Heavy Water: The Keala Kennelly Interview

Heavy Water: The Keala Kennelly Interview
With the first big swells of the 2012/2013 Winter surf season creeping up on the shores of Hawaii and California, we caught up with renowned Hawaiian charger Keala Kennelly to see what she’s been doing to prepare for the big stuff. One of the hardest charging ladies in the world, KK is always ready to go and share some of her infinite wisdom.—JC

TransWorld SURF: What’s your offseason training regiment like?

Keala Kennelly: I get in the gym to stay strong and surf when I can. I try to incorporate fun things into my training so it doesn’t become so redundant. If the waves are small or flat I do some SUPing, which is a great workout. I have also been playing co-ed soccer which is amazing cardio. I am sprinting up and down the field like a stallion, sweating like crazy and it’s a hell of a lot more fun then running on a treadmill.

Now that you’re a mom, does that change anything as far as your approach to surfing big waves?

Not really, my approach the last few years has been very calculated. I calculate my risk vs. reward and if the risk to reward ratio is off I have no problem sitting my ass on the beach. At this point in my life I don’t have anything to prove to anybody but myself.

What’s your quiver looking like this year?

My quiver is looking pretty solid. I’ve been working with my shaper at Aftermath, Ian Wright, on some nice looking guns and Pipe boards. I have everything from a 5’10” to 10’0” and a 5’5” weighted tow board for Jaws. Lots of boards in the 6’8”-7’2” range for Pipe and my big wave boards are 9’0”, 9’2”, 9’6 and 10’0”.


How do you bounce back from a horrific wipeout like you had in Tahiti last year?

Well, the way I look at it, smashing face-first into the reef is probably one of the worst things you can do to yourself. So I can cross that one off the list. As horrible and traumatic as that injury was, I got through it, so now I can look back and find strength in what I was able to overcome. It’s so true what they say—what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

How do you put aside the fear and paddle into a bomb?

Fear is not necessarily a bad thing (it’s a good motivator for self-preservation) but once you have made the decision that you want that bomb, fear has to go out of your mind. Your mind needs to be clear so you can focus on making the drop, picking a good line, and reading the wave properly. If your mind is distracted by fear you are going to do things like second guess yourself, hesitate and misread the wave and that’s when you get in trouble. Easier said then done though.

What big wave spots are going to be on your radar this season?

In the winter you will mostly find me with the boys out at Pipe but once it gets over ten-foot (Hawaiian) I start looking at more deep-water spots like Waimea or some of the outer reefs. Jaws, on Maui, is always on my radar.

Any chance of us seeing you paddle in at Jaws?

My friend Paige Alms paddled into a bomb out there last winter and that was very inspiring. I would like to give it a try on a day when the wind is really light. The difficult thing about Jaws is the big chops on the face that you have to negotiate (it’s so much easier to absorb them when you are strapped in). Not to mention Jaws is such a massive arena with so much water moving out there, it’s really hard to be in the correct take-off spot when you’re paddling. Last year the boys set the bar so high, paddling waves that I wouldn’t go near unless I was towing but I am not going to take a ski out and tow when those guys are paddling out there out of respect for them. So because of that, I don’t know if I will get many chances to tow Jaws this winter—paddling might be the only option.

What other girls do you see as your peers in big wave surfing?

Paige Alms from Maui, she is such a talented surfer, she absolutely charges and is probably the most under-rated female big wave surfer out there. I also have a lot of respect for Savannah Shaughnessy, I’ve seen footage of her at Maverick’s and Puerto Escondido charging. Also Silvia Nambuco, every time I paddle out to Waimea on a big day and think I am going to be the only female out there Silvia has already been out for an hour catching bombs. Then you have Maya Gabeira who is super dedicated and chases every big swell in sight.

Any tips you can offer to a young woman who’s looking to push herself in bigger waves?

Know your limits and go at your own pace—don’t let people pressure you into going bigger than you can handle. Just remember when the clean-up set comes those people won’t be there to hold your hand when you’re getting drilled.

Follow Keala on Twitter at twitter.com/kealakennelly

Heavy Water Big Wave Surfing Interview Keala Kennelly