The first ever all women’s Waimea Bay big-wave event is coming this October. The waiting period runs between October 1 – November 21 and will feature 22 competitors including Keala Kennelly, Paige Alms, Bianca Valenti, Felicity Palmateer and Savannah Shaughnessy.
After years of applying for permits, contest organisers for the Women’s Waimea Bay Championship (WWBC) have been granted one from the City and County of Honolulu to run a standalone women’s big-wave contest at Waimea Bay.
Waves must reach at least 15-foot Hawaiian for the contest to get the green light. But it might not be the swell that proves problematic to get the event off the ground.
Contest directors Betty Depolito and Wrenna Delgado told Grind TV they were seeking sponsors to help fund the event, racing the clock with the contest due to kick off in four weeks.
“Usually you are given over a year’s notice,” said Delgado. “This year was different. The surf permits were awarded last minute. It’s a challenging situation, but Betty and I are honored to be creating a new event here at Waimea. We are looking for a sponsor who loves this idea as much as we do to come in and save the day.”
The event honours Kuhina Nui Ka’ahumanu, a Hawaiian queen born on Maui in the 18th century. A surfer herself, Queen Ka'ahumanu redefined the perceived roles of Hawaiian women, defying the era’s strict separation of men and women by sitting at the table beside the king. With all the chiefs and priests to bear witness, she was not struck down by the gods, no lightning came from the sky, and with this one public act sent forth a ripple of change. A metaphor behind the girls push to surf Waimea with the men and demonstrate the same strength and grace as Queen Ka'ahumanu.
Women’s big-wave surfing has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. Last season, the WSL sent the girls out at Pe’ahi, which saw Aussies Laura Enever and Felicity Palmateer make history, debuting at Jaws and reaching the final. The event was won by Maui’s Paige Alms, becoming the first female Big-Wave World Champion.
However, WWBC contest director Wrenna Delgado believes the Waimea event needs to stand alone from the men’s events for women’s big-wave surfing to progress. “This needs to be designed by women, for women. We understand each other. We’re not trying to have carnage; every girl that’s going to go out there is going to get a wave, which is going to advance the sport.”