"It was only afterwards I reflected on the fact that it was the first female big-wave event and that we made history," Felicity Palmateer said after the inaugural Pe'ahi Women's Challenge in 2016. "Hopefully it inspired young girls to get out there and charge big waves. Personally, it inspired me to train harder and be more prepared. I have so much to learn; from the safety, to the skis, to my boards. It's exciting to have all that ahead."
She wasn't alone. Every invitee came away from that inaugural event with a personal motivation to train better and to go bigger. Women's big-wave surfing was already progressing at a solid rate, but with the promise of new Big Wave Tour events at Pe'ahi and now Mavericks the accelerator is on the floor, andd it's making an impact.
Palmateer went back to Australia to continue her big-wave education. Justine Dupont decamped to Nazaré for the winters to spend three months riding the lumbering peaks and immersing herself in freedriving training drills and intense, heavy-water training. Paige Alms doubled down her efforts at Pe'ahi, dedicating her life to being 100 percent ready every time the wave broke. Keala Kennelly, well, kept doing the hard-charging surfing for which she's known. Elsewhere, surfers like Bianca Valenti led the Mavericks crew in improving their equipment and approach, and Pe'ahi pioneer Andrea Moeller trained harder than ever so that when the call came, she'd be ready.
When the next Women's Pe'ahi Challenge ran, in 2017, the uptick in progess was obvious. In less than 12 months the progression of women's big-wave surfing was quantifiable. Each invitee was more prepared and more aggressive. They each sat on the furthest takeoff point ready, willing and able to take off any set wave that came their way. It was Alms, yet again, who led the field, but the overall bar had been massively lifted.
It's only a matter a time before the bar is raised again -- most likely at 2018 Mavericks event. "It's going to be an amazing opportunity to see another big-wave spot, one of the best in the world, and have an empty lineup with the best surfers, best conditions and the best waves," said Alms, when the roster for the Mavericks Challenge was announced. In a year that has seen the sport go through one of its most intense growth phases in history, the rapid enhancement is set to continue.