Women’s Xcel Axis Back Zip Wetsuit characteristics eco warm and friendly Japanese Limestone neoprene and Thermo Lite Infra-red yarn for maximum heating and bare minimum body weight. Keala Kennelly was one of the hot surfers to come out of Kauai during the 1990s. She grew up surfing the reefs of the Garden Island, and lead the women’s push at Pipeline, Teahupoo, and other dangerous waves. She also played a key role in Blue Crush, inspiring a new generation of surfer grrls.

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On Oahu at Waikiki, there is a break called Ke-kai-o-Mamala, named after Mamala a legendary Hawai’ian queen from the mists of Islander history. Mamala boasted supernatural powers. She could take the form of a beautiful woman, a gigantic lizard, or a great shark. Hawai’ian tales tell that Mamala hooked up with the shark-man Ouha, and they were a happy couple, drinking awa together and playing pebble games on the beach.

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Mamala was also a supernatural surfer. She liked to paddle way outside and surf the big waves in Kou Bay. Her beauty–and her wave-riding ability–attracted Honoka’upu, a coconut grove chief who took a shine to the surfing demigoddess and stole her away from Ouha. If you imagine a shark-man has a temper, you are correct. Ouha tried and failed to kill Honoka’upu, and the local women scorned his powers. Ouha cast off his human half and became a full shark–the great shark god of the coast between Waikiki and Koko Head.

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All for the love of a beautiful surfing girl. Surfing might be the Sport of Kings, but ladies like it, too. Traveling back in time to ancient Hawai’i and forward to 2002’s Blue Crush, women have not always been riding the waves in the same numbers as men, but always with equal fervor.

When Captain Cook came to the island of Owhyhee, he found men and women cavorting together in the surf, which didn’t bother him much. But in his aftermath, such naked frolicking between the sexes bothered the missionaries very much indeed. In the nineteenth century, the invading religious zealots forbid the sport of he’enalu. And as the Hawai’ians died off by the tens of thousands, so did the sport of surfing.

By the nineteenth century’s demise, women surfers were mostly the stuff of legend. Thomas Thrum wrote about surfing in the past tense in 1896’s Hawaiian Surf Riding: “Native legends abound with the exploits of those who attained distinction among their fellows by their skill and daring in this sport, indulged in alike by both sexes; and frequently too–as in these days of intellectual development–the gentler sex carried off the highest honors.”

It was a combination of modesty, morality, and the unbearable heaviness of hardwood that kept the majority of women out of the water from the 1800s into the 1900s. There were few surfers in Hawai’i and of that minority an even smaller minority were women. One exception was Princess Kaiulaini who “was an expert surfrider around 1895 to 1900,” recalls early-twentieth-century surfer Knute Cottrell: “She rode a long olo board made of wili wili.” And yet Kaiulani was the last of the legendary Hawai’ian women wave-riders of her day.

hen she passed away in 1992, her memorial at the Outrigger Canoe Club brought together hundreds of surfers. Mary Ann Hawkins could have gone through life with an Olympic laurel wreath around her head, but as the first great California waterwoman of the twentieth century, she chose instead a wreath of plumeria intertwined with seaweed.

Marilyn Monroe was a surfer after many a man’s heart. Back in the 1940s, when she was still Norma Jeane Baker, she was just one of many young, beautiful starlets hanging around and having fun at Malibu, where she tandem-surfed with pioneering waterman Tommy Zahn. “She was in prime condition,” Zahn remembers in Anthony Summers’s book Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe. “ Tremendously fit.

Marilyn and other women surfers had to be in fine shape as the heavy weight of the surfboards held back many early female wave-riders. Most women surfers didn’t have their own boards–and might have had trouble carrying them if they did. This was a time when surfing was a manly pursuit, because surfers were riding gargantuan Pacific System Homes redwood-balsa planks that were eleven feet long and weighed eighty to one hundred pounds. Or more. There were many men who couldn’t handle these boards–and few women who could muscle them around on their own.