Women Make History in Big-Wave Surfing Contest

Turquoise ceiling shattered in Hawaii
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 12, 2016 8:31 AM CST
In this photo provided by the World Surf League (WSL), Laura Enever competes during Round 1 of the Peahi Women's Challenge in Honolulu on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016. Female professional surfers are competing...   (Tony Heff)
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(Newser) – Charging into violent waves at a Maui surf break known as "Jaws," a group of women made history Friday as they competed for the first time in the World Surf League's big-wave surfing competition. The female competitors paddled into mountains of turquoise water towering more than 30 feet, but the wind shifted at the start of the first heat and several were pummeled by an unexpected breaking wave, the AP reports. Women have pushed for years to be included in big-wave surfing competitions, though organizers of some events argue that conditions at famous breaks are too dangerous for women. Competitor Bianca Valenti called Friday a big step forward for women in the sport.

"It's the least we can do to speak to the election the other day," she told the AP. "I watched Hillary's concession speech and what she was saying—how important it was for women to really stand up now more than ever to break the glass ceiling—and that really resonated a lot." There are 12 women and 24 men competing in separate events at the perilous Hawaii break, where competitors' training regimes include building up the ability to hold their breath underwater for four minutes in case they are pinned under by crashing waves. Two women were taken to the hospital with knee injuries during Friday's first heat, and Valenti's surfboard broke in half during the second heat when she wiped out on a wave. Paige Alms, a surfer from Hawaii, also had a few humbling wipeouts, but won the competition. (Read more big-wave surfing stories.)

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