Galway doctor Katie McAnena is one of the world’s first women to surf the Hawaiian wave “Jaws.”
The 26-year-old doctor who is on a gap year from medicine spent many hours last week at Pe’ahi, Hawaii. The waves off the Hawaiian island Maui can reach up o to 60 feet and are thought to be as unpredictable as a shark attack, which is how the wave earned the nickname “Jaws” from the shark attack movie.
The wave “Jaws” attracts some of the best surfers. McAnena is a four time female windsurfing champion and was in Hawaii to train for the professional competitive season. She told The Irish Times about the wave, “I’ve been obsessed with this wave for the longest time, but I never believed in my wildest dreams that I’d be doing it, let alone so soon.”
The wave “Jaws” breaks below a steep cliff and many surfers use a jetski to use to the “tow-in” method to catch the wave. McAnena opted to catch the wave by jumping off a cliff base. Many male surfers jumped off the cliff base with her.
She told The Irish Times in Hawaii, “As the day progressed and it hit noon, the conditions just seemed to get better, and so I grabbed my gear and went for it. I’ve no idea how big the wave break was, but I was very cautious and stayed on its shoulder.” She added, “There were big gaps in the swell, so I timed it and it just seemed right.”
Finn Mullen, an Irish windsurfing champion who surfed “Jaws” three years ago and again this year on his stand-up paddle board, said McAnena’s achievement was extraordinary. He commented, “Like Aileen’s Off Clare and Mullaghmore, Co Sligo, there are only a few of these wave breaks in the world.”
There no records of women who have surfed “Jaws” in the past, but McAnena and New Caledonian windsurfer Sarah Delaunay would be the first women to surf “Jaws” in recent times.
McAnena summed up the experience, “The sound and the feeling of it going through my bones was extraordinary, an out-of-body experience.”