A WSL big wave event specifically for the women will roll out at either Todos Santos or Jaws this season and the news has been welcomed with open arms by some of the biggest names in women's surfing.
Keala Kennelly, who recently made history at the Big Wave awards becoming the first woman to win the open gender barrel award; Paige Alms, the first woman to get barrelled at Jaws and Andrea Moller, who scooped the women's Overall Performance Awards at the Big Wave awards - have all made a career out of seeking mountainous waves to ride.
Here, they talk about how the upcoming women's comp could benefit the entire surf industry, Todos or Peahi and more after the announcement was made that there will be a women's event this year.
How do you feel about the announcement of the first women's big wave event?
Keala Kennelly: I was really happy to hear that, it has been a long time coming. I'm hoping this will lead to brands actually wanting to put up the money to sponsor athletes like myself, Paige Alms, Andrea Moller, Bianca Valenti and all the other deserving female big wave surfers that aren't able to make a living even though they are the best in the world at their sport.
Paige Alms: I'm beyond happy to hear that we will finally have an official women's event! I am even more excited to surf with an empty lineup and to have some bonus cash is the cherry on top!
Andrea Moller: I’m super stoked about the news that women will have a chance to compete in big wave surfing. It’s like new doors are opening. Before, women would surf and charge, but there was not much to produce after that, unless they were connected with photographers, videographers and some media to get promoted. It has been extremely hard to have the support to dedicate to surfing when the girls have had little recognition about what they are achieving.
What does it mean for women's big wave surfing? And what do you think women's big wave surfing needs to progress?
AM: I truly believe that having a competition for women will generate a cascade of events that will benefit the entire surf industry. First, more women will show up. Surfer girls that we haven't heard about but who are definitely charging out there, will start entering these competitions and blow our minds.
The next step is to charge even more. The publicity of the event and the promotion of women competing in big waves will be more available to the public, who will be stoked to watch girls dropping into massive waves.
Sponsors will then have solid material to play with and more motivation to invest in the athletes and surf events. Surfers that haven’t been able to invest in traveling to chase big waves will hopefully have the support from new sponsors. The next step is to charge even more. I’m curious and excited to see the next level develop right in front of our eyes.
KK: We need sponsors. We need to be able to make a living so that we can focus on surfing and training, not how we are going to make a dollar to pay the rent.
PA: It means that we are finally getting some recognition from the surf industry for what we have been doing for years.
Which venue are you hoping for, Todos Santos or Peahi?
AM: Well, I can’t say much about Todos, since I haven’t surfed it yet. But I know Peahi well and it’s an incredible wave. I think it all depends on the majority of the women that get invited to the contest.
I’m stoked the women will get together and start a new era for big wave surfing.Maybe to start the process we could choose the one spot that is more convenient to the organisers, surfers and weather man. If Todos has an easier way to start, then let’s go there. If Peahi or Waimea are more consistent and easier to do safety and produce images, then bring it to Hawaii. Either way, I’m stoked the women will get together and start a new era for big wave surfing.
KK: I'm way more familiar with Peahi and I much prefer boardshorts over wetsuits so... Peahi would be my preference.
PA: Obviously I would love to have home court advantage at Jaws and see the girls charge the biggest best wave in the world with only a handful of women in the lineup. But Todos is also a great option and I believe it would be a first time for any of the ladies. I've been wanting to get down there for a while.
Whichever event venue is chosen for the competition, we're stoked the women are finally getting the recognition within the industry that they deserve. But an official WSL women's big wave event is definitely something that should have happened a long, long time ago. Here's hoping it's the start of a new era for women's big wave surfing.