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Walsh and Alms Secure Pe‘ahi Challenge Win at “Jaws” on Maui

October 28, 2017, 7:09 AM HST · Updated November 22, 2:06 PM
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Ian Walsh of Maui, Hawaiʻi has secured his maiden win on the Big Wave Tour by winning the final of the Pe’ahi Challenge at Pe’ahi/Jaws, Maui, Hawaiʻi today, Oct. 28, 2017.

Ian Walsh of Maui, Hawaii has secured his maiden win on the Big Wave Tour by winning the final of the Pe’ahi Challenge at Pe’ahi/Jaws, Maui, Hawaii today 28 October 2017. Credit : © WSL / Hallman
Photographer : Richard Hallman

Walsh finished with a heat total of 21.67 points to put 2X defending event champion Billy Kemper (HAW) in 2nd, 2015 Big Wave World Champion Makuakai Rothman (HAW) 3rd, current No.1 on the Big Wave Tour rankings Kai Lenny (HAW) 4th, 2016 Big Wave World Champion Greg Long (USA) 5th and Ryan Hipwood (AUS) 6th.

Paige Alms (HAW) earned back-to-back victories today at the Women’s Pe’ahi Challenge.
Credit: © WSL / Saguibo

Paige Alms (HAW) and Ian Walsh (HAW) have won the World Surf League (WSL) Big Wave Tour (BWT) Pe’ahi Challenge today in towering 30-to-40 foot-plus conditions at the world famous Pe‘ahi in Haiku, Maui, Hawaii.

The second event of the 2017/2018 BWT season tested the top big wave chargers as a solid swell delivered massive surf over two days at Pe’ahi with 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.

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.

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“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).

“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.

Ian Walsh (HAW) earned his first Big Wave Tour victory at the Men’s Pe’ahi Challenge.
Credit: © WSL / Hallman

Walsh earned his career-first BWT victory after dominating his Round 1 heat and the Final series. The 34-year-old, who was invited to compete as an event wildcard, capitalized on his opportunity to earn first place at his home break in Haiku and vault up to third place on the BWT rankings.

“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 ChampionMakuakai 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.

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.

The men’s second Semifinal saw event-best performances from both Walsh and Hipwood. Both surfers dropped Perfect 10’s for navigating steep takeoffs and cavernous barrels, with Walsh flying through two tube sections prior to winning the event.

Ahead of his runner-up result, Kemper narrowly got the edge over Danilo Couto (BRA) andMark Healey (HAW) in Semifinal 1. Knowing Healey’s capabilities at Pe‘ahi, Kemper stayed close to the 35-year-old waterman in order to secure his position in the Final. Couto kept busy on the left-hand breaks, but fell just 0.57 points short of advancing through to the Final and will exit in Equal 7th place.

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 Men’s Pe’ahi Challenge Semifinal Results:
SF 1: 
Makuakai Rothman (HAW) 16.61, Greg Long (USA) 13.74, Billy Kemper (HAW) 11.83, Danilo Couto (BRA) 11.26, Mark Healey (HAW) 7.77, Cristian Merello (CHL) 4.66
SF 2: Ryan Hipwood (AUS) 26.50, Kai Lenny (HAW) 26.31, Ian Walsh (HAW) 25.33, Albee Layer (HAW) 24.23, Lucas Chianca (BRA) 22.19, Jamie Mitchell (AUS) 16.44

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

The 2017/2018 WSL Big Wave Tour is proudly supported by Michelob Ultra, the Official Beer of the Big Wave Tour in North America, and Quiksilver Airlift, the Official Inflation Vest of the 2017/2018 Big Wave Tour.

Previous Post: Pe’ahi Challenge is ON!

The World Surf League (WSL) Big Wave Tour (BWT) Pe’ahi Challenge has been called ON in 25 to 35+ foot faces. The men’s Semifinals will kick off the day’s action at 7:00 a.m. HST, followed by the men’s Final and the women’s Final.

“We have great conditions out here at Pe’ahi this morning,” said Mike Parsons, WSL BWT Commissioner. “We will get going right away at 7:00 a.m. HST. We will start with the men’s Semifinal and Final and then run the women’s Final. Today will be an exciting day as we crown our men’s and women’s Pe’ahi Challenge winners.”

The men’s Semifinalists are ready to do battle for an opportunity to advance through to the Final.

The stacked Semifinal 1 match-up will be first up this morning with Billy Kemper (HAW)Cristian Merello (CHL)Mark Healey (HAW)Makuakai Rothman (HAW)Danilo Couto (BRA) and Greg Long (USA).

Semifinal 2 will see chargers Ian Walsh (HAW)Kai Lenny (HAW)Ryan Hipwood (AUS)Lucas Chianca (BRA)Jamie Mitchell (AUS), and Albee Layer (HAW) go big for their shot at the event title.

The Women’s Pe’ahi Challenge will witness a decorated lineup of the leading big wave surfers compete at the famed break in Haiku, Maui, Hawaii. Last year’s inaugural event saw Paige Alms (HAW) claim the historic victory. This year’s event will feature six women battling in a one-off Final for the prestigious win, including Alms, Justine Dupont (FRA), Andrea Moeller (BRA), Keala Kennelly (HAW)Felicity Palmateer (AUS), and Bianca Valenti (USA).

Surfline, Official Forecasters for the 2017/2018 WSL BWT season are calling for:

The long period NW swell that filled in throughout the afternoon should peak during the early morning hours on Saturday based on the data we’ve seen on the Northwest Hawaii buoy (about a half day indicator for Jaws). Saturday will see an easing trend in surf, although the early morning hours should offer strong surf in the 25-35’ range on the face, with the max sets pushing 40’+. Wind should be quite light in the morning, with light to moderate NE trades developing in the later morning and especially for the afternoon.

The Pe’ahi Challenge will be broadcast LIVE via WorldSurfLeague.com, the WSL app and on Facebook LIVE via the WSL’s Facebook page. Also check local listings for coverage on CBS Sports Network in the U.S., Fox Sports in Australia, ESPN in Brazil, Sky NZ in New Zealand, SFR Sports in France and Portugal, Sport TV in Portugal and the EDGEsport Network.

Due to safety and environmental concerns, there is no location available for on-site spectating for the Pe’ahi Challenge. Big wave surfing fans are invited to watch the event on the live webcast that will feature close-in angles, slow-motion replays, and analysis. For those on Maui, viewing parties will be held at Charley’s Restaurant at 142 Hana Highway, Paia, HI 96779 (808-579-8085) and at Lulu’s Lahaina Surf Club Bar and Grill at 1221 Honoapiilani Hwy #A1 Lahaina, HI 96761.

Opening Round Recap:

Ian Walsh (HAW) dominated the Pe’ahi lineup to earn the highest score of the day, an excellent 26.13, in Round 1 Heat 3 of the Men’s Pe’ahi Challenge.
Credit: © WSL / Saguibo

The World Surf League Big Wave Tour Pe’ahi Challenge completed men’s Round 1 on Friday in epic 35 – 45 foot waves. With only the top three finishers from each six-man heat advancing out of Round 1, the world’s best big wave surfers battled the elements to secure a spot in the Semifinals.

Two-time Pe‘ahi Challenge winner Billy Kemper (HAW) is off to a solid start after a big win in Round 1 Heat 1. The 27-year old garnered a 21.51 heat total (out of a possible 30) to advance straight to the Semifinals. Kemper’s win puts him within striking distance of a third-straight event victory when competition resumes tomorrow. Cristian Merello (CHL) and Mark Healey (HAW) will also advance to the next round with second and third place finishes, respectively. Koa Rothman (HAW) fell just 0.99 points short of advancing and will be eliminated along with Francisco Porcella (ITA) and replacement surfer Jimel Corzo (MEX).

“If there’s one way to kick off an event, I think that’s it,” said Kemper. “You got to work to play so that was definitely some hard work. I just kept my head in the right place and kept digging until I found the gold, and I found a really good wave. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it out, but I’m very lucky that they [judges] gave me the score that they did. That was probably one of the best barrels I’ve ever got out here, so, almost made it, but I’m just stoked. I’m in a really good head place so I’m here to have fun.”

2014/15 BWT Champion Makuakai Rothman (HAW) is back in rhythm with his first heat win since last year’s Puerto Escondido Challenge. Rothman’s best wave earned him the highest single wave score of Heat 2, a 6.27, but his ride came with the price of a massive wipeout. The current BWT No. 7 will now focus on the Semifinals to continue his run at Pe‘ahi. Injury replacement Danilo Couto (BRA) went all out in the dangerous lineup to earn the second position. Two-time BWT Champion Greg Long (USA) battled through multiple wipeouts but eventually found a wave to earn him a spot in the Semifinals with a 13.94 heat total.

“That was a pretty good couple flips on the water,” Rothman said. “I’m just so happy to make a heat. This is my third year, and I haven’t made a heat until now, so it feels really good to be moving on. The swell is beautiful. There’s definitely some big bombs. We made a good call and stoked to have my feet up and relaxing and get ready for tomorrow.”

Ian Walsh’s (HAW) incredible Heat 3 performance raised the bar as he earned a commanding 26.13 two-wave total out of a possible 30. Walsh also secured the highest single-wave score of the day, an impressive 8.90, for a massive drop into a 45-foot wave that he navigated expertly through to the inside bowl. The Haiku native found the two best waves of the 60-minute heat and advanced into the Semifinals well ahead of his fellow competitors.

“It’s definitely pretty lully and a very intense incoming swell so you can feel the long period and the energy in the ocean,” commented Walsh. “When they do come, there is some opportunity. We just got a little bit of a North wind so kind of picking and choosing the right waves and trying to just make sure you’re in the right place when they come. Those are my first two waves to open up the 2017/2018 winter, and it’s conveniently at home for me here. I’m glad we’re getting a start to the winter this early and hopefully this snowballs into something pretty special.”

BWT Rankings leader Kai Lenny (HAW) followed closely behind Walsh with a 19.37 combined total. Heat 3 also saw darkhorse Ryan Hipwood (AUS) secure the third place position over top seeds Pedro Calado (BRA), Trevor Carlson (HAW) and Nic Lamb (USA).

Lucas Chianca (BRA) won the last heat of the day to close out Round 1. The Brazilian’s 20.50 heat total included outstanding maneuvers to vault him into the Semis. World No. 2 Jamie Mitchell (AUS) will join Chianca in the Semifinals, along with Albee Layer (HAW).

Grant “Twiggy” Baker (ZAF) was not able to make the call time for his Round 1 heat and was replaced by Corzo in Round 1 Heat 1. Shane Dorian (HAW) withdrew from the event due to a back injury and was replaced by Couto.

Tomorrow’s call will be at 7:30 a.m. for a possible 8:00 a.m. HST start.

Surfline, Official Forecasters for the 2017/2018 WSL BWT season are calling for:

The long period NW swell that filled in throughout the afternoon should peak during the early morning hours on Saturday based on the data we’ve seen on the Northwest Hawaii buoy (about a half day indicator for Jaws). Saturday will see an easing trend in surf, although the early morning hours should offer strong surf in the 25-35’ range on the face, with the max sets pushing 40’+. Wind should be quite light in the morning, with light to moderate NE trades developing in the later morning and especially for the afternoon.

The Pe’ahi Challenge will be broadcast LIVE tomorrow via WorldSurfLeague.com, the WSL app and on Facebook LIVE via the WSL’s Facebook page. Also check local listings for coverage on CBS Sports Network in the U.S., Fox Sports in Australia, ESPN in Brazil, Sky NZ in New Zealand, SFR Sports in France and Portugal, Sport TV in Portugal and the EDGEsport Network.

Due to safety and environmental concerns, there is no location available for on-site spectating for the Pe’ahi Challenge. Big wave surfing fans are invited to watch the event on the live webcast that will feature close-in angles, slow-motion replays, and analysis. For those on Maui, viewing parties will be held at Charley’s Restaurant at 142 Hana Highway, Paia, HI 96779 (808-579-8085) and at Lulu’s Lahaina Surf Club Bar and Grill at 1221 Honoapiilani Hwy #A1 Lahaina, HI 96761.

2017/18 BWT Men’s Pe’ahi Challenge Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Billy Kemper (HAW) 21.51, Cristian Merello (CHL) 19.94, Mark Healey (HAW) 18.83, Koa Rothman (HAW) 17.84, Francisco Porcella (ITA) 11.37, Jimel Corzo (MEX) 0.20
Heat 2: Makuakai Rothman (HAW) 17.27, Danilo Couto (BRA) 14.84, Greg Long (USA) 13.94, Will Skudin (USA) 10.71, Tom Lowe (GBR) 7.54, Aaron Gold (HAW) 3.20
Heat 3: Ian Walsh (HAW) 26.13, Kai Lenny (HAW) 19.37, Ryan Hipwood (AUS) 15.03, Pedro Calado (BRA) 14.71, Trevor Carlson (HAW) 13.57, Nic Lamb (USA) 0.20
Heat 4: Lucas Chianca (BRA) 20.50, Jamie Mitchell (AUS) 17.87, Albee Layer (HAW) 12.41, Joao De Macedo (PRT) 11.64, Nathan Florence (HAW) 9.34, Shaun Walsh (HAW) 3.54

2017/18 BWT Men’s Pe’ahi Challenge Semifinal Match-Ups:
SF 1: Billy Kemper (HAW), Cristian Merello (CHL), Mark Healey (HAW), Makuakai Rothman (HAW), Danilo Couto (BRA), Greg Long (USA)
SF 2: Ian Walsh (HAW), Kai Lenny (HAW), Ryan Hipwood (AUS), Lucas Chianca (BRA), Jamie Mitchell (AUS), Albee Layer (HAW)

2017/18 BWT Women’s Pe’ahi Challenge Final Match-Up:
Final: Paige Alms (HAW) Justine Dupont (FRA), Andrea Moeller (BRA), Keala Kennelly (HAW), Felicity Palmateer (AUS), Bianca Valenti (USA)

The 2017/2018 WSL Big Wave Tour is proudly supported by Michelob Ultra, the Official Beer of the Big Wave Tour in North America, and Quiksilver Airlift, the Official Inflation Vest of the 2017/2018 Big Wave Tour.

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