Pe’ahi, Maui – Billy Kemper has been on a roll this year in Hawaii and he solidified his position as one of the most dangerous all-round surfers in the mix with a resounding win at Pe’ahi for the 2019 cbdMD Jaws Big Wave Championships.

This brings his wins at the premier big wave spot to four, having won in 2015, 2016 and 2018. Kemper stole the show by consistently picking up the biggest bombs on a day when there were 50-foot faces, and riding them to the channel, getting a few giant barrels along the way as only he can.

Let’s not forget that Kemper won the Pipe Invitational just a few days ago and gained entry into the Pipe Masters, and after a solid performance, was eventually eliminated from Pipe in the round of 32 by fellow Hawaiian Seth Moniz.

Nathan Florence was an early-round stand-out. PHOTO: © WSL / Miers.

The Maui day started off a little bit sluggish, with inconsistent 35 foot Jaws wobbling through. Not too many sets and a few disappointing results, with Grant Baker eliminated from the first heat after not getting any of the high-scoring set waves, and Jamie Mitchell, Mark Healey, Albee Layer, and Greg Long to name a few all failing to progress beyond their first-round heats along with Baker.

Over in the ladies division there was some incredible charging from the get-go, with Felicity Palmateer the standout of the first round. The girls did well out there, having a go whenever the sets arrived, and further elevating the sport of women’s big wave surfing. This is the only WSL Women’s big wave event of the year, so they needed to go hard to impress all.

Paige Alms plummeting towards victory in the women's division, at Jaws. PHOTO: © WSL / Miers 

In the final Palmateer continued charging, but was eventually beaten by the elegant Paige Alms, with Annie Rieckert in third. Maui surfer Rieckert is only 18-years old and it was quite a fearsome debut for the young surfer.

“I’m honored to be out here,” said the bubbly Rieckert. “I didn’t know what to expect and of course my goal was to make it to the Final and just give it my all as well as share the water with these inspirational people like Paige (Alms) who’ve I’ve always looked up to.”

By the time the men’s final lumbered into place, it was absolutely thundering out there. Kemper picked up the first wave of the final, and in his bright yellow vest he charged a wave that was an absolute bomb. He managed the drop and threaded the barrel for an opening ride of 7.83

Russell Bierke on a bomb in the earlier rounds. PHOTO: © WSL / Miers 

Soon afterward, one of the sets of the day arrived, and it was Lucas Chumbo who was trying to get underneath it. Chumbo attempted one of his trade-mark back-hand wheelies, that he pulls off with regularity, but in this case, his board flipped and he flew from the skies, copping one of the heaviest wipe-outs of the day. Rattled, he didn't pick up another wave during the final.

Ian Walsh came on strong as well, and showed his experience out there amongst the ocean mountains. Walsh picked up a 6.03 and followed it up with a 7.00, he was right in the game and chasing the leader. Walsh has a pretty unique relationship with Jaws, which was made evident back in 2017, when he picked up a momentous 10-point ride.

“I think toward the end I start talking to Jaws and asking for a big, black barrel,” said Walsh of his final. “Some of them weren’t approachable and it’s more of the wave catching you than you catching the wave.” 

Kemper however, picked up a huge set for his second wave, and pulled into another cathedral of a barrel. He didn't emerge, but it was deemed high risk and courageous enough to earn him a 5.60. It was enough to keep Kemper in the lead, and he took it to the last minute and claimed his fourth victory at the fabled venue.

Billy Kemper, the reigning contest-king at Jaws. PHOTO: © WSL / Miers 

As mentioned, Kemper has been surfing at the elite level of the WSL in the Pipe Masters, as well as dominating in the Big Wave arena.

“It felt like such a tough dogfight leading all the way to the Final,” said Kemper. “Every morning I wake up early and I work hard and every sacrifice, time I’ve taken away from my wife and kids, it’s all for this right here. This is my pride and joy. I leave blood, sweat, and tears out at Jaws. This is my backyard and I’m very territorial. I told myself when I went out there in this Final there’s no way I was coming home with second place.”

 

--cbdMD Jaws Big Wave Championships Women’s Final Results:
1 – Paige Alms (HAW) 12.34
2 – Felicity Palmateer (AUS) 5.43
3 – Annie Reichart (HAW) 9.13
4 – Keala Kennelly (HAW) 8.17
5 – Emily Erikson (HAW) 1.40
6 – Michaela Fregonese (BRA) 0.00

cbdMD Jaws Big Wave Championships Men’s Final Results:
1 – Billy Kemper (HAW) 21.26
2 – Ian Walsh (HAW) 20.03
3 – Nathan Florence (HAW) 16.76
4 – Kai Lenny (HAW) 16.26
5 – Makuakai Rothman (HAW) 9.37
6 – Lucas Chianca (BRA) 1.40