It’s 18 hours after the FIRST EVER women’s surfing competition – THE T&C SURF WOMEN’S PIPELINE CHAMPIONSHIPS – has finished and an exhausted producer/creator for the event, “Banzai” Betty Depolito, is spending the morning taking down the Final Results posters off the scoreboard tower. “You know,” Betty tells SURFER, “all I wanted out of this was to make sure everyone was getting through their heats in one piece, safe, and ready for their next. I knew it would be up to me to pick the right day, the right waves and conditions and let these girls do the rest…”
And what THESE girls did – with Betty’s smarts – was to stage the first ever LADIES ONLY/NO ONE ELSE INVITED NOR NEED APPLY competition at the holy grail of Hawaiian barrels. Almost 100 entrants for three divisions, long/short and body board heats, filled up every slot for the chance to take on the wave at The Break and thus take up the charge to make history. And Surfing History they made – and much more. The age spectrum alone, from Punalu`u’s 13 year old Ashley Hunter (3rd place – shortboard) to 44 year old Longboard winner, Kim Hamrock, showed the world just how hungry all of them were for a simple opportunity to get their own exclusive water time at Pipeline, finally.
Betty went on: “We weren’t here to take the biggest day or wait for insane Backdoor or anything at all like that. I just wanted a day and a swell that would challenge the girls, but not put any of them in harm’s way. With all the bad weather around us I had to get in and get out, no matter what anyone else thought was a better plan…” And, DID anyone try to pressure her into waiting for “the next swell?” “I heard all kinds of things from all kinds of people, everyone had their own desires so I had to slap those back quick,” Betty said. “I told them we would go right through this event, rain or shine and wrap it up before we got ourselves backed up against the wall. This has been too weird of a winter to take chances, look at what Triple Crown had to deal with to get through their meets. Look out there now, it’s blowing its guts out on-shore… I’ll bet we don’t’ get a rideable day for the next week, ahead. I’m stoked we’re out of here, it was just right!”
The body board div. was the most competent since most of the girls entered had more than a few winter seasons of water time at Pipe. It was the short board and long board competitors that threw out the most surprises. Hanalei Bay’s 15-year old Alana Blanchard opened up the first day round with an almost perfect ride/score and kept up the pressure to take control of the Finals, 24 hours later. After clutching her First Place trophy – and a thousand portrait photos – for a half hour, Alana took a deep breath and offered up the classic “I’m still in shock, a bit, I guess. I can’t believe this happened to me!” But she was totally honest with SURFER’s straight-shot queerie: How would you have felt if it had been 4 feet bigger out there?” “I probably couldn’t have handled that, she said, THIS was perfect for all of us. I don’t think I would have been able to ride bigger, yet,” she offered up, with a VERY serious look on her face and a voice of straight-forward honesty.
And to show everyone just how critical Betty’s timing for the event was, in less than an hour after the awards were handed out the next storm winds slammed into the North Shore beaches with an ugly, on-shore blow ramming itself over what had been a smooth and respectable overhead swell for the finalists this afternoon. And for the next 5 days the worst winds of the late winter season totally enveloped the islands, destroying any chance of ANYONE getting even ten minutes of water time in. We were, in all honesty, the center of the storm, producing waves for everyone else.
So, however/whatever you want to call it, surfing history was made. It’s in the record books and Ms. Depolito and her team deserves one hell of a round of applause for following her dream, setting the wheels in motion and producing a perfect event for her competitors. Not in terms of size or dare or s.p.e.c.t.a.c.l.e., but in putting together an honest competition at the Pipeline, in the right conditions, for all the right reasons. And there was PLENTY of cheering from the guys on the beach, pushing the girls on to chance it a bit more, take it a little deeper and get closer to the edge of the envelope.
Ultimately, the T&C Surf Women’s Pipeline Championship is in the books, signaling to the world that a new day and a new surfing spirit for the ladies has arrived. For the men, it was 1970 when Jeff Hakman walked down the beach with board, towel and a very special trophy in hand. For the women, the date’s 2005 and Alana Blanchard, Australia’s Kira Llewllyn and California’s Kim Hamrock can proudly make their way home with just as big a chunk of history under their arms. Finally.