Billy Kemper wins the Pe'ahi Challenge as Jaws shows her teeth.
All photos WSL/Cestari
What an incredible event. I honestly don’t even know where to start with today. Big wave world tour events have been marred by inconsistent, funky, conditions. Sure, it gets big – huge even, but it’s rare to see the best big wave surfers showcase their full repertoire in waves of serious consequences. Well today in Maui they did more than that. They absolutely smashed it.
Before the event had even kicked off Shane Dorian had paddled into an absolute screamer. Riding the crazy train from way outside the peak, negotiating the chattering teeth of Jaws as he drove his black and red spear through her guts.
Australian Mark Mathews followed suite, swinging on a bomb in the first heat of the morning. The result - getting crushed by an avalanche and separating his shoulder in the process. Then Greg Long solidified his rep as one of the best big wave surfers on the planet scooping into a coffin maker and packing the one of the biggest closeouts of his life.
“It was probably one of, if not the best waves of my life even though I didn’t make it,” Long said. “It’s been a dream of mine to catch one of these barrels and to see that vision. It’s the perfect direction to do it and get the waves from way out the back. Paddling in it looks impossible to make it all the way to the channel but then you get around that first section coming from behind and you’re set. I was lucky in that heat with the wind settling down a bit and a couple multiple wave sets to clean it up and then that wave came through - just was out the back and got the greenlight to catch it.”
However, was all about the Maui boys: Albee Layer, Ian Walsh and Billy Kemper. All were on fire today. Layer with his fearless approach on the West Bowl attacked and attacked like a hungry pit bull, exiting barrels with a two fingered salute and a king kong war cry. Walsh had one of the heaviest wipeouts of the day, but continued to charge through the rounds and into the final.
But let's not forget big wave Bill who showed true grit and superior wave selection plucking off moving mountains and riding them with style and grace.
“This is a dream come true,” Kemper said. “We’ve been talking about this moment for years and to have a paddle event in my backyard at, to me, one of the most premier, outstanding waves in the world, means everything to me. I just want to dedicate to this my brother. To paddle Pe’ahi has been a dream of mine for a very long time and to be out there with some of my favorite surfers and best friend - I’m just speechless.”
With the treacherous swell in the water, each of the surfers and WSL water-safety staff kept a close watch on all involved in the event, with several dramatic wipeouts recorded on the live broadcast.
“We passed the word talking out there and I told the boys we can always surf another big day at Jaws but we can never replace each other,” Kemper said. “The main thing is at the end of the day to come back our families. I’m there for everyone and they’re all there for me.
It’s a feeling you can’t reproduce or explain it to people. Just a feeling of breaking through a fear factor where it’s all adrenaline. I’m over the moon - I’m just happy to be sitting here doing this interview.”
The event will also be remembered for being one of the slickest webcast ever produced by the WSL. The waves fired, the action was non-stop and the surfing went to the next level. Today we might have witnessed one of the most groundbreaking days in big wave surfing.
PE’AHI CHALLENGE FINAL RESULTS:
1 – Billy Kemper (HAW) 22.77
2 – Albee Layer (HAW) 19.33
3 – Greg Long (USA) 16.26
4 – Ian Walsh (HAW) 1.00
5 – Gabriel Villaran (PER) 0.80
6 – Shane Dorian (HAW) 0.00
PE’AHI CHALLENGE SEMIFINAL RESULTS:
SF 1: Greg Long (USA) 21.53, Billy Kemper (HAW) 16.66, Gabriel Villaran (PER) 12.03, Trevor Carlson (HAW) 11.04, Shaun Walsh (HAW) 8.66, Carlos Burle (BRA) 3.34
SF 2: Albee Layer (HAW) 23.60, Ian Walsh (HAW) 19.79, Shane Dorian (HAW) 17.67, Mark Healey (HAW) 14.09, Nic Lamb (USA) 10.07, Kai Lenny (HAW) 9.56
PE’AHI CHALLENGE ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Billy Kemper (HAW) 21.07, Gabriel Villaran (PER) 18.17, Carlos Burle (BRA) 17.27, Nic Vaughan (USA) 16.70, David Wassel (HAW) 8.33, Nathan Fletcher (USA) 6.00
Heat 2: Greg Long (USA) 24.50, Shaun Walsh (HAW) 23.83, Trevor Carlson (HAW) 14.74, Aaron Gold (HAW) 6.00, Makuakai
Heat 3: Albee Layer (HAW) 11.93, Nic Lamb (USA) 10.34, Mark Healey (HAW) 9.63, Yuri Soledade (HAW) 9.27, Tyler Larronde (HAW) 7.61, Grant Baker (ZAF) 5.34
Heat 4: Ian Walsch (HAW) 21.67, Kai Lenny (HAW) 19.21, Shane Dorian (HAW) 18.17, Natxo Gonzalez (EUK) 4.01, Koa Rothman (HAW) 1.20, Anthony Tashnick (USA) 0.20
2015 WSL BIG WAVE TOUR TOP 5 (after two events)1. Billy Kemper (HAW) 15,625
2. Makuakai Rothman (HAW) 13,156
3. Albee Layer (HAW) 13,020
4. Greg Long (USA) 10,850
5. Nic Lamb (USA) 10,565
Watch: Greg Long's massive barrel
Shaun Walsh's committed drop
Koa Rothman's face-plant
Billy Kemper's barrel in the final