There’s been a lot of history made recently in the field of women’s professional big wave surfing. In April 2016 Keala Kennelly won the Pure Scot Barrel Award for riding a massive pit at maxing Teahupoo. In November 2016 the first ever women’s WSL Big Wave Tour competition was held at Pe’ahi with Paige Alms claiming victory. And finally, although the Titans of Mavericks event was called off due to financial problems, a women’s heat was set to run for the first time. Yet, even with these progressive steps taking place, there’s plenty more watery chandaliers left to shatter – not the least of which being exclusion from competition at Waimea Bay.
While Waimea surf competitions have lacked female representation up to this point, they have traditionally been steeped in mythology and prestige. The mainstay contest run there, The Quiksilver In Memory Of Eddie Aikau, was named after and dedicated to a North Shore legend – a figure who was not only a fearless big wave charger but someone who sacrificed his own life in an attempt to save others. A list of winners of the Eddie reads like a surfing hall-of-fame roster, including the likes of John John Florence (2016), Greg Long (2009), Bruce Irons (2004), Kelly Slater (2002), Ross Clarke-Jones (2001), Noah Johnson (1999), Keone Downing (1990), Clyde Aikau (1986) and Denton Miyamura (1985).
It’s only fitting then that the first ever women’s competition to be held at Waimea also invokes historical lore and significance. The event is dedicated to Queen Ka’ahumanu, a leader and surfer known for elevating the roles women played in Hawaiian society. Instead of remaining subservient to unbalanced social guidelines that barred women from eating with men, Queen Ka’ahumanu took a risk and defied etiquette.
Thanks to a similar effort in a modern context the 2017 Women’s Waimea Bay Championship was developed. The creation of this event boldly breaks a pattern at Waimea and opens the playing field to women who are pushing the boundaries of professional big wave surfing. What remains to be seen is how well they compete against each other in challenging conditions. Will Paige Alms take out another big wave title? Which of the twenty-three female invitees will step up and take their place in history at one of surfing’s most storied locations?
Those invited to compete include:
Paige Alms, Keala Kennelly, Bianca Valenti, Emily Erickson, Makani Adric, Easkey Britton, Justine Dupont, Michaela Fregonese, Sarah Gerhardt, Brittany Gomulka, Raquel Heckert, Blake Lefkoe, Andrea Moller, Silvia Nabuco, Remi Nealon, Nicole Pacelli, Felicity Palmateer, Polly Rally, Momo Takuma, Tammy Lee Smith, Savannah Shaughnessy, Jamilah Star, and Carly Wilson.
2017 Women’s Waimea Bay Championship has a waiting period that runs from October 1st through November 21.
Events posted on The Good Brine are subject to change. Please check directly with organizations and venues to confirm times and locations.
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featured photo of Emily Erickson by Terry Houston