Paige Alms 2017 Pe'ahi Winner Photo by WSL Saguibo

Paige Alms Is The Champion Of Pe’ahi Again


It’s early in the Hawaiian swell season as the roar of the winter waves begin to approach, and the Pacific Ocean has been reeling this week with typhoons positioning themselves in favour of Pe’ahi on the west coast of Maui.

For the second year running, the best big wave surfers in the world were invited to compete in the 2017 Pe’ahi Challenge at Jaws. It is always a great event to watch. You peer down from the safety of the bluff and the World Surf League do an amazing job with the coverage from the cliff overlooking the break, the incredible helicopter views and the this year, the entertaining Dave Wassel from the ski in the chanel.

Paige Alms lives just a couple of miles from Pe’ahi. Maui is lush with the deep green bush and banana palms everywhere. The air is thick with the sea-spray, and you can hear the rumble of the waves hitting the volcanic coastline almost everywhere.

Paige lives and breathes the thrill of this wave, the exhilleration and the fear that comes with the unpredictable swells of the big (BIG) waves that travel thousands of miles to her doorstep. Despite not being paid to surf as a professional athete, she is one of the fittest, strongest, most competent athletes on the planet. She works her ass off to ensure she can keep doing what she’s doing and be the best at it. 

Her Instagram tells the tale of her training and it’s nothing but inspirational. If you’re having one of those weeks where your bed and couch are much more appealing than getting up and motivated, one look at Paige’s Instagram will snap you out of it. Her training looks epic, epic and tough. It’s much more than weights and machines, it’s functional in every aspect and it actually makes me want to fly to Maui just to train. (Deep2Peak Training) There are ropes, jumps, balance, balls, ice baths, hoops, challenges, games. It’s what training should be about, and it obviously works. 

Paige looked confident as she approached the lineup today, and so she should. Her crew was there and they were cheering. Today she had the confidence that comes with being the defending champ, but also knowing that your equipment is prefectly refined to you, your surfing and the exact movements of the wave.

Sean Ordonez of SOS Shapes is her boyfriend. He’s a former world champion windsurfer and has an innovative board shaping approach. His boards are under the feet of Maui, and the world’s best big wave riders including Matt Maeola, Kai Lenny and Paige. He carves out the deck of the board, to which he said when I spoke to him last year, puts the surfer closer and more immersed in the water and the wave allowing them to feel and understand exactly what is happening and adjust accordinly. The surfers riding his boards are able to turn and be deeper on the waves and have noticibly more control. They make a 20 foot wave look like a six foot wave. Today, that’s just what Paige looked like, she was at ease out there.

The Pe’ahi Challenge today also hosted five other amazing big wave surfers including, Keala Kennelly, Andrea Moller, Felicity Palmateer, Justine Dupont and Bianca Valenti. It was a straight 60 minute final, the men had run and Ian Walsh won. The waves continued to pump.

Absolute big wave legend and women’s pioneer Keala Kennelly, paddled out with support on her right leg. When you watch Keala paddle out in an event you know it’s going to be on, injured or not. She wanted that first wave of the heat and she got it, but she got pipped by it and snapped her board. Nothing stops Keala, that wave certainly didn’t and so her hunger for waves continued.

Paige got in on the first set as well to put her first points on the board, but Keala’s wave set her in first place.

After a couple of months recovery from a medial cruciate ligament injury, Australia’s Felicity Palmateer went for one of the biggest waves of the heat. After a breath-holding split second her front foot came up with a bump in the wave and she skidded down the wave. It was only 10 minutes of deflating her vest before she was back out in the lineup. Unfortnuately she couldn’t find a second wave before the final countdown. 

Paige paddled in deep, jumped to her feet on the clean face of a Pe’ahi monster. She set her rail and as the wave shut down, she pushed out the back. It was effortless. That wave put her back in front.

Andrea Moller got my vote for one heroic take off to which she nailed. It wasn’t the biggest wave of the heat but it was just one of the many fine displays of the skill that these women posess. No one was playing it safe out there.

Despite her best efforts, Keala couldn’t find a final big scoring wave, Paige took the win, her second in the second event. In the channel after her win she said, “I paddled out and said to everyone I felt so greatful to be there with only five people in the lineup. I know everyone sent it, there were big waves out there. I just feel super stoked and honoured.

“Anyone who says they’re not scared out there is lying. This is one of the most intimidating waves in the world.

“Can you ask for much more than this? We were questioning the forecast earlier this week, but Pe’ahi definetly put on a show for us today, thanks Pe’ahi.”

2017 RESULTS: 1st Paige Alms, 2nd Justine Dupont, 3rd Andrea Moller, 4th Keala Kennelly, 5th Felicity Palmateer, 6th Bianca Valenti.


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