The 2016 Pe’ahi Women’s Challenge was a watershed moment in women’s big wave surfing. Sure, for decades a pantheon of women have been pushing the sport of big wave surfing to new heights – who could forget Keala Kennelly’s Billabong XXL-winning Teahupo’o monster from 2014? But the inaugural Pe’ahi Women’s Challenge was a first of its kind live-streamed event that set the stage for a follow-up event this year and exists as a proof of concept that indeed the people will tune into a women’s big wave contest online. And women’s big wave surfing continues to build momentum, but not without athletes and organizers continuing to take action.
Recently, the Atlantic caught up with one of the leaders on the scene, Bianca Valenti to discuss the future of women’s big wave surfing, and her path in particular.
“Women in surfing are portrayed [with] a sexualized lens,” she told The Atlantic. “I didn’t have the model look that men wanted to use to market their concept of what a woman in surfing would look like.”
Along with others, Valenti formed the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing that has sought to level the playing field in the sport. In 2016, they successfully lobbied the Titans of Mavericks to hold women’s heats, which no doubt paved the way for the event at Jaws. It’s all about “[paving] a better future for women in surfing,” says Valenti.