Billy Kemper wins 2019 Jaws Big Wave Championships

December 13, 2019 | Surfing
Billy Kemper: a superb display of commitment and courage at Peahi | Photo: Hallman/WSL

Billy Kemper and Paige Alms have taken out the 2019 Jaws Big Wave Championships, at Peahi, in Maui, Hawai.

The sets kept coming in bigger and bigger on the horizon, delivering 30-to-50-foot waves at the infamous surf break.

The yellow helicopter flew below the lip close to the athletes. The stage was set, and the fans flocked online to witness the elite of big wave surfing at work.

Some surfers opted to go left, there were constant strategic adjustments in the lineup, as the wind played a critical role in the quality of the waves.

There were a few serious wipeouts, paddling interferences, free falls, and some riders getting caught inside and suffering at the hands of ten-foot walls of rumbling white water.

Mother Nature was responsible for breaking several boards, but the showdown produced epic, never-seen-before moments.

Lucas Chianca even stalled for the barrel. At Peahi. Crazy to watch. Kai Lenny surfed on a small board - a 9'4'' - and fueled by pre-surf burritos. Can you believe that?

Fortunately, the flotation vests worked flawlessly, and there were no life-threatening moments, even though we saw a jet ski capsizing while trying to pick up an athlete from the impact zone.

2019 Jaws Big Wave Championships: Jamie Mitchell was one of the athletes who suffered wipeouts like this | Photo: WSL

Four Is the Magic Number

Three experienced Hawaiians - Kai Lenny, Makuakai Rothman, Ian Walsh - were the first to secure a place in the grand final.

They were followed by another two local riders - Nathan Florence and Billy Kemper. Lucas Chianca, representing Brazil, was the sole foreigner to reach the decisive heat.

The men's final was intense. Competitors went for the barrels showing they were able to pay the ultimate price of getting pounded by large volumes of moving water.

From the get-go, it was clear that only Kemper, Florence, Lenny and Walsh would be fighting for first place.

In the end, Kemper conquered his fourth title at Jaws/Peahi.

"I'm over the moon. It was such a rough dogfight all the way leading up to the final. Every morning, I wake up early and I work hard. I've taken time away from my wife and my children, but it's all for this right here. and I love you," expressed Kemper.

"I just I said it before and I'll say it again: this is my pride and joy. I leave blood, sweat and tears in Jaws. This is my backyard - I'm very territorial! I bring my mom everywhere I go. I brought her out here today and she's with me and she and my brother keep me safe."

Pink Power

Paige Alms: she won the event at Peahi for the third time | Photo: Saguibo/WSL

The female fleet enjoyed the same pristine conditions, but they struggled to complete rides and earn high scores from the judging panel.

Felicity Palmateer was clearly the standout surfer of the first semifinal, but Keala Kennelly and Paige Alms also got a ticket into the final.

On the second semifinal, there were few waves ridden, and two more Hawaiians locked in spots in the final - Annie Reichert and Emily Erickson.

Paige Alms ended up winning the women's event with a good wave. The Hawaiian celebrated yet another trophy at Peahi.

"I'm stoked and pretty excited for a cocktail. We had challenging conditions and, when I paddled out in my first heat the wind was here and I knew the Maui glass was on," added Alms.

"I tried to make smart decisions out here and I obviously got pretty beat up at the end of that first wave. I try and pick the good ones, and I was not out there to prove anything to anyone except myself."

Kai Lenny: another stylish performance in one of his favorite big wave arenas | Photo: WSL

2019 Jaws Big Wave Championships | Finals

1. Billy Kemper (HAW) 21.26
2. Ian Walsh (HAW) 20.03
3. Nathan Florence (HAW) 16.76
4. Kai Lenny (HAW) 16.59
5. Makuakai Rothman (HAW) 9.37
6. Lucas Chianca (BRA) 1.40

1. Paige Alms (HAW) 12.34
2. Felicity Palmateer (AUS) 10.86
3. Annie Reichert (HAW) 9.13
4. Keala Kennelly (HAW) 8,17
5. Emily Erickson (HAW) 1.40
6. Michaela Fregonese (BRA) 0.00

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