Billy Kemper couldn't contain his excitement after winning his second-straight Pe'ahi Challenge on Friday. "This is what I live for right here," said the Maui native. "I've trained so hard for the last eight weeks...I'm over the moon."
And he wasn't the only one. The entire Maui surf community was pulling for Kemper, the only Hawaiian in this year's Final. They got a double dose too with their local lady Paige Alms taking a historic victory in the first-ever Women's Big Wave Tour event.
Kemper appeared much more excited this year than last, and he had good reason to be. This year's Final was a far more competitive affair thanks to non-stop action on the biggest sets of the day. In the early going it looked like California's Greg Long was running away with it. He raced across two massive green walls before anyone else in the Final had a decent score.
Grant "Twiggy" Baker eventually emerged as a threat, bagging a solid 8 in his column, and by the midway point each of the six finalists had at least one solid ride. But it was right around that point that Kemper bagged a perfect 10, and jumped into the lead. The score was well deserved, a big beautiful set complete with a dicey tube section on the inside, and when he emerged from its dark shadow loud cheers erupted from the flotilla in the channel and the ring of cliff-side spectators.
Kemper wasn't done. On the last wave of the entire day he pulled into another big cavern, though this time it slammed shut. "I didn't know I was winning so I just went for it on that last wave," he explained. "I've put a lot of work and effort into this…I feel 100 percent this year and I didn't last year," he added.
Kemper's back-to-back wins at Pe'ahi, the world's most renowned big wave, is a remarkable feat, yet his wasn't the only history-making performance Friday. Paige Alms, another Maui local who's logged plenty of time at Jaws, secured her place in big-wave history by capturing the first ever Women's Big Wave Tour event, and the Women's Big Wave World Championship. In the end, over France's Justine Dupont, who's ranked No. 12 on the women's Qualifying Series.
"I still feel like that was a dream, I can't quite believe it," said Alms. "What a blessing to be out there with just a couple of girls, that was very special. The support feels so good and it's so cool to have all my friends here and do this at home."