Over the weekend, Puerto Escondido produced Mack-truck-sized barrels. Some of the world’s most hungry, fearless chargers packed their rhino chasers and met the swell with open arms and did their best to hunt down a huge, hollow diamond in the beachbreak rough. One of those intrepid chargers was big-wave surfer Bianca Valenti–Big Wave Tour competitor and co-founder of the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing–who was down in Mainland Mex to chase the said swell, and to celebrate the WSL’s recent announcement of implementing equal pay for men and women across all WSL-sanctioned events. While she was down there she nabbed the two freakishly large waves featured in the video above, the second of which some people are saying was one of the biggest waves that day. We called up Valenti while she was in between sessions to talk about her waves and her thoughts on the WSL’s new policy on equal pay.
How's the swell been down there? It looks massive.
It’s been a pretty typical Puerto swell. You see these really amazing ones, but when you're out there, those ones are really really hard to find. Not a lot of rides actually going down and they are by no means perfect. So if you get a good one you really have to cherish that moment.
Let's talk about that wave you posted. That’s gotta be one of the biggest waves paddled into by a woman at Puerto.
Yea it stood up really really tall. We weren’t really sure how big it was going to get and it wasn't looking perfect, so I paddled out with a really no-pressure type of feeling and just hoping to get a good one. When I was out there I didn't see many great waves or rides going down, but I was really patient and I sat out really far because I knew I wanted a big one. So when this one peaked up I was sitting out pretty far and it was pretty easy to catch. It just had a sweet drop and I looked back up at it for a second and was like, ‘Oh don't look too long!’ Then it double-spit on me, rode out and had an easy paddle back out and everyone was cheering for me so that was really nice. I didn't realize how big it was until I saw it on video.
I know there are some big-wave surfers who don’t really like surfing Puerto Escondido–what draws you to that wave and how’d you get so comfortable out there?
I've been coming down here for over a decade now. The more time you put in somewhere the more comfortable you get, but at the same time, this wave is just a wildcard so you never know before you get down here. It's so much hard work so when you get a good one it's really, really rewarding. But it's one of my favorite places to visit. I love Mexico, I love Mexicans, I love Mexican food, I love the culture down here and you're right here next to all these really awesome pointbreaks. It's chill and laid back and I like that it gives you a moment to think.
Let’s talk about the WSL’s recent decision to pay men and women equally in all WSL-sanctioned events. You’re apart of the Committee for Equity in Women's Surfing, which has played a vital role in getting the WSL to include women in the Mavericks contest, and now in this decision. That must’ve been a special moment for you.
I heard it through text. I was pretty shocked and really proud because there are a lot of people who have been fighting for equal pay for a long time in one way or another, and by getting California State Lands to back us in our proposal for equal pay, I feel like we really put a nail in the coffin [of this decision.] And I'm proud of the WSL for making this step too, because at the end of the day, the cost of life is the same for everyone so if you make less money, it just sucks. I felt proud and now I'm just like what now?
How long have you been working on getting women included in the Mavericks contest?
Four years ago when we were trying to get the opportunity to surf in the Mavericks event, and the organizers at the time were telling us ‘yes, you can be in it’, but it was just smoke and mirrors. It felt like we were being told just shut up and it'll all be okay. Then we just went an alternate route and started working with the California Coastal Commission and the California State Lands on changing policy to allowed for the inclusion of women. The CCC recommended we request equal pay from the WSL as well, and then we got CA State Lands to back us on that and they are bigger than the CCC. It was a really long, tough, arduous, crappy thing to have to do and it feels like a weight has been lifted now that we achieved that.
It seems like with more pay, competitive women surfers will be able to spend more money on the things they need to become better athletes–like it’s not just about women getting more pay, it’s helping to elevate the sport as well.
I think we’ll see people getting better at the sport because they have more resources to go chase swells and whatnot and I think that's what’s so exciting about this–we're going to see better and better surfing from all the women in every division.
Do you think there’s more that can be done to achieve true and meaningful equality in surfing?
I think research and data show that the three key components [to equality in sports] are equal media coverage, equal pay and equal opportunity in high-profile events. I guess the overall point is that this is a huge moment to celebrate—which is a weird thing to celebrate at this time–but we do have a long way to go. The exciting thing is that when we do get there, this is all going to feel really radical and awesome. In terms of the committee, we still feel like we’ve got work to do and also to potentially use this model to apply to other sports in the state of California.
What are your goals for the Mavs event this year?
Even with all the hard work we did over the past 4 years, we still haven't even had the event. My dream would be that some really awesome company steps up and wants to offer good money because big wave surfers—male or female—aren't making enough money to just focus on surfing. Then of course I hope we get to be the first event that has equal pay ever in surfing, so I hope the Mavs event will happen before the end of this year.