Updated: Sep 13, 2022
Thanks for your support throughout an unforgettable south swell season where I became one of the first women to ever participate in big wave contests at Punta de Lobos and El Buey, Chile.
These events set new precedents where women surfed alongside men in heats. In Punta de Lobos, I was recognized as winning the "Women's Division" (out of 4 women). Even though there were only two of us (Michaela Fregonese and I) surfing in the El Buey event, I again came away with the most points in big, beautiful conditions.
Congratulations to "localazo" Ramon Navarro (Chile) for winning the Lobos Por Siempre in Pichilemu with flying colors in some of the biggest and most challenging conditions ever paddled! Congrats also to Cristobol de Coll (Peru) for the amazing 10-point backside barrel ride and subsequent event win at El Buey in Arica!
As for this rookie, I finished 20th of 29 total surfers in Punta de Lobos and 20th of 34 in El Buey.
Lobos Por Siempre: Some history
During the pandemic, the Lobos por Siempre Big Wave Internacional (formerly the Ceremonial) changed to a virtual format where surfers sent their best videos of their big waves spanning the season for judging. This allowed for women to be included in the event for the first time ever, and highlighted the hard-charging talents of young, local women like Natalia "Cata" Escobar and Dominique Charrier.
At the last minute, this year I was invited to surf in the first live event since the pandemic as one the first women to ever be included in the big wave event alongside Cata Escobar (Chile), Emi Erickson (Hawai'i) and Michaela Fregonese (Brasil).
The Lobos Por Siempre has its roots in the Punta de Lobos Ceremonial, an event that was started in 1998. At first it wasn't a dedicated Big Wave contest, and in those early years there were sometimes women's heats. Each year, surfers would set aside a week when they would come together to barbecue and wait for the conditions to look good, and then they would run an event that sought to not just crown a winner, but to celebrate the ocean and nature and to foster more energy for its protection and care.
That unifying goal is still the guiding light for the new Lobos por Siempre Big Wave Internacional. When the cliffs above Punta de Lobos were under threat of development, in 2013 the local community banded together to propose an alternative project that would turn the point into a park with the hopes of keeping the unique social and ecological systems intact for future generations and ensuring coastal access to all. With the creation of Fundación Punta de Lobos and the help of Save the Waves, in 2017 Punta de Lobos was officially declared a World Surfing Reserve and was protected under Chilean law.
After the 2019 dissolution of the Big Wave World Tour, these organizations reimagined the event as the Lobos Por Siempre ("Lobos Forever") Big Wave Internacional, bringing back the spirit of environmental stewardship and sharing the beauty of Punta de Lobos, and its incredible big waves, with the world.
Just keep swimming... it's bodysurfing time!
The day after the El Buey event concluded, I flew straight back to San Diego to swim in the Oceanside World Bodysurfing Competition where I took 2nd place in my age division. A few days later, I took 3rd place in the Torneo de Bodysurf Zicatela alongside world-renowned waterman Kalani Lattanzi and local head lifeguard Godofredo Vasquez.
Normally the event in Puerto Escondido is run at Zicatela, the (in)famously heavy beachbreak known worldwide for its giant barrels. This year, the stars, swell and sand aligned so that the competition was moved just down the beach to the left-hand pointbreak La Punta. A great time was had by all showing off their skills on long, perfect peelers.
During the semi finals against Kalani Lattanzi, I accidentally made an interference that cost me half of the score from my second wave. After kicking off the heat with a very long wave and running back to the top of the point, I wrongfully assumed that Kalani, being the incredible swimmer and surfer he is, surely must have taken another wave during that time and I had priority. I positioned myself at the top of the point, took off on a set wave, and started surfing down the line. Kalani, who actually had priority, took off in front of me, causing me to commit an interference.
But, I had no idea what was going on, so when Kalani took off in front of me, I thought, "Why is Kalani burning me?" and leap frogged over him to continue in front. You just have to see the video to believe what happened next!
On my run back to the point I was bummed to hear from the announcer that it was actually me who committed an interference, but couldn't help but chuckle listening to them say in a sad voice, "...pero lamentablemente, reglas son reglas." Even though I lost to Kalani in the semifinals, it was one of the most hilarious and most fun waves of my life yet. I'll never forget it, and I doubt many people will soon. In just a 2 days the video of our wave received over 50,000 views!
Although last year a local female bodyboarder also participated, this year I was the only woman out of 22 competitors from 9 countries. Since the judges realized I would have actually beat Kalani if I hadn't had made an interference, I was honored when they gave me a special "Reyna del Bodysurf" trophy because I had done so well as the sole female bodysurfer.
Bodysurfing is such fun and healthy activity... and ANYONE can do it! No equipment required, although fins and/or a handplane can help. Bodysurfing is rapidly gaining traction around the world as a bona-fide professional sport.
Stirring the pot for the ladies
First and foremost, and if anyone had any doubts, I'm in this for the surfing. But, I think we all can relate to times when we were underestimated, disrespected, misjudged, discouraged, or actively pushed down simply because we are who we are.
For me, being born a woman, I don't have the same opportunities and privileges as men. In surfing competitions, that often looks like: not being allowed to participate in a competition at all, being paid a fraction of the prize money as men or only getting heats in contests when the conditions are at their worst.
In surf media, women are still largely portrayed as sexual objects to sell "surf fashion" while men's messaging is more gear-centric. For example, as much as I love Patagonia, although their padded Impact Suit is supposedly "unisex," to this day you can only buy it from the Men's section of the website, and it is listed as a Patagonia Men's Yulex Impact Wetsuit Vest.
Yes, things are changing, but there's still a long way to go.
One of the most frustrating and insulting questions I still get asked is "Why aren't women as good of surfers as men?" Even worse, people not only assume that women aren't as good of surfers as men, but they use that assumption as a tool to keep women at a disadvantage. The irony of it all is that all of this tension exists under the myth that there isn't enough (waves, opportunity, money, resources, etc.) to go around for everyone.
Now that I have stood on a podium 4 times in the last month alongside my hermanxs in surfing, there is a part of me that feels proud to be able to represent women and show the world that we have the potential to be the best!
...Especially in big wave surfing, where I've listened to people say that a woman could never paddle into waves as big as men can because women simply aren't built with the physiology for it.
So yes, we are strong, we are capable and we can do anything we set our minds to with hard work and a pure heart.
Greatest thanks to the ocean-- because although we are all out there looking for a wave, it's the ocean who sends them to us. All the more reason to take good care of the ocean!