Felictity Palmateer during Round 1 of the Peahi WOmens Challenge

Billabong team riders, Australia’s Felicity Palmateer and Laura Enever, along with France’s Justine Dupont made history last week as being amongst the first women to compete in a WSL Big Wave World Tour event which was won by Paige Alms. The trio faced one of the most fearsome breaks in the world at the Pe’ahi Challenge held at Jaws, Hawaii with waves peaking at over 40 feet at times.

“That was the first time I had paddled Jaws, and it was such a great experience to surf monster waves in winds like that,” Dupont said afterwards. “I really can’t thank everybody enough, especially the water safey team, for all the support. I am so proud to come second at the first ever Big Wave Tour event for women. I’m so stoked all the hard work paid off and like to say a big congrats to all the competitors who made it such a special day.”

Felicity, who finished third in the event, said the door was now open for women to compete in what has previously been a male dominated event. “Growing up in Margaret River, Western Australia I’m used to the power of the Indian Ocean and surfing bigger waves. Surfing big waves is a passion of mine and to surf Jaws was on the top of my ‘big wave list.’

Felicity Palmateer and Laura Enever preparing for Heat 2 of Round One of the Pe'ahi Challenge at Jaws, Maui.

Once we arrived, everything happened so quickly. The boat ride out, then sitting in the channel waiting to paddle out – it was amazing and scary. I was really nervous. And yet, once I was out there I knew I had to go. This was the moment I’d been training and waiting for.” Felicity said.

She finished the WSL event in 3rd place behind Justine Dupont who finished 2nd and Laura Enever who tied for 4th. For Laura, the transition from World Tour performance surfing to Big Wave competition had to come quickly. “I received the invite while I was competing in Portugal, and initially I didn’t know if I was going to be ready for what I would be faced with. As soon as I got home I immediately started training to get prepared.

Felicity Palmateer of Australia (pictured) during Round 1 Heat 2 of the Womens Peahi Challenge. Felicity Palmateer of Australia (pictured) during Round 1 Heat 2 of the Womens Peahi Challenge.

Because of the short amount of time to get prepared, Laura called in all the support she could, even paddling out on a borrowed surfboard. “It was my first time to Jaws, I was on borrowed equipment so with only an hour to watch in the channel before my heat, my focus was on developing a strategy and working out where to position myself in the line-up.” said Laura.

Despite dealing with conditions that were bigger and windier than expected, both athletes are preparing for their next attempt. “To be able to surf Jaws with only five other girls was a pretty special moment. To make the final, and then accomplish 3rd place overall was a pretty surreal feeling. I’ll remember this moment for the rest of my life. Bring on next year!” said Felicity. “No matter what the result it was such an incredible experience and I’m so glad I gave it a dig. I learnt so much and I’m already very excited to go back and try get some waves again.” said Laura.

Billabong Women’s Global Vice President – Marketing, Cathey Curtis said: “The courage shown by all three girls was remarkable, watching the event was exciting and nerve-wracking, especially when Laura took the heaviest wipeout of the event. All of us at Billabong Womens are in awe of their achievement and the path they’ve blazed for others to follow.”

Felicity Palmateer of Australia (pictured) during Round 1 Heat 2 of the Womens Peahi Challenge.

For more on the BWT Pe’hai Challenge contest report go here