Nick Carroll On: Peahi Challenge Will Run As Huge Swell Charges Through Pacific
(Graphic above: This shows the first storm in a series of mega Nth Pacific storms. There are heavy N winds blowing down the western edge of a big low near Alaska. It’s a big swell at a great angle for Peahi, Maui's west side. This storm will drive swell right down through the Pacific and will be followed by at least two more heavy storms!)
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Peahi Challenge’s green light is sending a young woman on a glass ceiling mission.
Oooosh! It’s happening again! The second best contest of last season! At the most challenging big wave on Earth!
You knew something was up early yesterday, when Jamie Mitchell posted a flight plan from San Jose to Honolulu. That is even if you hadn’t been watching the big-arse NNW fetch gathering across the North Pacific, and hadn’t forgotten that the Jaws waiting period was underway.
That’s right — unbeknownst to anyone except the competitors, the water safety crews, all their mates, and about a quarter of the population of Maui, the WSL’s big wave commissioner, Big Pete Mel, had pressed the green button on the Peahi Challenge.
And this time with the addition of 12 women — who if Peahi cooperates this coming Friday/Saturday Australia time, will break one of surfing’s great glass ceilings.
Two Aussies, Laura Enever and Felicity Palmateer, are part of this potential epic. CW caught up with Flick as she raced for the airport yesterday afternoon, having only just been elevated from Alternate to Real Deal.
CW: You’re excited and nervous!
F: Yeah! Yeah.
How did this call-up happen? Well, I was down at Cronulla for the Fitzgibbons International and got an email saying the contest was on Yellow Alert. That means they’re five days out from a possible run. That was the last day of the event, Sunday. The thing is I was an alternate so I wasn’t even sure I’d get a spot, but word was that a couple of girls were out with injuries, so I’d probably get a start. I flew up to the Gold Coast to get my B1 suit, the ones with the oxygen canisters and all that, just in case, then this morning we got the email saying I was in and it was a green light, a green alert, and they wanted to run Thursday afternoon and all day Friday, hopefully. So now I’m going to Hawaii!
This is Peahi. It’s an exceptional spot. What have you got in your head about it now? Well I’ve been to Maui once before and I’m pretty sure I drove past it, and someone was like, “That’s Jaws!” and I thought, “Oh shit!” I was probably about sixteen at the time, and it was big, I think it might have been breaking at the time. I remember looking out and thinking, “I wonder if I’ll ever get to surf that wave.” I’m going into it a bit blind but I grew up in WA so I’m used to power, and I had a few big sessions last year. I feel nervous but I think if someone doesn’t feel nervous about something like this, there’s something wrong with them.
How are you going to approach it? Well we’re flying tonight and that means we get there on Tuesday morning about 6.30am. Then I’ve got a board I need to pick up on the North Shore, and I was thinking just take that board out to Sunset or Haleiwa and just get used to it a bit. That’s on Tuesday. Then on Wednesday morning fly to Maui, and then just really watch it and maybe go out and get a feel for it. If there are waves. I don’t know — I think it’s supposed to be breaking on Thursday, maybe peaking overnight on Thursday — I’m not sure, there’s been so many emails.
Who’s with you in this? Ahhh, Maya Gabeira, Laura Enever, KK, Justine Dupont…. I know Justine and Laura pretty well because, we all surf for Billabong. And there’s two semis and a final.
You’ve competed in CT events before — describe the difference in vibe between one of those and this (laughs) Before an event I’m mostly worried about progressing, but before this event I guess I’m just worried about surviving! (laughs again) I mean! I’m not, like that’s the extreme, but… It’s a whole different ball game, big wave surfing. Every day you can pretty much train for competition, like practice and put yourself in that same situation, a 20-minute heat or whatever. But with big wave surfing, it doesn’t happen every day, you can’t emulate that situation all the time. You can train your arse off and get fit or whatever, but it comes down to experience surfing that kinda wave. Different ball games really.
Do you feel ready for that? Fit and everything? I feel really quite fit and mentally I feel pretty good. But to be honest I’ve been on the Gold Coast for the last three months and it’s been flat! So…(laughs) In saying all that I’m just kinda drawing on past experiences, growing up in Margaret River and any other sessions I’ve had anywhere else when I’ve done well when it’s been bigger.
Another side of big wave stuff is it’s so fricken immediate. It’s not like normal contests where you know, like, a year ahead that it’s gonna be on. It’s sudden. That’s part of the reason why I love it so much. I did my first kind of strike mission last year at Cow Bombie, and there was all this adrenaline going on, but at the same time it’s kinda cool because you don’t have that much time to be nervous for it. If there was a set date and you knew that swell was coming and you had three months to think about it, it might be a bit like “Holy shit!”. Like this morning, I could have been going to Vanuatu or staying in Australia, and now I’m going to Hawaii, it’s crazy. But that’s when the best things happen I reckon, they’re just kinda not planned. And you don’t really know what you’re gonna get till you get there. I’ve gotta try and stay in the moment.
The 2016 Peahi Challenge invitees include;
Competitors: Grant Baker (ZAF), Carlos Burle (BRA), Shane Dorian (HAW), Aaron Gold (HAW), Mark Healey (HAW), Damien Hobgood (USA), Billy Kemper (HAW), Josh Kerr (AUS), Nic Lamb (USA), Tyler Larronde (HAW), Albee Layer (HAW), Kai Lenny (HAW), Greg Long (USA), Cristian Merello (CHL), Jamie Mitchell (AUS), Dege O'Connell (HAW), Makuakai Rothman (HAW), Francisco Porcella (ITA), Yuri Soledade (BRA), Ian Walsh (HAW), Shaun Walsh (HAW)
Alternates: Kai Barger (HAW), Trevor Sven Carlson (HAW), Pedro Calado (BRA), Tom Dosland (HAW), Marcio Freire (BRA), Ramon Navarro (CHL), Will Skudin (USA), Gabriel Villaran (PER)
Competitors: Paige Alms (HAW), Justine Dupont (FRA), Laura Enever (AUS), Emily Erickson (HAW), Maya Gabeira (BRA), Bethany Hamilton (HAW), Keala Kennelly (HAW), Andrea Moller (BRA), Silvia Nabuco (BRA), Savannah Shaughnessy (USA), Jamilah Star (USA), Bianca Valenti (USA)
Alternates: Makani Adric (HAW), Easkey Britton (IRE), Wrenna Delgado (USA), Felicity Palmateer (AUS), Paulina Ralda (GTM), Tammy Lee Smith (ZAF), Maria Ignacia Valdés (CHL)
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