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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa
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Mon, 30 October 2017

Tragedy struck Twiggy Baker in his bid to win the Pe’ahi Challenge after a two-day mission to Hawaii was scuppered by three delays and a cancelled flight. Unfortunately he was in the first heat.


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SAME PAIGE: Winner of the women's event Paige Alms takes the drop. Photo WSL / Saguibo


The event ran in 30 foot swell, but he was unable to make his heat on time, although several comments from fans suggest that the WSL could have moved the defending world big wave champion to a later heat. Twiggy said he was "shattered and defeated" but was at least able to surf pumping Pe'ahi on the day of his arrival "with a handful of guys and remembered what it’s all about".

"It wasn’t to be and I’ll be back stronger then ever," said Twiggy. Paige Alms (HAW) and Ian Walsh (HAW) won the event earlier today in towering 20-30 foot surf at the world famous break, which is off Haiku in Maui, Hawaii.

The second event of the WSL Big Wave Tour for 2017 and 2018 (it straddles southern and northern hemisphere winters) tested the top big wave chargers as a solid swell delivered wave faces exceeding 45 feet. Event officials have rated this year’s Pe’ahi Challenge a Gold coefficient, the highest possible BWT rating, which will allocate 15,625 points to first place.

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INTO THE MAW: James Walsh navigates a gaping set wave at Jaws. Photo WSL / Hallman


2016 Women’s Big Wave Champion Alms successfully defended her event title today after defeating a stacked field of competitors in the Final. Alms, who became the first ever Women’s Big Wave Champion at Pe’ahi last season, made history once again with her unprecedented big wave victory.

“I feel so grateful to be able to sit out in an empty lineup at firing, perfect Jaws,” Alms said. “It doesn’t get much better than that. Every single one of the women today sent it on a bomb. There were big waves out there and I was kind of kicking myself for not going on one set, but I just feel super stoked and honored.”

The Women’s Pe’ahi Challenge saw all six competitors charge monstrous set waves in the 60-minute Final. Alms stayed selective throughout the Final, utilizing her local knowledge to take off on two gigantic waves for the winning score, an excellent 21.23 combined score (out of a possible 30).

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WOMEN WINNERS: Alms and Keala Kennelly celebrate 1st and 2nd. Photo WSL / Hallman


“Anyone that says they're not scared of this place, I think they’re lying,” continued Alms. “I think it’s the most powerful and intimidating big wave anywhere in the world, by far. I definitely look up to Ian (Walsh) and I’m super stoked that he won it. We couldn’t have asked for anything more - it definitely put on a show so thanks Pe’ahi!”

Big wave veteran Keala Kennelly (HAW) earned second place in the women’s event with four fearless attempts. Kennelly turned in a 17.21 heat score, including an impressive completion for a 7.17 single-wave score. Justine Dupont (FRA) looked in great form with three big attempts and took the third place result. Bianca Valenti (USA), Andrea Moller (BRA) and Felicity Palmateer (AUS) also charged the epic conditions to earn fourth, fifth and sixth place, respectively.

Walsh, 34, earned his career-first BWT victory after being invited to compete as a wildcard. Surfing at his home break, he jumps up to third on the BWT rankings.

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OH MY HAT: Call that a barrel? THIS is a barrel. Kai Lenny in the pit. Photo WSL / Saguibo


walsh i6739peahi17Hallman_m“This is a really big honor and I'm stoked that I can follow Billy (Kemper) and keep this thing on Maui,” said Walsh. “It was an incredible couple days of surfing, some challenging lulls but everyone here surfed really, really well and it was a pleasure to be in the water with them. It was fun to watch each heat almost, our sport progress as the waves got bigger and better. It feels just like those big free surf days, so I'm really honored and stoked."

The men’s Final saw heated battles amongst the top six competitors. 2014/15 BWT Champion Makuakai Rothman (HAW) gained an early lead with a 5.60, but the field quickly battled back with big attempts. Two-time Pe’ahi Challenge winner Billy Kemper (HAW) opened his campaign with a committed 5.43 and maintained his do-or-die mentality after taking off impossibly deep on an enormous wave for a 6.57 backup score.

Kai Lenny (HAW), winner of the Puerto Escondido Challenge and BWT rankings frontrunner ahead of Maui, narrowly missed a collision with Ryan Hipwood (AUS) in the Final after committing to an under-the-ledge late drop into a 35-foot wave. Lenny managed to successfully ride out his first wave and stamp out a rail-carve for a 6.93 from the judges, then found a 4.40 backup score to finish fourth in the event. Lenny’s result strengthens his lead on the BWT with Kemper following closely behind and Walsh moving up to third.

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BUSY LINEUP: The channel was full of craft capturing the action. Photo WSL / Saguibo


Big wave veteran and Pe‘ahi professional Greg Long (USA) displayed good control throughout the event and maintained deep positioning in the lineup during the Final. En route to a fifth-place finish, Long took a high-line approach on his first wave in a barrel-hunt attempt and completed two rides to the channel for a combined heat score of 14.67.

Highlights from the Pe’ahi Challenge can be found at WorldSurfLeague.com, the WSL app and on the WSL’s Facebook page.

The 2017/2018 WSL Big Wave Tour season is divided into Southern Hemisphere and Northern Hemisphere components. The Southern Hemisphere window saw the completion of the Puerto Escondido Challenge earlier this year. The Northern Hemisphere window opened on October 15 and will run through February 28, 2018, with the potential to run the Nazaré Challenge in Portugal and the Mavericks Challenge in California.

WSL Big Wave Tour officials will monitor swell producing storms for the next four months and watch for the conditions that will produce waves in the 30-to-60-foot range for the remaining Northern Hemisphere events. Once the call is made, competitors will have 72 hours notice to be ready to compete.


2017/18 BWT Women's Pe'ahi Challenge Final Results
1 - Paige Alms (HAW) 21.23
2 - Keala Kennelly (HAW) 17.21
3 - Justine Dupont (FRA) 14.36
4 - Bianca Valenti (USA) 10.86
5 - Andrea Moller (BRA) 6.41
6 - Felicity Palmateer (AUS) 4.54

2017/18 BWT Men's Pe'ahi Challenge Final Results
 1 - Ian Walsh (HAW) 21.67
2 - Billy Kemper (HAW) 18.57
3 - Makuakai Rothman (HAW) 18.46
4 - Kai Lenny (HAW) 18.26
5 - Greg Long (USA) 14.67
6 - Ryan Hipwood (AUS) 6.60

2017/18 BWT Women's BWT Rankings (after Pe’ahi Challenge)
 1 - Paige Alms (HAW) 15,625 pts
2 - Keala Kennelly (HAW) 13,020 pts
3 - Justine Dupont (FRA) 10,850 pts
4 - Bianca Valenti (USA) 9,042 pts
5 - Andrea Moller (BRA) 7,536 pts

2017/18 Men's BWT Rankings (after Pe’ahi Challenge)
 1 - Kai Lenny (HAW) 19,042 pts
2 - Billy Kemper (HAW) 18,807 pts
3 - Ian Walsh (HAW) 15,625 pts
4 - Makuakai Rothman (HAW) 13,920 pts
5 - Jamie Mitchell (AUS) 10,647 pts

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