Riding one of the most menacing waves on the planet is a remarkable feat for any surfer, but it’s even more impressive when you’re the greatest skimboarder of all time. More typically known for riding massive waves on his finless skimboard, Brad Domke surprised the surfing community by switching to a traditional surfboard, and dominating the waves of Jaws in Hawaii. To understand why this was such a badass ride, you have to understand the powerful waves of Jaws, the events that occurred that day, and the legendary accomplishments of Brad Domke.
The Waves of Pe’ahi, Hawaii
In the world of surfing, spots that become notorious for huge, powerful waves will earn clever nicknames that are instantly recognizable by those in the know. Jaws is the aptly named moniker given to waves in the area of Pe’ahi, Hawaii, and has become one of the most popular spots in the world for surf tournaments. The most distinguishing trait of Jaws is that it’s often home to the biggest wave of the year, with numerous reports of waves that exceed 60 feet.
Another unique aspect of Jaws is that surf events can’t be planned too far ahead of time, because the waves are chaotic and not always ideal for surfing. To add to the tumultuous nature of Jaws, some areas are so hard to reach that helicopter rescues are the only option. Needless to say, the conditions at Jaws are too brutal for all but the most ballsy and experienced surfers, and in the rare case of Brad Domke, skimboarders as well.
Major events at Jaws in January 2016
In addition to Brad Domke switching to a finned surfboard to ride Jaws and complete his Big Wave Pentathlon, there were other major successes that took place at Jaws this year that are worth mentioning. For starters, the subject of the film Soul Surfer, Bethany Hamilton, rode the biggest wave of her career just days after giving birth to her son, Tobias. With husband, father, and many other onlookers spectating, the flawless ride earned Bethany a Ride of the Year nomination for 2016.
Remember the part about Jaws usually producing the biggest wave of the year? As of January 2016, that can be upgraded to the biggest of all time, as Arron Gold was recorded surfing this beast, which was estimated by onlookers to be at least 80 feet high. A powerful candidate for the TAG Heuer XXL Ride of the Year award for big waves, this ride by Aaron Gold was officially the biggest wave ever paddled into. Surfers who’ve enjoyed success at Jaws can give partial credit to the strong winds of El Nino for delivering some of the most monstrous big waves in history.
A boarder of a different kind had another record-breaking ride at Jaws in January 2016. Brazilian bodyboarder, Magno Passos paddled his body board into an epic wave that was easily over 25 feet tall, and successfully rode it all the way through. The body board didn’t escape unscathed as it got its fins blown off as a result of the massive wave, but luckily, Magno Passos survived to tell the tale of arguably the most impressive ride on a body board of all time. When the tide is right, it’s easy to see that Jaws is the pinnacle of big wave surfing, and a challenge too great to resist for anyone who rides a board on a high-level.
Brad Domke Completes the Big Wave Pentathlon
For Brad Domke, the epic ride at Jaws represents something that’s far greater than an individual surf session. Combined with recent successes at Teahupoo, Nazare, The Right, and Puerto Escondido, Brad’s ride at Jaws closes out a Big Wave Pentathlon, symbolizing that he has conquered the most massive waves that the planet has to offer. Considering that most of these were done on a skimboard makes the distinction even more rare and impressive.
Brad Shows Mastery of Both Boards at Jaws
In addition to culminating a hugely-successful combination of Ride of the Year nominations at major spots to complete a Big Wave Pentathlon, there is another reason why Brad’s ride at Jaws was more significant than most. While it’s no mystery that other highly skilled surfers have rode impressive waves at Jaws, none of them have also conquered it on a skimboard. Only Brad Domke holds that distinction, and it’s one that sets him apart from even the most legendary surfers in the sport’s history.
Which Wave is next for Brad Domke?
Still young, innovative, and in his prime, no one would be surprised to see Brad Domke gunning for a Big Wave Decathlon over the next few years. Already having conquered waves that would terrify most pro-surfers, Domke has cemented his place in the history of surfing greatness. Rather than become another name that is highly competent as a surfer, Domke broke the mold, proving he can do it without the crutch of a long board and fins. Now that he’s shown the world that the deadliest waves are no match for his skimboard or surfboard, the only question is where to go next.
Perhaps Brad will go to the powerful, shark-laden waters of Dungeons in South Africa to test his skills in 2016. Or maybe an epic trip to the island of Tasmania where Shipstern Bluff produces epic waves would prove ideal for the hard charging pro. A third possibility that surf fans would appreciate would involve him making the trip to Ireland to hit Mullaghmore Head for a surf session with the firefighting surf pro, Peter Conroy. Wherever he chooses to flex his skills next, the surf community will be watching. With a Big Wave Pentathlon under his belt and multiple Ride of the Year nominations on both boards, it looks like that kid who showed up with a different board has surpassed everyone, blazed a trail for skimboarders, and completely taken over the surf scene.