The world of female big wave surfing has gone from strength to strength in the last couple of years.
From the success of Hawaiian surfer Paige Alms' amazing documentary 'The Wave I Ride' at last year's London Surf Film Festival, to women competing for the first time last November in the World Surf League’s big-wave surfing competition, there's never been a better time to be a woman in the big wave scene.
This Autumn, the push for female big wave riders will be taken a step further as the first ever all-women’s contest will be taking place at Waimea Bay, Hawaii. The comp has an impressive invite list of 22, including Paige Alms, Keala Kennely, Bianca Valenti and Felicity Palmateer.
The competition will be dedicated to a powerful female figure in Hawaiian history, Queen Kuhina Nui ka’ahumanu, a regent of the kingdom who redefined the perceived roles of Hawaiian women.
"Defying the Kapu system’s strict separation of men and women, this strong Hawaiian monarch and surfer sat at the table and dined beside the king" explains the competition page. "With all the chiefs and priests to bear witness, she was not struck down by the gods, no lighting came from the sky, and with this one public act set forth a ripple of change."
"Events like the upcoming Women’s Waimea Bay Championship is paving the way for the future generations and creating opportunities for them"
The competition is looking to use this symbol of female empowerment in Hawaii to inspire competitors and sponsors alike to support female big wave surfing. "(We aim) to honour the rich culture of strong women in Hawaiin History, showcase the strength and beauty of female big wave riders" says the competition organisers. "To create positive role models to keep pushing the dreams of the next generation and send a message of caring of your environment."
Women in the big wave surfing scene are still a long way from finding equality with the men in the sport, many people and sponsors are not yet ready to support them, with some competitions arguing that conditions at famous breaks such as Mavericks in California are too dangerous for women.
Only this year, surfing icon Laird Hamilton claimed that world renowned big wave surfer Maya Gaberia should have not been allowed to ride Nazare after her dramatic wipeout, despite her experience in conquering waves topping out at 45 feet and her reputation as one of the best in the sport. "She doesn't have the skill to be in these conditions. She should not be in this kind of surf," he said. "I feel like it's Carlos' responsibility to take care of her and he's just lucky that she didn't drown."
Events like the upcoming Women’s Waimea Bay Championship is paving the way for the future generations and creating opportunities for them. The more chances female riders get to prove themselves on these big breaks, the quicker they'll win the respect of all contests and sponsors and break through this sport's glass ceiling.