The title of Jaws champion is staying in Maui’s backyard for another year, as Ian Walsh and Paige Alms won the 2017 Pe’ahi Challenge for the men’s and women’s field on Saturday afternoon. Groomed offshore winds and a dropped interval from Friday made for an amazing Finals Day forecast, and the two surfers used their lifelong familiarity with Jaws to their full advantage, patiently waiting out the back for the highest-scoring rides of the day in their respective divisions. The BWT commentating crew caught up with both Walsh and Alms in the channel and asked them about their home-field victories.
On his win:
This is a really big honor, and I'm stoked I can follow up on Billy's [win] and keep this thing on Maui. It was an incredible couple of days of surfing with some challenging lulls, but everyone surfed really, really well, and it was a pleasure to be in the water with them. It was fun to watch, with each heat, how our sport progressed, because the waves got bigger and better and it felt just like those big freesurf days out here. I'm really honored and stoked.
On his 10-point ride in the semifinals:
Yeah, I got in a pretty fortunate position—the wave came to where I had been lining up for about 30 minutes already, and it gave me a really good entry. And that heat just had some phenomenal rides in it. Like, even after getting a 10, I finished the heat in third place, and that's just a testament to how well Kai [Lenny] and Hippo [Ryan Hipwood] surfed that heat. I watched Albee take off on a couple crazy ones, too. It's nice when there are a lot of opportunities and everyone can have their space and progress our sport.
On what lessons he learned from last year's final:
I think what I learned in that final was to be ready to pounce when the opportunities present themselves. It's hard to be ready all day long, and you really need to be on when you get those little windows of opportunities to get a chip into one of these big waves. I learned a lot in that event, but I've probably learned more from getting pounded and rag-dolled out here since I was a little kid more than that particular event. [But] to be able to combine both of them and put it into today and yesterday feels really, really good.
On being one of the godfathers of big-wave paddle surfing at Jaws:
There are so many guys that help our sport progress, and it’s been a really fun time to be a surfer and be a part of that generation, watching our sport progress. I look forward to seeing what all these little kids do out here once we're all watching from the cliff or helping them from the channel. Yesterday, I watched a really young kid here named Ty Simpson paddle out, and he surfed it like he had surfed it 10 times before—and it was his first time in the water here. I'm really excited to see what the next generations do, and I'm really happy to be in the now.
On the thought of taking back-to-back wins being in the back of her mind:
I guess it always is in contests, but I honestly had no idea at the end. I paddled out and told everyone how I felt so grateful to be able to sit out in an empty lineup at firing, perfect Jaws. It doesn't get much better than that.
On the level of the women's performance today:
Every single one of them sent it on a bomb. I honestly didn't see anyone else's waves besides Bianca taking off on one and Andrea taking off on one—I didn't see anything else, but I knew that everyone sent it, and there were some big waves out there. I was kind of kicking myself for not going on one set, and I thought, 'I'm going to regret that looking at it later.' But I feel super stoked and honored.
On Ian's win:
I definitely was looking up to Ian, and I'm super stoked he won it. We both train at the same gym at Deep Relief [in Haiku]. We were both at the gym together the day before [the event], and I looked at him as we were walking out the door and said 'Let's do it.' But can you ask for much more? We all were looking at the forecast questioning if it was going to be good, but it delivered. Thanks Pe'ahi [Laughs].
Oh, anyone who says they're not scared [out at Jaws], I think they're lying. I think it's the most powerful, intimidating wave in the world by far.
[Check back in to Surfer.com shortly for a wrap-up of Finals Day at Pe’ahi]