10 Questions with Paige Alms: Braving Waves and Breaking Records

Paige Alms has no qualms about play­ing with the boys. In fact, she’s one of the few women in the world who reg­u­lar­ly braves big wave surf­ing. Con­sid­ered a female pio­neer of the sport, Alms is break­ing down bar­ri­ers in the tra­di­tion­al­ly male-dom­i­nat­ed sport.

The Clymb: Big wave rid­ing is still pret­ty much a male-dom­i­nat­ed sport. How does that affect the things you can do or your involve­ment in it?

Paige Alms: Being a woman has and nev­er will affect the things that I or oth­er women can do, in surf­ing or in any oth­er sport. Peo­ple have pre­con­ceived ideas of what is pos­si­ble, man or woman, but all of those opin­ions are con­stant­ly chang­ing. For exam­ple, did I think I’d ever pad­dle into a wave at Jaws and get bar­reled? Not in the begin­ning of the pad­dle move­ment out there. But a few weeks before I did it, I told my pho­tog­ra­ph­er friend Tra­cy Leboe that I was going to do it. She laughed and thought I was jok­ing, but a few weeks lat­er, we were talk­ing “I told you I was going to do it!!” The pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less, for men or women.

The Clymb: Is being a woman an advan­tage or dis­ad­van­tage in the sport?

PA: I think it can only be an advan­tage because we are prov­ing to the world that women can do what the men are doing on big waves!

The Clymb: How did you get start­ed in water sports? What’s your sports background?

PA: I always loved the ocean and felt as if I was drawn to it at a young age. My entire child­hood I played soc­cer, base­ball, track, cross coun­try, skate­board­ing, pret­ty much every­thing. I start­ed surf­ing when I was about 10 and every­thing kind of took sec­ond choice after that!

The Clymb: Why the jump to wave rid­ing rather than just stick­ing to “plain” surf­ing? What attract­ed you to it?

PA: I guess you mean “big wave rid­ing.” Well, big wave surf­ing was just a nat­ur­al pro­gres­sion for me, I always loved chal­leng­ing myself and push­ing myself to get bet­ter. Noth­ing is more chal­leng­ing and hum­bling than big wave surf­ing. It is the most exhil­a­rat­ing feel­ing I have ever experienced.

The Clymb: What would you con­sid­er your most impres­sive accom­plish­ment in the field so far?

PA: My bar­rel at Peahi in Jan­u­ary; by far my biggest accom­plish­ment of my life.

The Clymb: You were the first ever female surfer to get bar­reled at Jaws. For read­ers who are not famil­iar with this, can you explain exact­ly what that means?

PA: Just to clar­i­fy, I wasn’t the first. My dear friend Keala Ken­nel­ly got bar­reled there a few years pri­or, but it was a very short pock­et ride, she would even say that. So to explain what that means, basi­cal­ly I pad­dled into a 30 foot wave, got to the bot­tom of the wave, “bot­tom turned” up into the pock­et of the wave, and the lip “threw out” over me. We call it get­ting tubed, as you are rid­ing a tube of mov­ing water. It is the best feel­ing you can have on a wave and that feel­ing is even more accen­tu­at­ed on a huge wave like that. Only a few men in the world have been bar­reled at Jaws, so to be a woman on that list is a great feeling!

The Clymb: What made this chal­lenge so significant?

PA: That it was a first of many more to come!

The Clymb: How do you deal with fear when fac­ing a gigan­tic wave and the unpre­dictabil­i­ty of the ocean?

PA: It is all about accept­ing your fears and learn­ing how to push through that fear calm­ly. Being phys­i­cal­ly and men­tal­ly pre­pared to take on any­thing that moth­er nature throws at you is the most empow­er­ing feel­ing you can ever have. With that being said, I do a lot of train­ing in the gym, breath hold­ing and surf­ing as much as pos­si­ble, as the ocean teach­es you the most valu­able lessons of all. Con­quer­ing your fears, wow, how invigorating!

The Clymb: You have a doc­u­men­tary com­ing out lat­er this year. Can you tell us a bit more about it? What was it like to film it?

PA: Yes, it is called “The Wave I Ride” and it was made by Devyn Bis­son. We pre­miered it here on Maui in June at the Maui Film Fes­ti­val, under the stars in Wailea, with a turnout of more than 2,500 peo­ple. Being a part of this project was a huge learn­ing expe­ri­ence for me and I am so grate­ful to have been a part of it all. The movie should be on iTunes by the end of the year and a sched­ule of the film tour should be up on the site soon.

The Clymb: What else is com­ing up next? Any com­pe­ti­tions planned?

PA: No com­pe­ti­tions at the moment, although I am hop­ing there will be a women’s heat at the Peahi Chal­lenge this win­ter! As far as what’s com­ing next, I am get­ting shoul­der surgery next week for a spot of avas­cu­lar necro­sis I have on my humer­al head, which I got when I dis­lo­cat­ed and frac­tured my shoul­der two years ago. So lots of rehab and train­ing ahead to be ready for winter!