Female surfers participate in Mavericks official opening ceremony for first time ever

By Matt Niswonger

Bianca Valenti paddles hard for a Mavericks bomb. Valenti will be one of ten women competing in the 2018/2019 Mavericks Challenge. Photo: Fred Pompermayer

On October 26, 2018 a group of elite surfers paddled out for the official opening ceremonies of the 2018/2019 World Surf League (WSL) Mavericks Big Wave Challenge. For the first time ever, ten women were invited to an opening ceremony of an official Mavericks contest.

Seven women showed up, including Sarah Gerhardt from Santa Cruz, who was featured on one of the very first covers of ASJ (issue #5) to recognize her as the first female Mavericks surfer.

“I didn’t know if a contest would be able to be put together in time for me to surf it, since I’m aging out,” Sarah Gerhardt told Sachi Cunningham in a recent story for worldsurfleague.com. “I’m excited about this training, which I’ve wanted to do for years, and I’m excited to be with all of these women.”

Fellow Santa Cruz surfer Jamilah Star joins Gerhardt, as well as  Justine Dupont of France, Bianca Valenti of San Francisco, Andrea Moller of Brazil, and Emily Erickson and Keala Kennelly of Hawai’i.

The contest window opened on November first and will continue through March. The women will compete for $25,000 in two semi-final heats of five competitors each and one final heat of four women. The men will compete for the same amount of money but will have to survive more heats as over twice as many men will compete on the contest day.

The men’s list of twenty-four invitees consists of an all-star cast including Kai Lenny, Jamie Mitchell, Peter Mel, Nic Lamb, and Anthony Tashnick.

The contest will be streamed live on worldsurfleague.com. The official contest date will be announced with only about one week’s notice, depending on the right mix of swell and weather conditions.