Keala Kennelly delivers an emotional acceptance speech at the WSL Awards

April 2, 2019 | Surfing
Keala Kennelly: your 2018 Women's Big Wave Tour champion | Photo: Hallman/WSL

Keala Kennelly delivered an inspiring acceptance speech at the 2019 World Surf League (WSL) Awards.

The annual WSL Awards celebrate the accomplishments of the past season and recognize the greatest feats of the year in pro surfing.

The Hawaiian big wave surfer, 40, fulfilled her longtime dream and won the first world surfing title of her career.

Kennelly, who has already surfed some of the most deadly waves of the planet including Jaws and Teahupoo, is the first openly lesbian professional big wave surfer in the history of the sport.

The athlete from Kauai explained how hard it was to admit that she was different, even though she had the same dreams as everyone else.

"How many of you knew what you wanted to be when you were seven years old? I did. I wanted to be a world champion," said Keala Kennelly.

"When I was 25, it looked like it was going to happen for me, and right at the last moment it slipped through my fingers, and I finished number two in the world. I was devastated."

"I was devastated because I felt that my life was over because that was my big dream. But what I realize now is that wasn't my dream at all. Because I wasn't dreaming big enough."

"Now I'm part of an elite group of athletes that are literally pushing the limits of what humans are capable of, and we're inspiring so many men and women with what we do."

"I needed to dream bigger because when I was 25 I was hiding in the closet, soaked in shame, living in fear, and I hated myself because I didn't think I could be world champion and gay at the same time."

"I needed to dream bigger because now I get to be the first openly gay world champion. I am proud of who I am, and I get to love myself exactly as I am, and not as people want me to be."

"I hope that I will inspire other LGBT athletes that are suffering in silence to live your truth."

"And I needed to dream so much bigger because when I was 25, the difference in prize money between men and women was so radically different. Now, I get to be world champion with equal pay."

"I want to thank Sophie Goldschmidt, Jessi Miley-Dyer and all the women athletes that came before me and helped make equal pay a reality."

"Women are now uplifting other women, and that's how we do things now. It's the ripple effect that's changing the world. When I was a little girl, I had this big, crazy dream that one day they would invite women to compete in The Eddie, and then I grew up and became that woman."

"So, all I got to say to you is: dream the big, crazy dreams because you never know which ones will become true," concluded Keala Kennelly.

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