The opening ceremony of the first-ever Red Bull Queen of the Bay brought the women’s big wave community together in the birthplace of big wave surfing. The Women’s Waimea Bay Championship will celebrate the spirit of Hawaiian Queen Ka’ahumanu, a surfer and Hawaii’s first Kuhina Nui, or Queen Regent, who redefined the perceived roles of Hawaiian women.
Contest Director Betty Depolito kicked off the ceremony with the story of the eight-year road to this event. She then handed the stage to Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who gave a heartfelt speech congratulating the women for their courage and perseverance with an eye toward future generations. “It’s been decades in the making to reach this point today,” Gabbard said, “where these incredible athletes are finally being acknowledged and recognized for their skills, talents, and contributions to big wave surfing. I look forward to seeing the great surfing to come out of this event, and the many generations of surfers who will follow in the footsteps of these surfers.”
The Hawaiian waterman and scholar Tom Pohaku Stone said a prayer, speaking of “the winds of change,” and chanted powerfully as the women jumped into the Waimea shorebreak for the paddle out. The women rafted up in a circle in Waimea Bay on their boards, and gave their thanks, splashing the water with tea leaves and howling with happiness.
Note: This contribution was made in cooperation between Jianca Lazarus (photos) and Mariah Ernst (words).