Lonely Planet Writer

First ever all-women big wave competition to take place in Hawaii

Female surfers from around the world will make history this season at Oahu’s Waimea Bay, when they compete in the Red Bull Queen of the Bay – the first ever big wave competition dedicated to women.

woman surfing
The upcoming event is billed as ‘the biggest thing in women’s surfing.’ Image by Getty Images

Waves at this famous surfing spot can swell to more than 40ft. Only the gutsiest surfers have any inclination to ride these moving walls of water, weighing hundreds of tonnes, but every spectator can appreciate the magnitude of their feat. The upcoming all-female event “is the biggest thing in the history of women’s surfing,” said Hawaii-born big wave surfer Makani Adric.

“We want to show what these girls can do,” said Red Bull Queen of the Bay’s co-director Wrenna Delgado, “Waimea Bay is the perfect venue, it’s so beautiful and significant. It’s a powerful place.”

Outer Reef, Oahu where the competition is taking place. Image by Robert McMilllen

Riding big waves comes with great risks, big wave surfing injuries as a result of wiping out range from coral lacerations and being knocked unconscious to drowning incidents. “Every big wave surfer can recall a time when they’ve hurt themselves in some way and it’s had a huge impact on their surfing,” explains big wave competitor Brittany Gomulka, from New Jersey. “It shows how determined we are, and important this is for all of us and why we all keep coming back.”

The athletes speak of the adrenaline, euphoria and a connection to the ocean that keeps them searching for bigger and better rides. “These women are risking their lives for one of the best rewards,” said Delgado, “I love big wave surfing, it’s brought so much purpose to my life. I’m addicted to the ocean. To share that with the world is so special. The competition draws attention to that, and it’s exciting.”

Guatemalan big wave surfer Polly Ki Ralda, who at 25-years-old is the youngest surfer set to compete this Autumn, agrees. “Big wave surfing is my most favorite thing, and I want to show the world that you can do anything against all odds.” she said, “riding big waves makes me feel like I’m immortal.”

Keala Kennelly of the USA surfing
Amongst those competing will be Keala Kennelly of the USA. Image by Grant Ellis/Getty Images

Acclaimed professional surfers Sarah Gerhardt, Keala Kennelly, Paige Alms, and Emily Ericsson will compete in the upcoming Red Bull Queen of the Bay this October/November, along with lesser known big wave riders. Potentially, any of the 26 women competing could walk away with the prize purse. The most points will be offered to the surfers who commit to and complete the biggest waves on the day.

For many of the women taking part in the upcoming event, winning is not important, but having a platform to inspire other women and spread the spirit of surfing is. “For me, it’s not about the money,” said Adric, “it’s about showing Aloha, surfing together and having fun.”

Red Bull Queen of the Bay will take place on a weather dependent date (when a big swell comes in) between October and November, keep an eye on the event’s website for more information www.waimeabaychampionship.com