Just over a week ago, Cloudbreak erupted. A session that will go down in history as one of the best that Fiji's seen in the better part of half a decade. The stories and protagonists of that colossal swell were well documented, but one that slipped under the radar was big wave charger Bianca Valenti, or, the only female in the water for that session – and was paddling into these monsters.
Bianca's penchant for chunkier waves are well known. Along with Paige Alms, Keala Kennelly and Andrea Moller, Valenti's helped pave the way for pushing progression in larger waves, and can usually be found hucking into XXL Mavs.
After images emerged of Bianca's XXL keg at Cloudbreak taken by lensman Tom Servais, we touched base with 'Big Wave Bianca' to talk through exactly what went down, being the only female in the lineup and how intimidating that wave truly was.
Firstly, how was that wave? Were you waiting long for one to come along?
Dreamy, deep blue, glassy conditions unquestionably made this wave the most beautiful ride of my life. I strategically positioned myself amongst the crowd and then the wave presented itself.
Realising I was in the perfect spot,I instinctively whipped my board around, began sprint paddling, and with my heart jumping out of my chest let out a very loud and cheerful "wooooooo", just to let the 10 guys who also saw the wave's potential know that I was committed.
As I dropped, I could feel the powerful draw of the entire ocean rushing under my board. Deep on the open face, I could see it was going to grow and get bigger and for a moment I took a deep breath and eyeballed the line I wanted to draw
As I dropped, I could feel the powerful draw of the entire ocean rushing under my board. Deep on the open face, I could see it was going to grow and get bigger and for a moment I took a deep breath and eyeballed the line I wanted to draw. As I came off the bottom I reset my direction, grabbed my rail, and committed. At that point, everything went from lighting fast to the slowest moving, magically majestic, round blue bliss barrel of my life and I felt a deep sense of joy, euphoria and meaning in life.
Then I noticed the roundness changing into an oval shape as the bottom half of the wave sucked out, tail high on the face I knew I was deep and I was hoping the wave would spit and give me the momentum i needed to exit. I stayed committed until the very last second, believing I had it, when, suddenly I got sucked back into the vortex and as I went down I had my eyes open and I thought 'wow this is the most beautiful blue water and my pink board is so pretty under this water'.
I relaxed and stayed calm as I was churned and brutalised like a rag doll. When I finally surfaced the amazing Kai Borg grabbed me on the jet ski and I looked at him and said, "I almost made it didn't I" and he said, "No, you had no chance, the bottom sucked out and nobody could've made that one.”
So that was reassuring then he told me it was the best backside tube he's ever seen a woman catch and that was a very validating, highly appreciated moment of encouragement especially coming from such a legend.
Wow, sounds life affirming! How was the lineup?
The line up was interesting for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it was more or less an equal playground in terms of home court advantage. Due to the uniqueness and rarity of this kind of swell and also the fact that none of the big wave chargers out were Fijians.
Secondly, crazy waves were coming all over the place. It's such a huge area and there are a lot of places you can position yourself for an amazing one which is awesome to spread out the crowd.
And if you wanted to catch a mega bomb you had to go to the top of the point which is also where you risked getting cleaned up by a rogue giant wave like the ones Ramon and Makua caught so that made for an exciting game of cat and mouse for everyone in the water...including the boats. [laughs].
Were you paddling or towing?
Paddling because I have never had the opportunity to tow, but i want to. It looks fun, especially after being part of this swell and seeing how much weight is given to tow surfing in the XXL big wave women's performance award, which I would love to win one day.
Is being the only woman out there in such a swell intimidating?
Being out in such a swell is intimidating. Period. For everyone. The difference in being the only woman is that there are many micro moments where I am reminded that I am different from the 70 other surfers who came for the swell.
The guys are all super awesome and it also would be super awesome to have more female representation during these events because girls just wanna have fun and big beautiful bliss barrels are so fun....
Have you surfed Cloudbreak before and what made you want to pull the trigger on this one?
Yes! I have surfed Cloudbreak a few times but never like this, and it is one of my favourite places and most awesome waves in the world. It's so challenging magical and mysterious. It is a wave that demands absolute dedication and holds no space for hesitation. It is the epitome of raw open ocean power. Getting a good one at Cloudbreak on any day is a reason to celebrate. It is no cakewalk.
Stoked with the result?
Yes definitely. Stoked, inspired and studying so that next time, I'll hopefully get one like Laurie Towner and Ramon. I hope all the badass big wave ladies will be there to represent and we all play bigger.