Justine Dupont rides giant wave at Belharra, France

Justine Dupont enters the big wave elite at Belharra. Photo Bastien Bonnarme

Justine Dupont enters the big-wave elite at Belharra. Photo by Bastien Bonnarme

Justine Dupont has ridden a XXL wave at Belharra, France. Ironically, she rode this wave at around the same time Maya Gabeira was being pulled unconscious from the water after a wipeout at Portugal’s big-wave break of Nazare. Gabeira’s near death experience reignited the debate over the reasons and rationale for the lack of female big-wave surfers. Surfer magazine, in its June issue, covered the topic in an article titled “Boys Club,” with big-wave surfer Keala Kennelly prophetically saying, "Who in their right mind would want to have a job where you make no money and there is a chance you could be killed while doing it?"

Legendary big-wave surfer Ian Cairns was, typically, more to the point on his Facebook page saying, "Perhaps it’s time for Maya to back off a little. (It is a) wake-up call."

It's interesting, then, that at almost at the same time that Maya was being dragged unconscious from the water, there was another female surfer, Justine Dupont, surfing a giant wave at France's big-wave break of Belharra. By riding a wave in the 40 foot range, Dupont officially entered the select ranks of the big-wave surfing sorority. The 23-year-old surfer, who also competes at the elite level in both shortboard and longboarding, has some experience with big waves surfing Eileens in Ireland last year; however, this was her first time surfing Belharra and the biggest wave of her life.

"I was confident and really wanted to catch some waves," Dupont told GrindTV. "However, I was still unsure of whether I had the muscle strength in my legs to cope with waves that size." While the wave was nowhere near as big as Gabeira's, there was also a similar amount of chop and bump on the face of the wave that can lead to a fatal fall. "It has to be considered—men are far stronger, and that helps,” said Dupont. “However, after I caught a few waves I realized I had the strength to handle it and have gained more confidence as a result.”

When asked whether she is now ready for waves such as Nazare, after Gabeira's experience Dupont was cautious. "I checked out Nazare with the Billabong Adventure Division when Shane Dorian surfed it earlier this year. But I have to take it slowly. I have a lot to learn and big-wave riding is all about experience. Hopefully, one day I'll be ready and prepared for waves like that."

Justine Dupont talking to Shane Dorian earlier in the year at Nazare. Photo by Carlos Pinto

Justine Dupont talking to Shane Dorian earlier in the year at Nazare. Photo by Carlos Pinto

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