Top Female Surfer Keala Kennelly Returns to Competition

Top Female Surfer Keala Kennelly Returns to Competition

Described as the best female surfer on Earth, Keala Kennelly returned to the water after a recent hip surgery.

The Big Wave World Tour champion took a nasty fall, suffered from a torn labrum in her hip, leg out of socket, and spent eight long rehabilitating months in the hospital — and now she is back. The 43-year-old Hawaiian super-champion easily the most influential XXL wave/heavy water slab rider in female surfing history — is back to claim her stake in surfing.

But the decision didn’t come easy for Kennelly. Kennelly stated, “I mean, I’ve been doing this for 15 or 20 years, and I didn’t have all these opportunities like the Red Bull Magnitude. I had to create opportunities. For myself, sure, but more for the generations behind me who’d benefit from them. But you know, I just got to surf in the Backdoor Shootout, and that was something I’ve dreamed of for a long time: a women’s contest at legit Pipeline. I fought so hard for so many years to get that. Now they’re finally having women at the Pipe Masters… And I’m not on Tour anymore [laughs]! I’m stoked that I was able to make this happen for the next generation, but God, I wish I could’ve cashed in on it in my prime!

Who is Keala Kennelly?

Born and raised in the beautiful Hawaiian Islands, Keala is one of the best female surfers in the world and perhaps the best female big wave surfer on the planet.

She spent over a decade ranked in the top 10 in the world on the WSL World Championship Tour finishing runner up to the World Title in 2003. She left the WCT tour in 2007 to star as a season regular on HBO drama series John from Cincinnati. Keala helped establish a Women’s Big Wave Tour and was part of a committee that was responsible for getting women included in the Titans of Mavericks Big Wave Event and winning the fight for equal pay in surfing in 2018.

A true pioneer to the surfing community, Keala’s groundbreaking performances in some of the heaviest waves in the world have shattered glass ceilings in her sport. She continues to challenge perceptions of what a woman is capable of in the water and break through the gender barrier by doing things that no one ever believed was possible for a female.

Keala Kennelly Over the Years

  • ESPN’s Surfer of the Year 2002

  • x Games 13 Gold Medalist 2007

  • 4x Champion at Teahupoo

  • Roxy Pro Fiji WCT Champion 2003

  • Triple Crown Champion 2003

  • WCT World Title 2003 Runner-up

  • Nelscott Big Wave Classic in 2010 Champion

  • WickrX Super Sessions Women’s Overall Big Wave Champion 2014

  • Won multiple XXL Big Wave Awards Women’s Performance of the Year Awards.

  • 2013 “Woman of the Year” inducted into Surfing Walk of Fame in Huntington Beach

  • 2013 Inducted into the Surfing Hall of Fame

  • 2013 Speaker at TEDX Malibu

  • 2016 Won the Pure Scot Barrel of the Year award at the XXL big wave awards making her the first woman in history to win an open gender category.

  • 2017 WSL Peahi Big Wave Challenge 2nd place

  • 2018 WSL Peahi Big Wave Challenge Champion

  • 2017 WSL Big Wave Tour Ranking #2

  • 2018 WSL Big Wave Tour Ranking #1

  • In 2018, Keala became the first woman in history ever invited to compete in The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational

  • In 2020, Keala won Wipeout of the Year at the Big Wave Awards

  • 2021 Red Bull Magnitude Champion




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