Keala Kennelly is a Kauai-born surfer who turned pro at the age of 17, is an ASP World Championship Tour veteran and the first female to-ever tow-in at Teahupoo. Over the past month, Kennelly had been closely watching the swell forecasts for Tahiti and Mexico, trying to determine where she could find the biggest waves possible. She decided on Teahupoo, Tahiti and headed straight to the French Polynesian island for a forecasted XXL swell. After a grueling 5AM flight and a 2-hour car ride, Keala was in the lineup watching massive waves detonate onto dry reef.
Keala patiently waited her turn as the swell began to build further, and after hours of watching, her opportunity came. She grabbed the towrope, was taken out the back and immediately whipped into the wave of the day- a gigantic wall of water that blew everyone away. After pulling into a massive barrel, Keala endured a wipeout that can only be compared to a car crash.
“I got exploded on with so much force my helmet blew off. I got smashed down onto the reef pinned on my back and held there for a while. Then, I came up and got a breath just in time to get the wave behind it on the head. That one slammed me on the reef with a lot of force- the whole left side of my body hit really hard. It felt like I broke my elbow and my hand. At first I couldn’t move my hand but after awhile I started to be able to wiggle my fingers, so that was a good sign. By then I had washed into the lagoon, and the jet-ski came and got me.”
Kennelly’s ride at Teahupoo has redefined women’s surfing, truly cementing their roles in the sport, capturing the attention of the entire surfing world’s biggest stars. “The stuff guys are doing these days is seriously nuts…into the oblivion not knowing what happens when you wipeout. But the craziest guy of all is a girl… Keala Kennelly. Looks like someone challenged her to a #YouWontGo contest and she called their bluff!” said Kelly Slater right after her historical ride.
Kennelly’s first reaction post-ride was that she was disappointed she didn’t make the wave. However, this quickly changed once she arrived safely back into the channel. “When I got back to the boat my friend Brent was freaking out and claiming [it was the] biggest, heaviest wave by a chick ever. I thought he was just messing with me and then he showed me the photo and then I didn’t feel so bad for not making it out of the barrel.” Kennelly continues to push boundaries and achieve the unthinkable, and Billabong couldn’t be more proud to support Keala in all of her ventures.
For more information go to www.Billabong.com @BillabongWomensEurope