A new era of big wave surfing has begun according to two of the first women to conquer Hawaii’s famed and feared Jaws surf break. Australia’s Felicity Palmateer and Laura Enever, along with Billabong team rider Justine Dupont made history last week as the first ever women to compete in a WSL Big Wave World Tour event. The trio faced one of the most fearsome breaks in the world at the Pe’ahi Challenge held at Jaws, Hawaii with waves peaking at over 40 feet at times.
Felicity, who finished third in the event, said the door was now open for women to compete in what has previously been a male dominated event. “Growing up in Margaret River, Western Australia I’m used to the power of the Indian Ocean and surfing bigger waves,” she said. “Surfing big waves is a passion of mine and to surf Jaws was on the top of my ‘big wave list.’ The whole event is dependent on the surf forecast. If it’s big enough and if the conditions are good enough – every competitor had 72 hours to get to Jaws. As you can imagine, prepping, packing, booking tickets and arriving in 72 hours is a mission in itself! Once we arrived, everything became real quickly. The boat ride out, then sitting in the channel waiting to paddle out – it was amazing and scary. I was really nervous. And yet, once I was out there I knew I had to go. This was the moment I’d been training and waiting for.” Felicity said.
Felicity first established herself as a big wave charger when in June 2015 she became the first female to surf Western Australia’s Cow Bombie. She finished the WSL event in 3rd place behind Justine Dupont who finished 2nd and Laura Enever who tied for 4th.
For Laura, the transition from World Tour performance surfing to Big Wave competition had to come quickly. “I received the invite while I was competing in Portugal, and initially I didn’t know if I was going to be ready for what I would be faced with. As soon as I got home I immediately started training to get prepared.”
Because of the short amount of time to get prepared, Laura called in all the support she could, even paddling out on a borrowed surfboard. “It was my first time to Jaws, I was on borrowed equipment so with only an hour to watch in the channel before my heat, my focus was on developing a strategy and working out where to position myself in the line-up.” said Laura.
Despite dealing with conditions that were bigger and windier than expected, both athletes are preparing for their next attempt. “To be able to surf Jaws with only I’ve other girls was a pretty special moment. To make the final, and then accomplish 3rd place overall was a pretty surreal feeling. I’ll remember this moment for the rest of my life. Bring on next year!” said Felicity.
“No matter what the result it was such an incredible experience and I’m so glad I gave it a dig. I learnt so much and I’m already very excited to go back and try get some waves again.” said Laura.
Billabong Women’s Global Vice President – Marketing, Cathey Curtis was very proud of the girls.
“The courage shown by all three girls was remarkable, watching the event was exciting and nerve-wracking, especially when Laura took the heaviest wipeout of the event. All of us at Billabong Womens are in awe of their achievement and the path they’ve blazed for others to follow.” said Cathey.