"Real courage is when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
Four days ago, handkerchiefs were moistened when the forty-four-year-old big-wave champ and LGBTQ+ icon Keala Kennelly hinted she was done with the pro surfing game after suffering one of the worst wipeouts of The Eddie Invitational.
“My entire surfing career has been about pushing the limits in women’s surfing. This is what pushing your limits looks like, it isn’t always pretty but the ones that I’ve had in my career where I went #fullsend and was successful were incredible. This might be my last #send. My body can’t take this shit anymore…I hope you enjoyed the show.”
A 2011 visit to Teahupoo ended with a trip to the emergency room in Papeete to remove pieces of coral embedded in her face and to insert a subsequent forty stitches. Kennelly described as like having a car accident.
In 2020, Kennelly was awarded wipeout of the year at the Red Bull Big Wave Awards following a parachute jump at Jaws that still gives the viewer a little shiver.
It speaks volumes that Kennelly, who famously won her world crown despite not making a takeoff on her two waves in the one-day title decider, paddled out on a day at Waimea so heavy former Eddie winner and greatest surfer of all time Kelly Slater stayed on the beach and handed his spot to lifeguard Chris Owens.
Keala does send it.
And, now, the former photo editor of Surfing Magazine Jimmy Wilson, a man who once stiffed me so hard on a tour rumour about John John Florence I was subsequently forced to double-check the veracity of every rumour hence, has delivered the wildest of backhanded compliments.
“Is Keala Kennelly the most psycho charger of all time?” tweeted Wilson. “Skill:Send ratio is out of this world. Imagine going on all the waves she’s attempted, knowing in the back your mind, there’s a 0-1% chance of making it.”
Is Keala Kennelly the most psycho charger of all time? Skill:Send ratio is out of this world.
Imagine going on all the waves she’s attempted, knowing in the back of your mind, there’s a 0-1% chance of making it. pic.twitter.com/UEAdMCLuXW
— Jimmy Wilson (@Jimmicane) January 28, 2023
There’s something very Atticus Finch about Kennelly.
Finch, the white lawyer in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, delivers a wonderful speech about courage to his bro when he takes on the futile task of defending a black man wrongly accused of rape (this was before #believeallwomen).
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
The antithesis of Kennelly, I suppose, is the current men’s world champ Filipe Toledo whose preternatural skill would see him through anything the ocean throws at him, but still, even after all the silly barbs and skewed looks and talk of asterisks next to his name, Filly Don’t Go.
A little hypothetical for y’all.
If magic existed and you could possess the bravery and chutzpah of Keala or the small-wave skills of Filipe, what would your choose and why?