11 February 2010

Women Who Surf Mountains

I've lamented before that women are excluded from the invitees' list of big wave surf contests such as Mavericks, and the recent Quiksilver Eddie as well. It's not as if there are no qualified female surfers. For example, Maya Gabeira, Layne Beachley (retired), Sarah Gerhardt, Jenny Useldinger, Jamilah Star, Savannah Shaughnessy, Keala Kennelly, Kim Hamrock, Mercedes Maidana, and Maria Souza are all big-wave riders. They're not named, but this Surfline video shows "quite a few women were out charging" Waimea on a day with large waves but conditions too poor to hold the Eddie contest. And here' s Jamilah on a Mavericks bomb in '08. Yet the Eddie in December was male only, no grrrls allowed; likewise for the Mavericks contest, which may run this weekend.

Watch Maya at Teahupoo:

Maya began surfing 3-story waves at Waimea, site of the Eddie contest. She was inspired by Jamilah Starr, who in 2004 had to catch one more monster wave and paddle in, ceding the break to the male invitees of the Eddie. Maya has also paddled into 25-footers at Mavericks, and traveled the world to ride at other major big-wave breaks. Are all the male invitees of the Eddie and Mavericks contests as qualified as she to compete on monster waves? Hmm.

This article details Maya's accomplishments but also suggests that she's at the forefront of women breaking into the boys' big wave-riding club. That may be so, as others such as Keala Kennelly haven't been able to line up essential sponsor support. I would posit this has less to do with the womens' skill and potential than with their gender, as the boys' club draws from the boys' pool. Like any profession where sexism is entrenched, it tends to self-perpetuate.

The Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards just added a Girls Performance category. Check out these women who surf mountains. And let's hope that the next year brings some female faces to the lineups of the big wave contests.


  1. Unfortunately the language attached to this type of activity still revolves around the use of the word 'balls'. I think we need to redfine it.

  2. Hmmmph! I think I will have to start a new blog called "Guys who surf small waves also have balls!"