• Justin Duyao


Big wave surfing contests have attracted some of the best and most daring surfers in the world, since the first ever “Eddie” was held at Waimea Bay in 1984.

These competitions have made champions into legends, such as Darryl Virostko (“Flea”), who won first place at Mavericks in 1999 and has won twice more since, and Makua Rothman, who became the first World Surf League (WSL) Big Wave World Tour (BWWT) Champion in 2015.

However, throughout its history, these events have tended only to hallow men.

In 2016, Paige Alms shattered this bias when she was crowned the first women’s big wave surfing champion at Jaws during the Pe’ahi Women’s Challenge. And today, surfers like Emily Erickson and Izzi Gomez are following in her footsteps.

In the first episode of “No Small Feat,” Red Bull’s intimate, two-part series following these two very talented big wave surfers, walk alongside Erickson and Gomez on their respective journey toward the WSL cbdMD Jaws Big Wave Championships.

“I’m not trying to become a big wave surfer, I already am one,” Emily, or “Emi,” said in the film. “The world is just waking up late.”

Daughter of famed big wave surfer and lifeguard, Roger Erickson, Emi is a well known big-wave surfer herself from the North Shore of Oahu.

“Everyone acts like it’s a new thing,” Emi said, regarding big wave surfers who are women. “There were women doing it before, [though] not many. And there are women doing it now.”

She said breaking into the sport was hard at first, because of people’s expectations of what it meant to be a female big wave surfer.

“That’s been an issue in my mind lately,” she said. “What’s acceptable? What’s sponsorable? What’s gonna win?”

Erickson juggles multiple jobs to support herself while maintaining enough flexibility to chase swells through the winter. Winning the Jaws Championships would help secure her a sponsorship and chase her passion full time.

Winning the championship for Izzi Gomez, however, would be a very different feat.

After winning her fifth Stand-Up Paddle world title, at only 19 years old, Izzi is trying to break into big wave surfing for the first time. Training under Paige Alms to prepare, she would join the Jaws Big Wave Championships as an invited alternate in the event.

“My goal is to get more comfortable in bigger surf,” Izzi said. “I look at all these girls and what they’re doing — it’s inspiring. I just want to go and push myself to get better.”

Mark Healey and Jamie Mitchell, two men with innumerable big waves between them, join the two women in telling the story of big wave competition.

“It’s like doing a 100-meter sprint, jumping off a 6-story building, and then holding your breath for 40 seconds while getting attacked by a bear,” says Mitchell.

Dive into the first episode of this short film series, “No Small Feat,” from Red Bull, for a unique look into the mental and physical challenges that come with being a female big wave surfer — and the triumphs that follow.


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