Out of Office Reply: Paddling Jaws

posted by / Blogs, Editorial / February 18, 2011

Out of Office Reply is Associate Editor Taylor Paul’s column on surf travel, big waves, and other manly bits


Danilo was looking for the barrel on this one, but settled for this “pocket ride.” Photo: Mike NealDanilo was looking for the barrel on this one, but settled for a “pocket ride.” Photo: Mike Neal


Out of Office Reply

“Paddling Jaws is going to rewrite the book of big-wave surfing,” Greg Long tells me
while we share a pitcher at Big Helyns, the dive-iest dive bar in San Clemente (they were serving spaghetti lunches out of a plastic bag). He says this after he’s proved that he can punch harder than the entire SURFING Magazine staff and a few Marines (there’s a punching bag at Big Helyn’s that measures your strength), but before he serenades a crowd of swooning cougars at Taka-O karaoke (“Sing us a song, you’re the piano man!”). He is so good at life. Surfing too.

Now, the whole “rewriting the book” thing, I’ve heard Greg say this before. He’s not afraid to make big calls and so he’s very quotable. I chuckled inside when he said it, but then I remembered the last time he uttered such a claim — in the channel at last year’s Maverick’s contest, a day when guys were getting barreled and Shawn Dollar was breaking world records. He was right then, and he’s right this time.

But if paddling Jaws is going to rewrite the book, then the preface was scribbled long ago. Dudes have been paddling Jaws under the radar for over a decade. Why the hype now? According to Danilo Couto, who’s been paddling Peah’i for four years, it’s because they “usually paddle the left, which isn’t as gnarly as the right. And because all of the big dogs came by.”


Danilo and his magic 10’6,” in familiar territory on the left. Photo by Mike NealDanilo and his magic 10’6,” in familiar territory on the left. Photo by Mike Neal


I’d add a third reason: most of the guys who’ve paddled it over the years were Brazilian, and surf media tends to stick to Americans and Australians (notice how the subhead of Surfline.com’s feature on the day read “Long, Healey, Walsh + friends paddle-in at giant Jaws?”), even though Danilo got the wave of the day. But I love Brazilians. Some of my favorites are Carlos Burle, Maya Gabeira, Thiago “Shrimpy” Camarao and Giselle. And I love Danilo too. Together we placed second at Kohl Christensen’s Thanksgiving egg toss. We lost at a distance roughly the size of the wave he caught the other day at Jaws.

But luckily, Danilo’s feet are more reliable than his hands in critical situations, as he bucking bronco-ed his way down a wind-swept beast. Let’s hear how it all went down, shall we?


Danilo Couto:

“Being a goofyfooter, I usually surf the left. It’s more suitable for catching waves and making the wave. So I was surfing the left in the morning, but then I saw the guys surfing the right and thought I’d give it a shot. I’d caught waves on the right before, but on this day it was better size and direction, and the wind was too strong on the left anyway.”

“I went out the back and talked to Greg for a little bit. Most of the other guys were sitting on the inside a little but Greg was sitting out the back waiting for the bombs. When the set came, Greg paddled out, and I stayed right there.”

“I went for the first one but I couldn’t get into it, and when I looked back, I saw the next one coming right to me; I was right under it. So I just said, ‘OK…’ and I gave it a try — just paddled as hard as I could. The wind was so strong that it didn’t want to let me go down the face. I was up and the board started dropping and then the wind got it and started blowing my board back. It was like two or three times fighting the wind to get down the face.

“Then I had the whole wall in front of me. I had the same feeling I get when I tow in there and you let go of the rope and you look and go, ‘Wow, the bowl is right there.’ And there’s nothing you can do, you just have to think to pull in. I knew I had a chance — I thought it was maybe going to be a barrel, but I guess it was more of a pocket ride.”

“At the very end of the ride I could see the foam ball on my board. I thought it was just the tail but when I saw the footage I could see that it covered my whole board. I don’t know how I made it through, maybe it pushed me out.”


And with that, Danilo gives us a wave to root for in the Billabong XXL Ride of the Year. It was tall, critical and ridden as well as it could have been, a clear statement to the writers of big-wave books that Danilo should be more than a periphery character.


Taylor Paul is SURFING’s Associate Editor and is qualified to write this kind of shit because he surfs big old scary waves himself. Reckunize.



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  • Nakoa Decoite

    Me and Albee layer paddled the rights at Peahi (jaws) the swell right before Ian and everyone else tried it. We had no skiʻs or any type of water safety. We drove to the cliffs and paddle out from the rocks. Some how one photographer showed up to shoot the windsurfers and got the last waves me and Albee caught. Not to mention Albee tried to do it on a 6ʻ9 (not very successfully) but I did it on a 10ʻ2. Glad to see the local boys get no recognition unless they are already a big name. No disrespect to anyone. They got way better waves than we did. Iʻm just bummed out that no one knows who really pioneered the right.
    Link to the shots, http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=180006048703734&set=t.768166682&theater

  • Brazzo 4 Life

    B4L been saying media icing Brazilians for years. Finally, Surfing Mag recognizes. Sean Collins and gang can sucking my balls.

    Best surfers from world coming from Brazil. Danilo showed everyone how to riding Jaws airdrop into pigdog barrellings. The claiming was good too.

    Brazzo 4 Life

  • Al

    Everyone hates on Brazilians because most of them are arrogant as f@#k in the water. They do surf well, though… I just hate watching claims on less than legit waves followed up by aggressive judge stare-downs.

  • malibu Mike

    Danilo s the man

  • allen laird

    Plenty of cool brazzos around, just open your mind, check out meolalayerproductions.com

  • pipefinsinventor

    Kia ora to all.Very cool go the real big wave surfers with no jet ski.Wish it was me there doing that.

  • kohl christensen

    Danilo is the nicest guy you will ever meet. His good energy radiates and rubs off on everyone that has had the chance to hang out with him. The guy will leave you in tears from laughing so hard. This wave at jaws was a life reward for all his hard work and unselfishness. Im sure there will be many more. You go bruddah!

  • clay

    Giant wave paddle surfing has been going on for 40 years. I’m frm Kaneohe, and personally dedicated my life to paddling giant waves at himalaya and outer island outer reefs for 25 years. trevor sifton and paul marino, doerner and bradshaw and other before me bombed huge waves at all oahu outerreefs, even logs where sifton got cleaned up on a 35ft haw. set. maui boys have been paddling peahi since the 70’s! laird sup’d jaws with close to 50 foot barrels, which is way harder on a sup than on a standard gun. god bless the underground brazilians, its your requirement to paddle giant surf before you tow! wen the waves get 70-80, 100 foot faces and windy, you cannot paddle and survive, that’s when I started towing. It’s not a devolution, its a life and death extreme endeavor like heli-skiing deep Alaska. Jus go chargeem, and don’t claim it, because someone has already doneit before you, if you get a picture, stoked, share the joy, but stop the HYPE! There are still hundreds of underground chargers all over hawaii, california, australia, whereever, bombing big waves with no camera’s.. aloha

  • gerr

    To brazzo 4 life: I gotta say man, lame touch making a lewd comment about the deceased Sean Collins… no class. Stereo typing people is ignorant. Good surfers come from everywhere and so do kooks. Surfing is a wonderful thing to do on planet earth because we can do it in so many random places. My advice is to be courteous and you’ll never have problems. Most of the best surfers I’ve met around the world seem to be that way. Oh and anyone who pays attention knows the brazzo’s charge.

  • gerr

    Danilo not only charges but has a good style doing it. good one Danilo. you deserve it. bg