Local knowledge proved to be a huge advantage at the inaugural Pe’ahi Challenge contested in treacherous conditions on Sunday, 6 December. Jaws locals, Billy Kemper and Albee Layer earned the top two positions, while Greg Long (USA) finished third with an heroic display in massive and windy waves.
Jaws local, Billy Kemper claimed victory at the inaugural Pe’ahi Challenge.
Before Billy kicked off proceedings with the first giant wave caught in Round 1, Shane Dorian (HAW) had already air-dropped into a giant peak on the webcast prior to the start of the first heat, so we knew we were in for an epic showdown. Carlos Burle broke his board but survived a two wave hold-down after taking a vicious wipeout on his opening ride, and the Brazilian fought back bravely to advance to the semi finals from the first heat. It was a display of courage that would continue throughout the event. This was, after all, billed as THE ultimate big wave event.
And viewers weren’t disappointed as Greg Long pulled into this humongous barrel in Round 1 Heat 2 to earn the win and move on to the semi finals:
Greg Long’s incredible 9.00-scoring wave in Round 1.
Twiggy only managed to catch one wave in Heat 3 of Round 1, proving how difficult the Jaws lineup was to read. It was a nice clean peak in the tricky conditions but not enough to see the Saffa charger through to the semi-finals. Albee Layer, Nic Lamb (USA) and Mark Healy (HAW) advanced from what was the lowest scoring heat of the round.
The ocean turned it up a notch again in Heat 4 of Round 1, which saw some superb waves ridden. Ian Walsh (HAW) caught the best of them and finished ahead of local charger Kai Lenny, while the pre-event show’s star, Shane Dorian, also advanced to the semi finals in third place.
The drop Shane Dorian made before the event kicked-off was spectacular.
In the first semi final, Greg Long rode the standout wave of the round again, earning an excellent 8.93 score. Billy Kemper also caught a bomb that scored 8.33 to secure his spot in the finals, while Peru’s Gabriel Villaran gave a good account of himself to finish in third and also make the final.
Albee Layer took command of the second semi-final. The Jaws local scored an 8.00 and a 7.60 riding the shortest board in the competition. Albee showed a preference for taking off deep and underneath the barrelling west bowl, and his choice of weapon was perfectly suited.
Albee Layer tucks under the lip of a hollow west bowl barrel.
The Maui local was joined in the finals by Ian Walsh and Shane Dorian, leaving Greg Long and Gabriel Villaran as the only finalists not from Hawaii.
Just like in Round 1, eventual champ, Billy Kemper, caught the first wave of the Final. It was a beautiful but scary-looking west bowl barrel, which he tucked-up neatly into and made it to the channel for an even 8.00 score. Only Albee Layer managed to catch two waves like Billy, and the Jaws locals took the top two spots ahead of Greg Long. The Californian once again caught the Round’s highest-scoring ride, but unfortunately wasn’t able to back it up with another score.
Billy started the final with this epic ride, which propelled him to victory.
PE’AHI CHALLENGE FINAL RESULTS:
1st – Billy Kemper (HAW) 8.00 / 6.77 = 22.77pts
2nd – Albee Layer (HAW) 7.00 / 5.33 = 19.33pts
3rd – Greg Long (USA) 8.13 / 0.00 = 16.26pts
4th – Ian Walsh (HAW) 0.50 / 0.00 = 1.00pts
5th – Gabriel Villaran (PER) 0.40 / 0.00 = 0.80pts
6th – Shane Dorian (HAW) 0.10 / 0.00 = 0.20pts
* Top-scoring ride gets doubled in Big Wave Tour events.
There were of course some terrifying wipeouts in an event as challenging as the this. The clip below shows some of the day’s heaviest tumbles, which makes it hard to believe there were no serious injuries. Bravo to the water patrol and the WSL for ensuring that all the chargers got to celebrate a massive day in competitive big wave surfing history.