Often, when people talk about women's big wave surfing, they talk about it as though it's somehow 'lesser' than what the guys do or as though women don't go as 'hard'. While I'm not going to go into why that's a redundant and ridiculous argument (I've talked about it previously anyway), I am interested in a couple of images of Keala Kennelly circulating at the moment, and what their affect might be on this way of thinking.
First is this wipeout of hers at Teahupo'o during the now infamous two-in session there at the end of August;
But also, here is an image of her one of the waves that she made;
Also heavy. And finally, this image of an injury she got shortly after;
Seeing Keala Kennelly's horrifying injury made me think about how this photo, it's timing and connection with the recent focus on Teahupo'o and the wide-ranging distribution this image is getting, might affect the way we thing about the women who surf these waves - or Keala Kennelly at least. I wonder whether this image of Keala's very real reef encounter in connection with her very real and incredible surfing at Teahupo'o might be significant in shifting those kinds of perceptions. Kind of like evidence that women go hard. As though injuries like this one are the gold-standard against which commitment and courage must be measured.
I think these recent images and the profile they got because of the comp there will certainly cement Kennelly's reputation as a dedicated and crazy heavy wave surfer. I wonder how this reputation might play out for other women, or how we think about other women who surf similar waves. I will admit I was pretty irritated that in an interview at the comp, Kelly Slater singled out Maya Gabeira as being 'out of her depth'. I mean it probably was a fair call but there were plenty of guys who were probably much further out of their depth than she was. Anyway...
Maybe there will be some slight shift, maybe there won't. But it's pretty hard to ignore that Keala Kennelly is one awesome (and insane!) woman.