While it's usually winter that's described as coming in like a lion, the same allusion could be made when describing the start of Keala Kennelly's summer. After a winter of chasing North Pacific giants at Jaws and Oahu's outer reefs, she kept the big-wave pursuit going with an extended stint at Puerto Escondido. After more than a month down in Mexico we were able to catch up with the hard-charging Kauaian to get her take on what's happening in some of the Pacific's more powerful lineups.
Your latest trip to Puerto, let's talk about it. How'd you go on some of the big days?
I had such a good trip. Puerto is such an amazing place. It's rare that the surf drops below six feet. I ended up using my biggest board most of the time, and even borrowed a bigger board from Timmy Reyes for one of the bigger days. I got a couple bombs -- including an awesome barrel thanks to Coco Nogales.
Any moments that had you wondering why you got yourself into all this?
When I spent 10 minutes in the impact zone tied to my broken board getting pounded by wave after wave, that thought did cross my mind, yes. Also, Noel Robinson drowned three days into my trip and I think that was a big wake-up call for everyone.
Traditionally there's a lot of machismo that accompanies the big barrels of Puerto, we know you can hold your own in that kind of environment, but was the vibe in this lineup any different than other big-wave kind of breaks?
Like anywhere, there is a pecking order. But all those guys respect me and my surfing, so even though it was hard to pick off the better sets, the guys in the water were super encouraging and positive towards me. I was also really stoked on the local Mexican guys. They took me in and made me feel like I was one of the boys. That made me really happy.
Moving on, the trend in big-wave surfing has been the return of paddling. What's your take on it?
When you can paddle into a big wave that's always more impressive than if you are whipped in. However, there are some waves -- Teahupoo especially -- that are very top to bottom, very square. I find that those waves are almost impossible to paddle into once they get over a certain height.
What other plans do you have for the summer surf season? Chasing more swells?
Yes. I have a summer wish list that includes: Tahiti, Bali, West Oz and maybe Nicaragua. We'll see how many of those spots I can make it to. I feel like summer is already slipping away so fast.
Besides the surf, what other kind of trouble you been getting yourself into? What's your land act consist of these days?
Not a lot of trouble for me these days. I used to be such the club kid, but I have grown out of that scene. This last week I attended the W.O.W. [Women On Waves] gala at the surf museum in Oceanside. That was a really fun event celebrating women's surfing. A few nights ago I went with a friend to watch a play in Hollywood. Since I've been traveling I've been missing my acting class, so it was nice to be back in that environment for a night.
After everything you've accomplished and all the waves you've ridden, what's next? What's the plan for the next couple of years?
I am really happy doing what I am doing now. Thanks to Billabong for being my biggest supporter through my ever-changing career. I want to continue pushing my surfing, especially in big waves, and continue getting lots of exposure for my sponsors. I love when I open one of the men's surf magazines and I see a surf shot of me there amongst the men -- and not because I am doing a bottom turn in a bikini, but because I have a worthy shot. I also want to push my acting and get passed the fear of rejection that holds me back from really putting myself out there.
Thanks for the time, break a leg.
Thanks, talk to you soon.