The Inertia

Girls and Guns: The Badass Women of Big-Wave Surfing Need Your Help

It’s time for a change. A big one. And it’s one that surfing will be proud of.  “These women work to support their surfing careers,” explained Keala Kennelly. The contest format has been challenging, because some women can’t afford to show up.”

It involves equal opportunity. It involves swell chasing, storytelling, and heavy moments of shock and awe that will mesmerize. It involves facing deadly consequences, and building a community.

The mission of Super Sessions is to inspire human greatness through women’s big wave surfing. It’s a mission that has already been accomplished, and will continue to move and motivate for years to come. But it’s the level of progression and how fast we got there that tells another inspirational story worth telling.

Maverick’s women: Hawaiian Emi Erickson snags her first session with locals Savannah Shaughnessy and Sarah Gerhardt. Photo: Super Sessions

Santa Cruz’s Sarah Gerhardt was Maverick’s first lady. While she was charging the cold water wave in 1999, she was also pursuing her Ph.D in Physical Chemistry at University of California Santa Cruz. It was during her time in Santa Cruz that she was introduced to Maverick’s, unable to resist Northern California’s famed break. Since then, she’s had two kids. She always finds babysitters on a Maverick’s swell.

Sarah has single-handedly changed the sport she loves, playing with fire and lighting up the media. She was all over the news, as a film revealed her story and exposed the great accomplishments of this local teacher.

Women can surf? Yes. Women can surf big waves? Also true. But, can women surf arguably the most challenging wave in the world–Maverick’s? Hell yes they can. And she did.

Then she brought out a 16-year-old girl (Savannah Shaughnessy) into the lineup with her. And then there were two. Sarah planted the seed. And Savannah felt welcomed in the lineup, at a place that is typically anything but welcoming. Especially at 16…

snags her first session with locals Savannah Shaughnessy and Sarah Gerhardt. Photo: Super Sessions

All eyes on Maverick’s – December 20, 2014 saw the heaviest day in nearly five years. The ladies were charging, five of which were Hawaiian women flown to the mainland for the Super Sessions production. The timing was perfect. They all caught waves. History was made. It was glorious. Photo: Shannon Reporting

Sarah showed Savannah the ropes, spending their initial big wave sessions sitting in the channel analyzing the spot. They played it safe, showed their respect, and sent it when they were ready. No cameras. No Instagram feed. Pure love for surfing big waves. And a hairy one at that.

Inspiration is found in many forms, but for the last decade or so, my tunnel vision has focused on these waterwomen. They train HARD. Like, so hard that I feel bad about my personal lack of drive to suit up for a more-than-breezy winter swell in San Francisco. They hit the gym while us normal people scroll our Instagram feeds while laid up in bed. It’s so much cozier there…

bianca valenti, san francisco, super sessions

Power carves are her thing. A local to heavy San Francisco barrels, Bianca Valenti is the reining Big Wave Champion after winning the Oregon Pro at Nelscott Reef. Cold water ain’t no thang. Photo: Shannon Reporting

Bianca Valenti trains so hard that the other day, she found herself holding her breath for 6 minutes while driving across the Golden Gate Bridge (just glad I wasn’t a passenger).

Savannah Shaughnessy trains so hard that she is a few classes away from a nursing degree, at a university that just so happens to be situated around the corner from Half Moon Bay’s big wave mecca.

Paige Alms trains so hard that she makes the Maui boys wish they could have out paddled her on that crystal-clear Jaws barrel last winter, which should have been nominated for “Ride of the Year.” It was radical.

Andrea Moller trains so hard that she’ll work a 48-hour EMT shift and just barely make it to the water’s edge in time for a SUP race to Molokai, which she’ll likely win.

Emi Erickson trains so hard that just carrying her 10’6” gun from Waimea Bay’s parking lot to the water’s edge is an easy feat–it’s one that could probably break your back.

Emi Erickson, Sunset Beach

Emi Erickson is the unspoken Queen of Sunset Beach and Waimea Bay on the North Shore of O’ahu. This year, she was rewarded her first Performance nomination at the XXL Big Wave Awards. Photo: Shannon Reporting

These are the true stories of women’s big wave surfing. And until recently, they have gone untold. Grant Washburn (legendary big wave surfer and filmmaker) is helping to reveal stories of human greatness. Producer for Riding Giants and Chasing Mavericks, Washburn has been a driving force behind-the-scenes of big wave documentary. He would literally take a 30-ft wave on the head as a sacrifice to film a mental  video clip of one of the ladies. Washburn has a heart of gold, is a father of two brilliant female athletes, and he is one damn good storyteller. Women’s big wave surfing is happy to have him on their team – and it’s an all-inclusive team that we hope you’ll join.

Emi Erickson Mavericks

Game on… Photo: Super Sessions

Big wave surfing needs your help. It’s time for the ladies to take the stage. Get to know the professional badass women that make up the Super Sessions surfers. Support the Super Sessions Kickstarter, here!

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