Kauai's Keala Kennelly drew upon every ounce of her Pipeline and competitive experience to win the 2015 Surf N Sea Pipeline Women's Pro, a World Surf League (WSL) 1,000-point Qualifying Series (QS) event. A seasoned vet and big wave specialist who has been ranked as high as No. 2 in the world, Kennelly was unstoppable in the clean 4-to-6-foot conditions in the morning and hefty double-overhead barrels in the Final.
Runner-up to Kennelly was the North Shore's rising star Honolua Blomfield. Melanie Bartels of Waianae took third followed by Moana Jones of Haleiwa. Jones was the youngest surfer in the Final at just 15 years of age and performed beyond her years in the solid surf on hand.
From the outset of the 35-minute Final, Kennelly took a totally different approach to the other finalists, heading further west toward Off The Wall. It was there that she scored some of the biggest rides of the day, opting for high-risk vertical turns and critical closeout maneuvers that gave her an early edge. Though her opponents stayed busy, each scoring plenty of rides, Kennelly never relinquished the lead.
"I've been surfing out here since I was about 12, so I've put in a lot of time," said Kennelly. "Being a big wave surfer definitely helped today. I've taken my fair share of beatings, so for sure it helps to not be intimidated when the conditions are heavy like they were today.
"The Final was tough. There were none of the barrels we had this morning, so it all came down to big turns. I watched the heat before mine and saw Anastasia Ashley get a few of those wide ones, so I definitely knew what my strategy was."
Kennelly won the Billabong Women's Performance Award at the 2014 XXL Big Wave Awards. Check out her 2015 submissions.