Savannah Shaughnessy charges Maverick's during the winter of 2011/2012.

Savannah Shaughnessy charges Maverick’s during the winter of 2011/2012.


The Inertia

Last month I drove up the coast with Nikki Brooks, Jamilah Star and Jamilah’s son, Waimea, to go to the Maverick’s opening ceremony.  During our drive, I got to talking to Jamilah about the contest and what it would take for the women to be included in the event at Maverick’s.  Two years ago we had the first-ever women’s big-wave exhibition in one of the men’s Big Wave World Tour events at Nelscott Reef, Oregon.  The women’s exhibition at Nelscott reef was a great success.  Keala Kennelly, Mercedes Maidana and I made the trip to Oregon for the event and we all caught some great waves. It was such an amazing and positive experience.  The organizers and men competing in the contest were happy to have us there and put in the extra effort to make us feel welcome and help out with safety during our time to surf.  We were the focus of all kinds of local and national media coverage, which, of course, was great for the event and progression of the sport.  The New York Times even did a fantastic write-up on female big-wave surfers.  I was honored to be able to participate in the event, and it was an important stepping-stone in the history of big wave surfing. I would love to see more of these exhibitions included in men’s big wave events.

During the opening ceremony, Jamilah paddled out and joined the circle of competitors in the lagoon to propose a women’s heat in the Mavericks contest.  Since the ceremony, I have heard the idea being thrown around by organizers and some of my fellow big-wave ladies.  The consensus among us is that we’d be psyched and honored to have the chance to be a part of the event.  The level of women’s big-wave surfing has seen tremendous progression, especially during the two years that have passed since the contest at Nelscott Reef. This is an exciting time for our sport, and we would love the chance to showcase our passion and dedication to big wave surfing.

Surfing Maverick’s was always a dream of mine, and I look forward to it and prepare for it every year. I have been surfing Maverick’s since I was 17 years old, and I am so thankful for the six seasons I’ve spent surfing and gaining experience out there. It would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have the chance to surf out there with a small group of women who feel the same way.  We would all be so gracious to surf in an exhibition heat during the contest, and in my opinion this is the perfect time.  Also, there is always a break between the semi-finals and finals of the main event during the contest.  It seems like this would be the perfect time to have the women surf without much of a scheduling conflict.

We have all seen outstanding performances from women paddling into large surf recently at daunting locations.  Women have really stepped up to the plate paddling at locations like Jaws, Maverick’s, and Puerto Escondido, just to name a few.  Maverick’s is a phenomenal big wave, and if we are given the opportunity for a women’s expression session or exhibition heat, we will perform.  Recognizing the women who surf big waves in the form of an expression session during the Mavericks contest would be a great addition to an already fantastic event.

We just need a chance.


  • Rebecca

    Savannah, you’re extraordinarily generous in how you propose the inclusion of women in the event, and in your gratitude. We should all be so thoughtful and gracious.

    But at the same time, it makes me kind of mad that such levels of gratitude would be required at being granted access to this event. I wonder if the guys who paddle out feel quite so grateful at being allowed to surf there, or if they take it a bit more for granted? It just doesn’t make any sense to me that women aren’t included, nor that we think women require a much higher level of consideration in terms of risk and safety. In my experience, women account for their physiology and strength in relation to men, by developing incredible technique and understanding!

    This is such an interesting topic and one that I have been following over the years. I look forward to watching footage and seeing images of you and other women surfing as competitors in this event in the very near future.

  • nettwench14

    I just am so excited about big-wave surfing in general and would love to see more recognition of women in the sport. To so the same thing as the men with less physical strength makes it more admirable and takes more guts, I think! I’m rooting for you! Big-wave surfing is pushing the envelope in places we never knew existed. It is much more interesting to this old surfer girl than to see 16-year-olds doing 360′s on 2-foot slush! It’s like space exploration, and I like that it takes knowledge and experience.