Meet That Big-Wave Chick: Savannah Shaughnessy

Out of Office Reply is Associate Editor Taylor Paul’s column on surf travel, big waves, and other manly bits

Out of Office Reply

I'm a huge fan of girls surfing. Now, I'm not tracking down Steph Gilmore for autographs or anything (hard to get near her after the bar-to-the-head incident), I just think their being in the ocean is terrific. They mellow out lineups and look pretty and are generally graceful (on longboards). It's no different in big waves. They mix it up. Ride cool pink boards and are wetsuited and booted and make waves look crazy-big against their slight figures.

But besides Maya Gabeira, you probably don't know many of them. Every time you mention a big-wave girl's name you have to qualify it with "that big-wave chick." That's a shame. Because any woman who willingly immerses herself among the chest-pounding apes that ride big waves is by default interesting. So, in the name of lifting these brave mermaids from anonymity, I give you the first installment of Meet That Big-Wave Chick. Reader, Savannah Shaughnessy. Savannah Shaughnessy, reader. Have fun you two.

Things I learned about Savannah when we had lunch at Taqueria Michoacan last week:

  • She first paddled out at Maverick's when she was 16 years old (but she made sure I knew that she didn't catch a wave until the following year)
  • She's now 21 years old
  • She summers in Puerto Escondido
  • She eats vegetarian burritos
  • She maintains eye contact during a conversation
  • She was one of three women to compete in the Nelscott Reef contest
  • A couple of weeks ago she ate shit on two consecutive waves at Maverick's (see video above: 1:11 – 2:05)
  • The second wipeout left her starry-eyed and dizzy. When she threw up later that night, she decided she probably had a mild concussion
  • The next day she surfed Mav's again
  • Her nickname is Savi
  • She recently graduated from UCSC with a B.S. in Biology
  • The UCSC mascot is the banana slug

My favorite Savi story is from the evening of the Maverick's contest last year. All of the heavy hitters who weren't in the contest (Healey, Dorian, Dollar) are out and trying to make up for the waves they missed while the event ran. It's 25-foot. I'm on the boat licking my wounds after being handed the wipeout of my life (see 17:26 in Down With the Ship, below). Just enjoying the show. Dorian pulls into a bomb (again) and gets pinched. Healey lays everything he's got onto a heelside bottom turn. And "John John!" the guys on the boat call the North Shore kid rolling into a goody. But wait, "Who's that chick?!" That chick drops in behind J.J., steeper, deeper and full of knee-knocking grace (see 15:50 in Down With the Ship). Greg Long turns to me laughing, "Was that that chick Savannah?" I tell him it was. "Damn" Greg says. "She surfs really good." —Taylor Paul

Taylor Paul is SURFING’s Associate Editor. He wrote the profile of Irish surfer Fergal Smith in our Europe Issue, out now. Today, Taylor is at Maverick’s.