For the first time in nearly 15 years the women are returning to Teahupo'o. Last week the WSL released a swath of announcements about the state of the 2020 and 2021 Championship Tour, and one of the biggest pieces of news to drop was that the women will once again charge the monster Tahitian slab next August.
Last run in 2006, during the Billabong Pro Tahiti's six-year shelf life, big-wave surfer Keala Kennelly took home three event wins in 2000, 2002 and 2003, making her the winningest woman ever at Chopes. Seven-time World Champ Layne Beachly won the event in 2001, later followed by Sofia Mulánovich in 2004, Chelsea Hedges in 2005, and Melanie Redman-Carr in 2006.
Siting safety concerns, in 2006 the event was removed from the women's tour, sparking a controversial uproar. Undetered, Kennelly continued to charge Teahupo'o and set the bar for what's possible out there. In the summer of 2015 she chased the Code Red swell to the South Pacific, where she caught the biggest and best barrel of her life.
"[It] was a huge personal triumph for me, and a defining moment of my life," Kennelly shared in an article with Surfer Magazine.
With that ride, she became the first woman to win the prestigious Pure Scott Barrel Award in 2016.
And now, 15 years later, the women will be taking their rightful place in the lineup at Teahupo'o in 2021. This triumphant return represents the equality of the men and women's Tour, and gives the women the chance to showcase their talent in waves of consequence.
"I think it would be good for this generation of female surfers to start surfing heavier waves, to continuously feel more comfortable and know that we can surf waves like this" shared Tatiana Weston-Webb in an interview with Stab.
"Teahupo'o is a very scary and intimidating wave. It is a heavy slab that requires a lot of technical barrel riding skills," four-time World Champion Carissa Moore told the WSL. "I am really looking forward to the challenge and excited to see how the girls step up and perform out there."
The next generation of female surfers are excited for the challenge. Most notably, 19-year-old Caroline Marks, who shared on her Instagram that, "it's a super heavy wave, but that's the direction our sport is heading. I say bring it on."
Marks was seen earlier this year charging Teahupo'o for the first time and sparking huge engagement in the surf world.
Championship Tour surfers aren't the only ones excited for the return of Teahupo'o to the womens tour, 2017 Junior World Champion and Tahititan local Vahine Fierro shared on a recent Instagram post, "to have an event added at one of your homebreaks is a dream come true."
With Vahines' homebreak advantage, it wouldn't be surprising to see her giving the women on tour a run for their money if a wildcard was thrown her way. On the men's side, the Tahitian wildcards have been giving CT surfers a tough time ever since the event's inception.
And then there's upcoming Olympics in 2024. Surfing is set to make its Olympic debut in Japan in 2021. The second installment of surfing on the Olympic stage will take place at Teahupo'o. Organizers of the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics had been looking a spots in France, including Hossegor, but the opportunity to showcase the Tahitian slab eventually won. And now, the women of the CT will have the next three years to practice at the iconic venue.
Returning to Teahupo'o is a strong step forward in shaping the future of women's surfing and bring worldwide viewership to their abilities in waves of consequence. Watching the women surf challenging heavy-water waves pushes the younger generation to do the same, do it better, and know that it is possible. The future of women's surfing looks stronger than ever.