Invitees announced for Red Bull Jaws

The waiting period for the inaugural Red Bull Jaws contest runs Dec. 7, 2012, through Mar. 15, 2013, here's what you can expect from one of the biggest waves in the world.

How do you follow up a free fall from the edge of space? Maybe you get back to your roots and throw a go-to-hell surf contest. That's Red Bull's plan in Maui. The waiting period for the inaugural Red Bull Jaws begins on Dec. 7.

"The requirements for it to go would be a solid 20-foot day, with some 25-foot sets, and maybe a little bigger at times," says Ian Walsh, who's been masterminding the event for the past two years and is a longtime Red Bull team rider.

After a decade of jet-powered bravado and world-record rides on Maui, the resurgence of big-wave paddle surfing has taken over Peah'i. Highlighted by the Oct. 9 and 10 sessions, which have become the benchmark for the winter season thus far, the power, speed and size at Jaws is pushing human horsepower to its limit. 21 of the best watermen, primarily from Hawaii, have been invited to the Red Bull Jaws contest, among them previous XXL winners Shane Dorian, Grant "Twiggy" Baker, Nathan Fletcher and Danilo Couto.

"Jaws is the premier big-wave spot in the world and has the potential to be bigger than anywhere and still rideable," says contest director Mike Parsons, himself an XXL winner courtesy of a 66-foot wave he was towed into at Cortes Bank off the coast of California on January 19, 2001. "We want to pick a day that pushes the boundaries of paddle surfing, but at the same time isn't so heavy that it's going to be overly dangerous. Obviously as we get further into the waiting period that's something will have to contend with more, but ultimately we're looking for 30-foot glassy surf where guys are catching the biggest paddle-in waves that they've ever caught. That said, we still want it to be manageable, where we're not sending them out there in 60-foot surf that's just going to be way too radical. The balance of it all is going to be critical."

The format of the contest will be different than anything previous, and sitting on the judging panel will be esteemed big-wave surfers such as Evan Slater, Ross Williams and Allistar Craft, as well as a handful with ASP experience.

Fred Pompermayer/Red Bull Content Pool

Ian Walsh contending with one of the biggest waves he's ever paddled into at Jaws on Oct. 9, 2013.

"Each guy will surf twice for a little over an hour, and then we'll score the top three waves. The best score being doubled. Each wave will count for ten points, and then the one will be worth 20, so basically a perfect score in the event would be 40 points," explains Parsons. "It encourages quality over quantity, and that's something unique to that event. You'll see the guy who gets the wave of the day in the top two or three, or possibly win the event. And it's also a non-advancing format, so guys won't feel the pressure of trying to get through or who they're up against. There will be seven guys in each heat and they all get to surf two heats. There shouldn't be any hassling or any of that, it should be about trying to position yourself to get the biggest wave."

Obviously with an event like this safety is a major concern. Parsons and his team are taking preparations very seriously, signing on expert waterman Archie Kalepa as the head of water safety. It will be his job to put together a squad of lifeguards and jet ski drivers in case a rescue is necessary. Each surfer will have their own water safety operator assigned to them during their heats. Additionally, rescue boats will be in place, staffed by paramedics. A helicopter will be standing by on the cliff in case something really bad happens. Surfers will also be wearing the Billabong VI inflatable vest that Dorian has made news with.

"It's the serious side of the event, and we're leaving no stone unturned when it comes to safety," says Parsons.

With nearly constant winds on the north shore of Maui, predicting conditions and surf forecasting will play an integral role in when to give Red Bull Jaws the green light. This responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Stormsurf's Mark Sponsler.

"It's rare to get no wind on Maui, but it does happen," says Walsh, who first surfed Jaws as a teenager. "The angle of the swell matters a lot at Jaws, it has to be from just the right direction to really turn it on. As far as requirements though, it has to be really, really big, that's about it."

Other big-wave events hoping to run this winter are the Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational at Waimea Bay, the Maverick's contest in northern California, and the Nelscott Reef contest in Oregon.

Red Bull Jaws waiting period runs through March 15, 2013. NBC will be airing a special on the event on June 9, 2013, as part of their "Red Bull Signature Series." You can follow the contest at www.redbullusa.com/jaws.

INVITEES:
Kala Alexander (HI)
Grant "Twiggy" Baker (ZAF)
Carlos Burle (BRZ)
Kohl Christensen (HI)
Danilo Couto (BRZ)
Shane Dorian (HI)
Nate Fletcher (CA)
John John Florence (HI)
Mark Healey (HI)
Bruce Irons (HI)
Albee Layer (HI)
Greg Long (CA)
Garrett McNamara (HI)
Ramon Navarro (CHL)
Jamie O'Brien (HI)
Makua Rothman (HI)
Jeff Rowley (AUS)
Kelly Slater (FL)    
Ian Walsh (HI)
Shaun Walsh (HI)
Dave Wassel (HI)

ALTERNATES:
1. Francisco Porcella (HI)
2. Aaron Gold (HI)
3. Billy Kemper (HI)
4. DK Walsh (HI)
5. Marcio Freire (HI)
6. Reef McIntosh (HI)
7. Kai Lenny (HI)
8. Gabriel Villaran (Chile)
9. Tyler Larronde (HI)
10. Matt Meola (HI)
11. Yuri Soledade (HI)
12. Mark Mathews (AUS)
13. Nakoa Decoite (HI)
14. Ben Wilkinson (HI)

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