Last night the Canadian born, Hawaiian-raised Paige Alms took the crown for women’s performance at the 2017 Big Wave Awards. Flanked alongside a pool of adrenalin-junkie men, Alms is one of the fearless females leading the charge in the ladies big wave arena.
Her ride, a monstrous bomb at Jaws, was just a depiction of another day in the life. Growing up in Hawaii, Alms took her first big wave around 14-15 years old in Maui and never looked back.
“I was with Chris Vandervoort, who took me out on his borrowed 9-0 and I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was hooked from that day forward” Alms says on her site.
The lack of sponsorship in big wave surfing means that Alms supports herself in a number of side hustles; painting houses, ding repair, construction work and surf lessons to name a few.
This is not uncommon in the big wave world. Despite big wave surfers representing the pinnacle of ballsiness and athleticism, the prize money and funding is very limited. And if you’re a woman? It’s even worse.
Alms tells MPora, “I get that there’s not as many women doing it [big wave surfing], but that’s no excuse.”
She compares the pay division to women’s and men’s professional tennis and the Williams sisters fight for pay equality, “Yes, the men hit it harder. Does that matter? No. They openly spoke about it in interviews. They fought for years and now the prize money is equal.”
The big wave surfing world is no doubt a patriarchal place. Waves such as Mavericks and Jaws have long been considered ‘too dangerous for women’.
Although in the last decade women such as Alms have been pushing boundaries and establishing their rightful role as not just fellow surfers to the men, but competitors.
In 2016, big wave surfers such as Alms and Bianca Valenti continued to voice the need for women to be included in big wave contests. This landed the ladies in the first ever Women’s Peahi Challenge at Jaws. Alms took first place with a cracker of a wave; big, wild and woolly just like the winning wave at the 2017 Big Wave Awards.
In her awards night speech, the surfer, feminist and all round kickass lady says that this is only the beginning for women’s surfing.
“I am super excited to see where they take the tour next year for the women. A huge shoutout to all the women that inspire me to do my best and continue to push the level of women’s surfing and to be a better person, friend, and athlete.”
Watch her film The Wave I Ride.