at the Bud Light Women's Pipeline Bodyboarding Classic
featured in Tiare Girl(Hawaii) and Watergirl Magazines(Ca.)

At 8:00am on March 21 air raids sounded over Baghdad almost simultaneously with the horn which kicked off the Bud Light Women's Bodyboarding Championships at Pipeline. You can imagine the “shock & awe” of women competitors which came from 11 different countries when they heard the US had just launched the first major bombing campaign on Iraq. Young newcomer Christine Donovan from Virgina Beach exclaimed “I feel totally selfish that I am here in Hawaii and all those guys in the military are having to fight for our country, and I'm in Hawaii, sitting on the Beach, competing in a contest today.” I think this comment explains everyones feelings of helpless guilt while we sit comfortably in our homes watching the war unfold, but perhaps our reality is that because of those guys fighting we can sit comfortably in our homes or on the beach and have our surf contests.

I guess you could say the girls embraced their freedom to compete especially in a contest which was almost canceled twice this year. In the begining of the season, new city and county permit restrictions at Pipeline had the contest cancelled and then rescheduled to an inferior time slot. Just preceding the event, international competitors, especially some who were traveling with newborn babies considered canceling the event due to world circumstances, being very nervous about flying through NY, LA and Miami airports with the nation on high alert status, not to mention the quickly spreading SARS disease. This is just one of many risks and sacrifices these determined women take consistently to compete as professionals in their sport. If the word bodyboard flashed visuals in your mind of tourists flopping around in shorebreak, then you need to check out the month leading up to this women’s bodyboarding event which just might be the best display of athleticism in the sport of surfing altogether. If these girls are not out surfing gaping Pipe barrels, they will be seen riding bike, running the beach or doing some other form of training. They are all very fit, almost like that of a gymnast, and you can understand why when you see them flipping and twisting out there over a 6 ft lip.

The 14th annual women's Bud Light Bodyboarding championship had warbly mid March Pipe surf in the 4-6 ft range with some occ 8 ft close out bombs. “you've got some much bigger north sets that could really ruin your day with strong wind on top of it and that makes it no fun at all when those happen” reports loyal women's bodyboarding videographer DB, who said even the trials heats were quite surprisingly stacked with some really great surfing.

“You don’t choose your waves at Pipeline, they choose you” states Geraldine Cogin “I hope that the contest will show which girls really love this wave”, I guess by love she means giving up her career as a lawyer in Peru to surf Pipe where she paddles out at dark everyday, as big as it gets, season after season. While waves did not deliver this seductive appeal most of the girls lust for, local Hawaiian-Aussie Emilia Perry was able to maintain her obession for the Pipeline placing 5th as the highest Hawaiian in the event and one of the highest placing Hawaiians ever. She may have an advantage with coach Tamayo Perry as her husband, but being that she is the main girl out at Pipe every day, there was noone more deserving of such status in the event this year. Also making the semis and placing 7th was local Hawaiian-Brazilian, former world champion Claudia Ferrari, whose competition strategy of “the more I advance, the more I surf” was compelled by her excitement of finally being able to surf Pipe uncrowded. Also overwhelmed by the incredible crowds at Pipe was Canary Islands competitor Marina Taylor who also placed 7th, claming that there are waves like Pipe back home which aren’t crowded. 98 Pipe champion Aoi Koike was 13th alongside Emiko Mizoguchi who were the highest placing Japanese competitors. Aoi lives on the northshore part time and considers Pipeline to be a very “special” wave and event for the Japanese girls. Some of her scarriest experiences at Pipe are when she is way inside and sees the second reef breaking expressing that at this moment with your heart in your throat all you can do is “paddle out fast.” Aussie’s who dominated were Lily Pollard and defending champion Kirra Luewellyn both placing equal 11th. Lilly concluded that “theres nothing compared to Pipe in the world.” after getting her share of waves on some of the biggest, best days of the year. Kirra who made two trips to the northshore this season proclaims that “Hawaii brings out a lot of self motivation, its my personal challenge to be able to go out there everyday no matter what the size is, no matter how it looks and just to try and surf to my best ability,” Having enough ability to be ranked 3rd in the world along with a training regiment which includes breathing techniques, cardio and resistance training, Kirra defines her best experiences at Pipe as being spit out of huge waves, from which the thrill of making it, only has her craving for more. And more more more... screams the hearts of this small tribe of women bodyboarders riding Pipe everyday whose actions speak louder than their words. Robin Cardoza and contest director Carol Philips are just two of the competitors who pioneered this determined spirit and conquest of surfing Pipe which seems to be perpetuated in the young girls today.

Prior to the event I asked several girls who they thought would win and I have never seen anyone say “me” with such humility as they all did. These girls are like a sisterhood on the beach, all chatting together with smiles from ear to ear, who then flutter out into the lineup like butterflies and sting their competitors like a bee. Its a type of sportsmanship that seems to be lost in surfing “good clean competitive fun”. Neymara Carvalaho should have put money on her speculation when she said “Stephanie is the queen of pipe, but sometimes she doesn't win, so then maybe I can” because thats pretty much how it played out. In an all Brazilian final where the love of the competition seemed to drive them more than anything else, Neymara placed 2nd, Karla Costa-Taylor 3rd and Daniela Freitas 4th

Stephanie Peterson was advised to set up her will before taking the risk of traveling here this year, but I guess it must of paid off while she stood with her 1st place trophy putting a stamp on her 6th victory at Pipe and getting a great start to defending the world title she earned in 2002. However, Stephanie's struggle represents that of most women bodyboarders who even while carrying the world title does not have the financial support needed to do the tour. She continues cautiously on tour, keeping family as a priority, declaring that its not worth going in debt as she has had to do in recent years. Unfortunately the $2000 she won at this event will not cover her expenses for the tour or provide a good future for her young child at home. When I asked Stephanie about her secret to success, she uttered passionately “my love for the sport”. When people tell her to stand up she concludes “I have too much fun, I don't have to go and try stand up just to make people happy because its all about standing up.” Being that it was the women bodyboarders who first kickstarted the women's surfing movement in the early 90s, you can see why she gets frustrated that surf companies can not find the value of professional women's bodyboarding now. Once approached by around 7 different companies at once who were eager to sponsor her, Stephanie and other top girls such as Leila Ali and Karla Kosta are fading from the tour due to lack of support. While some of the younger competitors have small sponsorships and a lot of faith that this lull in the sport will pass if they stay positive, Stephanie fears that shes going to stop and “be like the last ones.”

With 60 competitors from around the world kindling their fervor for women's bodyboarding at a world class wave like Pipeline, theres hope that the passion passed along by these pioneers will have younger constituents taking the torch to keep the fire for womens bodyboarding burning.

For more info on women's bodyboarding, go to www.bodyboard.org