From our November / December 2020 issue of Windsurf Magazine, young gun, Zachary ‘Z’ Schettewi recently earned a string of IWT awards and has joined the Naish International team. ‘Z’ tells us more about his windsurfing and life on Maui.
Words Zachary Schettewi // Photos Fish Bowl Diaries
My name is Zachary, but everyone calls me ‘Z’. I am 16 years old and have been living on Maui’s north shore since I was 9 years old. I am originally from Washington, D.C., but later moved to Aruba and then south Florida before coming to Maui.
I mostly sail at Ho’okipa, but he last few years I have also had the opportunity to windsurf Peahi / “Jaws” as well.
Windsurfing has always been part of my family’s life, starting with my parents and my two older brothers. We always centred our family vacations around watersports and even moved to Aruba for a couple of years to windsurf. Most of our travel included packing loads of gear for the van or the plane, checking forecasts, and having fun on the water.
Windsurfing is a huge part of my life. It lets me express myself on the water, especially on waves. As a sport that you can never fully master, I am constantly learning new things to do and also challenging myself on bigger and bigger waves. When I’m on the water, all I think about is riding the wave or doing a trick or a jump, and my mind and energy is concentrated on the moment. The conditions are never exactly the same, and that makes it challenging and exciting. I have met so many great sailors from around the world, especially on Maui, as they all end up here for part of the year, or live here full-time.
My greatest memory is heading up to Jaws for the first time. It was a feeling that was very exciting, but also quite frightening! The size of the wave and the amount of water being pushed around left me with my heart pounding and lots of adrenaline. Catching my first Jaws wave was definitely my most exciting. The thought and actual experience of riding a monster left me with an incredible feeling of accomplishment. My most recent wipeout also left me with total respect for the waves. Unfortunately, I hit a chop on a bottom turn and fell, only to be swept up to the lip and slammed back down. I had to pull my C02 cartridge on my inflatable vest and was picked up by a rescue sled. Looking back, in a strange way, I’m glad it happened as now I know what to expect. I am proud to be the youngest person to windsurf Jaws and was fortunate to also win the IWT biggest wave ridden (44 feet) in the youth and men’s categories in 2019. I also have the proud distinction of winning the best wipeout too!
The other fun things to do on the water windsurfing are tricks and jumps – forward loops, push loops, backs loops, goiters, and stalled forwards. Sailors new to the sport ask me how to learn and I found it extremely helpful to watch other sailors and also watch videos. The most important thing for me was just “going for it.”
Windsurfing, as we all know, takes time and dedication. I always tell people new to the sport to just get on the water regardless of conditions and have fun!!
Over the years I have been fortunate to have so many inspirational water athletes that have mentored me and been part of my life and also have taken an active interest in my endeavours. Kevin Pritchard has become a close friend and he took me to Jaws for the first time where I sailed and towed in (with Kevin on our ski). Jason Polakow has always been a mentor, and we often tow surf and tow foil in outer Sprecks. Also, I am grateful for my mentors and friends – Marcilio Browne, Robby Swift, Ricardo Campello, and of course my older brothers (Max and Jake) who have always been a source of inspiration.
As a relatively new Naish team rider, I have been fortunate to spend time on the water with Robby Naish, not only windsurfing, but also downwind paddle foiling and wing foiling. The team at Naish including Michi Schweiger and Scott Trudon have been extremely supportive and friendly in all my interests on the water. The Naish organization has provided me with incredible gear for all watersports. On the windsurf side, given my height (5’10”) and weight (140 pounds), I ride a 72 litre custom Naish wave board and usually use a 3.7 to 4.5 Force 4 Naish wave sail.
Competition for me is a great way to have fun and show my skills in a timed event with judges. It puts me under pressure to perform and I do like the pressure. It also makes me have to think quickly and make decisions under that timed pressure. The more I compete and sail at different competition locations, the more comfortable I get with it all. It increases the excitement, and of course making it to the podium makes it that much more rewarding. It’s also fun to win and is a driving force for me, given my competitive personality.
Windsurfing is always full of never-ending challenges. I want to ride bigger waves around the world and perform more jumps and tricks at the highest level I can. To do that, I get on the water as much as possible in all sorts of conditions and travel to different places around the world. Fortunately, I have been able to travel to some epic locations including Baja, California, Mexico, the Oregon coast, Hood River, North Carolina (Hatteras), Tahiti, Florida, the Canary Islands, and other spots as well. I would like to continue to explore. Fortunately, living on Maui I get to be on the water quite a bit, but the world offers so many incredible places to sail.
Life for me has also been a balance of on the water time and school work. I’m in 11th grade and a full-time student, but still spend plenty of time on the water after school (and sometimes before school). Weekends are the best, as I can spend most of the day doing different things based on the conditions. Life on the water has taught me so many things you cannot learn in a classroom, and I feel very fortunate, as I know it will help me in my life at any age! I wake up every morning feeling blessed to live here.
Living on Maui is a dream for a water and wind sport addict. There are many different conditions year-round to get on the water and have an epic time. Summer conditions offer lots of wind almost every day, but the waves are small. It is great for slalom sailing, flat water kiting – especially with foils, and perfect for the new sport of wing foiling. The south and west shores have good conditions for surfing, usually longboarding. Winter season, which starts in late October and goes through to April, comes with lighter winds and tons of big waves. Ho’okipa windsurfing and tow surfing the outer reefs is the main activity. North and northwest swells come with waves ranging in size from 5 feet to double mast high. The last few years have been great at Jaws for windsurfing and tow surfing with waves as big as 50 feet!!
Even though Covid-19 has been very unfortunate as far as Maui and the world goes, it has limited the number of visitors on the island and allowed the people that live here to have uncrowded conditions on the water. During swell season on a good day at Ho’okipa there are usually 50 to 60 sailors, and now it is about 30. For us locals, the conditions are uncrowded and we ride more waves, but I hope the world opens again soon and everyone who loves watersports can experience Maui and all it has to offer.
Growing up on Maui has allowed me to take advantage of incredible opportunities on and off the water. Most days are windy, with an average of five to fifteen-foot waves. On an average day after school I drive down an unpaved road from Makawao to Ho’okipa and windsurf until sunset with friends who include some of the best athletes in the world. Although my favourite sports involve watersports and ideal conditions, there is always something to do on Maui.
With so many varying microclimates, terrains and conditions, living on Maui presents so many other opportunities. Where I live in Sprecks (the windward side of the island), we have constant trade winds with little rain. It can be sunny without a visible cloud in the sky at home, and I can drive just 5 miles toward Haiku and it will be pouring rain. Sometimes it will rain every day in Haiku. Living in Maui with so many diverse climates, mountains, and the ocean, I am always staying busy. When there is no wind or waves, I often go out spearfishing in the morning from my house on the north shore, and hopefully bring home some fish for lunch. In the afternoon, I like to go to Makawao Forest (a forest located just under 3000 feet elevation on the Haleakala volcano) and go mountain biking with my good friend Kevin Prichard and my brothers Max and Jake. When night comes along, the activities still do not stop, I am able to go night diving from my house or at Lanes to catch lobster for dinner. On days with no wind, I also go surfing or tow surfing, depending on the size of the waves. Normally when I go out surfing, I go to Ho’okipa or take a drive down to Honolua Bay, which is one of the best point breaks in the world. When surfing, I sometimes go from my house to the outer reefs such as outer Sprecks, which can be ten to thirty feet.
When the conditions are ideal, my brothers, friends and I head to Pe’ahi / Jaws. We usually launch from my house with our jet ski and rescue sled and it takes about 30 minutes to get to Jaws. Other days when I take a break from windsurfing and surfing, I go to waterfalls or go cliff jumping at various places on the island.
Another great part of living on Maui includes meeting all the people who come to visit from all over the world. Even though it can get crowded at spots like Ho’okipa, it makes it interesting to see everyone’s style and learn from people who windsurf in other conditions. When people come from Europe, it provides an opportunity for me to show them the unique places Maui has to offer and show them what I do when I am not windsurfing.
Since March, Covid-19 has had a significant impact on tourism and basically shut down the island. Surfing these days is an only local lineup. Although Covid-19 has been devastating on so many levels for so many, I do feel fortunate to have been “stuck” with my family and friends on this island. During these past few months, I have been able to progress as a windsurfer, surfer, foiler, winger and kiter. I have been able to catch more waves and focus on my own performance. With winter approaching, I look forward to taking opportunities at places such as Pe’ahi with less competition to catch waves. I look on this year, without a crowd of people fighting for a wave, as an opportunity to develop and get more comfortable in bigger waves and learn from the locals who have been surfing for decades. Even though I have enjoyed Maui without crowds, we are all ready for the world returning to normal. Our economy here depends on tourism and there have been so many local businesses closing, people out of work, and people suffering, we are all ready to welcome back visitors. People visiting Maui from so many diverse places and cultures enriches everyone who lives here. It shows us what other cultures are like, and it allows us to share the island with others. I miss my friends from Gran Canaria who challenge and push me to jump higher and I miss my family and friends on the mainland. Although I recognize how fortunate living on Maui for me has been, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, I look forward to life returning to normal for us all.