get an edge in to turn. Thankfully, the board came slicing off the bottom and up into the bowl. The hard part was over. On the way out after this wave all the tow crews and boat crew were whistling and cheering. My system was filled with a rush of pure adrenalin and my brain was on fire.
To think two weeks before, I was surfing with my brother in two foot waves on a 5'2" McCoy and here I was out in the biggest waves on the planet on a 7'7" McCoy tow-in board.
  We surfed the heat with Jeff Clarke, the first man to surf Mavericks, and Rodrigo Resende, a very experienced big wave rider. I have seen him in very critical  positions over the past five years. These guys caught some nice waves and surfed really well.
It was another two and a half hours until I had to drive for Robby, so we rested on a big catamaran that was there for competitors and watched the action. Mike Parsons took off on a massive wave and fell. Archie Kalepa went in to retrieve Mike’s board and was caught by a massive wave. His ski washed onto the rocks and was smashed to pieces. Archie was picked off the rocks by helciopter and lifted to safety.
His next wave, Mike got up early and pulled up around the section, the lip
threw over him and the wave spat him out. We all agreed that was the
best wave of the contest. It was in the 30 foot. range with very nice shape.
  The wind started to get stronger and the swell was dropping, in the 25 to 35 foot range, with no more sets over 40 feet. Robby made a quick adjustment with the straps, putting the front strap further forward to handle the strong wind. On Robby’s best wave, he pulled a big, backside snap/carve in the pocket and freefell to the bottom. Lucky Robby windsurfs - no other surfer would've handled it.
After our heats were finished, I drove the ski over to where my wife was watching from the cliffs. I felt like a gladiator as I waved to her and she waved  back. I could tell she was excited and proud.
  No one knew the results until we were back in the official's tent, up on the cliff face that overlooks Jaws. I could tell by the smile on Rodrigo’s face that he and Garrett had won. What a memorable day. We will tell our grandkids about this giant day, way back when.
  Till the next perfect storm..
  Have a good surf.


1. Garrett McNamara/Rodrigo Resende (Hawaii/Brazil) 143.6
2. Brad Gerlach/Mike Parsons (USA)  132.4
3. Carlos Burle/Eraldo Gueiros (Brazil)  130.5
4. Makua Rothman/Ryan Rawson (Hawaii)  129.9
5. Cheyne Horan/Robbie Seeger  (Australia/Germany)  124.4


Copyright 2011 Cheyne Horan