Tow in surfing is the last bastion of male domination in the world of surfing. Until just a few years ago the small percentage of surfers that were either so courageous or so crazy that they want to globe trot in order to pursue monster waves that are an absolute minimum of 20 feet has been entirely male.
Times change. Now big wave surf is attracting its fair share female addicts as well. The older generation of big wave surfers, both male and female, spawned a love for catching the largest and most powerful waves possible. But when Laird Hamilton and his friends started using inflatable boats to tow each other to surf they could not paddle to, a new world was opened.
And in the past few years it has opened to women. Albeit the most experienced and courageous of women. Tow surfing is definitely an extremely specific skill set, and extensive experience is necessary before even thinking about grabbing on to a tow line to face a 30 foot wave.
Most of the women that are heading out into these waves have surfing in their blood and years of experience under their belts. But a new generation of women that began surfing about the time most kids were heading for kindergarten are facing waves that only about 1% of male surfers face.
One of the leaders of the younger set is Jamilah Star. A Santa Cruz native who began surfing at the ripe old age of five, and at the age of 29 is one of the women who loves to surf Jaws. Andrea Moller, also 29 led the charge on women towing into the surf at Jaws with surf partner Maria Souza. Maria was married to Laird Hamilton when he and his team pioneered the sport in the early 90’s.
Andrea and Maria’s fellow Brazilian countrywoman Maya Gabeira was the first woman to brave Teahupoo, considered by most to be the most dangerous break on the planet. With just seven years of experience. At 21. And garnered the respect of some of the biggest names in the world of tow in surf.
Not only did she ride Teahupoo, but she did it after two brutal wipeouts. She followed up with winning back to back titles in the XXL Billabong Women’s Best Performance category in 2007 and 2008.
What is the goal of these adrenaline junkie women? Every time they grab on to the handle and launch their tow in surfboards it’s about one thing. The love of surf, soul surfing is their core. They don’t want to be “good for a girl” they want to be good. Period. Where there are no considerations for their gender, just considerations for their ability to surf.