Chuck Patterson on Skiing Jaws

For the past 20 years, Chuck Patterson has developed a reputation for redefining “extreme.” The 6-foot-2, 220-pound action man started skiing as a two-year-old growing up in Europe, and naturally progressed to make free skiing a career. But this and the other winter sports he excelled in – including snowboarding and heli skiing – were never enough to satisfy his desire for pushing the possibilities of what his body and equipment could do. So, he moved to Maui, took up surfing, then big wave surfing, and, while the sport was still a work in progress among Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama’s group, SUP.
In 2010, Patterson caused quite a stir when he put a GoPro camera on a pole and lowered it into the water while standup paddling at San Onofre state beach, capturing footage of two great whites circling beneath him. His mom was none too pleased, but the video went viral, bringing Patterson and SUP to a global audience.
So, it should’ve come as no surprise when a new video released early this month showing Patterson skiing a monster wave at Peahi. Yet, every time we watch the video, we’re astounded. —Phil White

SUP mag: How did you come up with the idea to ski Peahi?
Patterson: The concept started with a good friend who’d ski off the edge of mountain into a base jump. He said that big waves are like liquid mountains, so I should try skiing them. I tried skiing waves 14 years ago but the equipment wasn’t refined and with regular skis, there wasn’t much side cut – I just drifted for a couple of hundred yards. A couple of years ago, two good friends who make custom skis moved to Maui and started playing around with new designs for the water. I tried them out in California, but when you let go of the tow rope [from a jet ski] you need more force to propel you into steep turns. So the next step had to be Jaws. With its size and power, it’s the equivalent of free skiing in Alaska.

SUP mag: In the video you look like you’re in control, but were there any scary moments?
Patterson: I use ski binding and boots, so I couldn’t eject if something went wrong. If I went over the falls, I was going to break a leg, or worse. But more than 25 years spent in the ocean has taught me which waves to choose. The first day [at Peahi] was big and bumpy, but the second, the wind dialed back and it was a lot cleaner so I could do some curves on the face. The ski poles made it feel natural and gave me extra balance – I could feel where I needed to be. I’m going to work with Red Bull on a film project, for which I’ll ski into 40- to 60-foot barrels.

SUP mag: How does your training prepare you for SUP and something like skiing Jaws?
Patterson: I’ve always trained functionally for a lot of sports. That’s one of the reasons standup is so great – it works every muscle and encompasses a lot of skills from other sports. My weights work helps prepare me to charge the surf, and core training is huge for SUP, skiing and every other sport. In a typical day I’ll lift, body surf, swim and paddle for up to an hour and a half with the Naish team. We do a lot of downwinders. I also mix in kiting, stretching and yoga. I’m 43 and I still love to push it.

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