What would you do if your favorite surfer kidnapped you and took you to surf Jaws? In February, Seth Moniz found out.

SURPRISES CAN GO EITHER WAY, CAN’T THEY? There’s the Birthday Party Surprise where you end the night swinging from the chandelier, or the Birthday Party Surprise with a roomful of acquaintances when all you wanted was to Netflix and chill. There’s the Pregnancy Surprise where I’m gonna be a father! Or the Pregnancy Surprise where [eyes downcast] I’m gonna be a...father? It’s a dicey thing, the surprise. So when Shane Dorian walked into the Billabong house with a brand-new 9’6” to give Seth Moniz the You’re Going to Jaws Surprise, it coulda been bad. We held our breath as he gripped his Tokoro gun, feeling the weight of the board in his arms.

“Wow,” Seth finally said. “That’s a scary surprise.”

Scary Surprise. Hmm. Not sure if that’s good or bad. Call it a draw? It’s a moot point. The Eddie is canceled (bad surprise), the tickets are bought and hero-pressure is worse than peer pressure, so it’s happening!

If you think this sounds cruel — putting an 18-year-old in a position where he can’t say no to a life-or-death situation — you aren’t alone. I worried about it. Shane worried about it. Tammy Moniz, Seth’s mom, definitely worried. “I’m very nervous,” she said before Shane arrived. “This is not a fun project for me. I don’t know how he’s going to respond. Like, he’s sleeping right now. Then he’s going to wake up and in a half -hour he’s going to go to Jaws with Shane Dorian? How do you handle that?”

If you’re Seth, it turns out, you handle it with quiet composure and only sporadic bouts of “WTF is happening?” “I’m going to Jaws right now,” he says moments after the surprise. “I’m pretty nervous. Pretty baffled, but psyched. How is this — first time going to Jaws and it’s like, ‘You have to go.'"

And literally, you have to go. You’re late. Flight leaves in two hours and there’s still leftover traffic from the Eddie. No time to think. Just pack your boards. They won’t fit. Duct tape the old one to the top of the board bag? Nice. Hop in the car and race toward Town. Traffic. Drive on the shoulder, dad! Atta boy. Thirty minutes till departure. Park. Check in. Race

through security. Huff. Puff. You made it. Shane’s just arrived, too. He’s with his 9-year-old son, Jackson, and he’s pretty sure he has time for a coffee.

“THIS IS JAWS!” Jackson narrates our arrival as we bounce down the narrow, red dirt road to Peahi. “We’re finally here, for the first time ever. Oh my god, I’m going to be scared to death! Ohhhhhhh-my-God. This is gonna be scary!” He speaks in first person but his sing-songy tone suggests his words are aimed at Seth. Like, You should be really scared; I’ll be just fine on the beach.

Shane and Seth exit the car and reach the cliff’s edge just as a mutant A-frame unloads on the reef. Barefoot Jackson climbs a tree for a better view. Shane glances at Seth from the corner of his eye.

“How you feeling?” he asks.

“I’m pretty nervous, but psyched at the same time,” Seth says. It’s probably the fifth time today he’s voiced his mixed emotions. “It’s a lot to take in. I always watch it online but now it’s real. What do you think, it’s 20 feet or so? It’s hard to tell from up here.”

“It’s 20 feet for sure,” Shane confirms. “It looks good though. I’ll be interested to hear what you say after. Your first time always makes a big impact on you. It did for me.”

Like most firsts, things move fast from here. Clothes off. Wetsuits, flotation vests, sunscreen, wax and leashes all on. Fins, however, stay off. Shane and Seth each stuff four fins in their suits and descend the cliff with 10-foot skimboards. A @kookoftheday post waiting to happen. But as Shane explains, the entrance to Jaws is shallow and rocky, and a busted fin box is no way to start a harrowing session. After a few minutes catching up with the Maui crew at the base of the cliff, Shane and Seth wait for their window and scramble down the slippery, basketball-sized boulders and into the sea, maneuvering without rudders through a couple of waves before making it to deep water. They stroke out to sea side by side, moments away from learning whether this whole trip will be a pleasant surprise, or an ugly one.

IT’S BEEN ALMOST TWO HOURS AND SETH HASN’T CAUGHT A WAVE. Shane, however, just got what could easily be the ride of the year. He took off deep from the North Peak on what looked like a closeout, pulled in, held his line through a

couple of sections and emerged to an uproarious channel. He paddles by on his way back to the lineup. “I think that was the best thing I’ve ever seen,” Shane says of the view. He takes a deep breath and exhales, absorbing the moment. “Has Seth got one yet?”

No. And I’m nervous. While we told Seth there was no pressure to catch a wave, that was a lie. For this mission to be successful, he needs to catch at least one.

Waiting. Waiting. There’s only a couple of waves in each set. When they do come, it’s sensory overload. They look cartoonish — illogically large and perfect. The water feels viscous. The sound of cracking lips and revving Jet Skis swirls in the wind that howls in the wake of every passing wave. It’s inconsistent, but the swell is building. A set approaches.

“Go Seth! Gooo!” I hear from numerous voices in the lineup. Seth whips his new 9’6” — sprayed red and yellow as homage to his father’s signature airbrush —toward land and scratches and kicks with every ounce of adrenaline-fueled strength. The wave catches up and lifts him into the lip. He stands, but he’s above the ledge and gets hung at the top for a split second too long. As he ramps into the wave his nose picks into the water, nearly stopping him. He’s knocked off balance. Onto his front foot. F--k. He’s going down and we brought him here and now he’s going to hate us. But wait. He’s not giving up. His back foot reconnects with the board. He finds his composure. Makes the drop. Makes the wave. Makes the project complete.

“I almost fell!” He tells me in the channel. “Shane said I needed to be under the ledge and I was on top of it.” But he’s smiling. Relieved to have the monkey off his back. Relieved. But also unsatisfied. When we’re done talking, he paddles back to the lineup like there’s three minutes left in the heat and he just needs a small backup. But instead of a small backup, he gets a big one. Takes off under the ledge, stands far on his board and sets his rail — just like Shane advised him — and pulls in. He rides too high and catches a rail on the exit, and in the process checks a few firsts off his list. First Jaws barrel. First Jaws beating. First time inflating his safety vest. Seven hours ago he was getting out of bed like it was any other day.

The rest of the session is a success. Seth gets a few more waves. Shane gets another barrel. Tammy and Tony are relieved that their little boy survived, and isn’t mad at them. The next morning goes even better, with Seth nabbing almost a dozen waves, drawing sharp lines on his new 9’6”. He looks comfortable. The wind chases everyone out of the water by noon, and as kiteboarders weave through the lineup, Shane and Seth ascend the cliff with smiles that scream success. I talk with them as they change out of their suits.

“Yesterday I was super nervous,” Seth says. “Just sitting in the channel like, ‘What am I getting myself into?’ This is the real deal.’ But today I came up and watched the waves and was all psyched like, ‘Let’s get out there already.’ I definitely felt more comfortable. Almost too comfortable. I paddled out thinking it was going to be a little smaller but there were still sets and a few guys got cleaned up. So I just told myself to calm down, take it easy, and I ended up getting some really fun ones.”

I ask Shane if he feels better about the surprise he sprung on Seth. He thinks for a moment. “You know,” he says. “Sometimes you just need that nudge. When I was a kid I had Brock Little take me under his wing and it was really trial by fire, like, ‘You’re on it, we’re going.’ He put a lot of pressure on me and because of that, I had early access to being scared and getting good in big waves. So Seth might have been thinking about Jaws, but without a good nudge, he could have easily waited until he was 25 to surf here. But he’s 18, and he just surfed Jaws on an epic swell and killed it. I’d be really surprised if he didn’t want to come back.” He turns to Seth: “You wanna do it again?”

“For sure,” he says.

Surprise, surprise.

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