VIA – SANTA CRUZ SENTINEL
Gretchen Wegrich, Stoked and Broke: Savannah Shaughnessy a finalist for Billabong XXL Girls Performance Award
Savannah Shaughnessy charges harder than you do.
The 23-year-old Santa Cruz surfer recently received recognition for her hell-woman status as a 2012 nominee of the Billabong XXL Girls Performance Award.
The journey has brought her into close contact with her heroes and pushed her from one life-threatening situation to the next. But more than the glory, Shaughnessy is chasing the sweet reward of reaching her full potential.
After pushing the limits of paddle-in surfing at Puerto Escondido’s Mexican Pipeline last summer, Shaughnessy charged the 2012 winter season at Mavericks with fearless abandon. Her performance at Mavs was recognized at the Mavericks Big Wave Invitational’s closing ceremonies when Shaughnessy was presented with the Top Female Performance of the Year Award. In August of last year, Shaughnessy was the only female competitor at the Mexican Pipeline Tube Ride Invitational. “It has been exciting to watch the progression of Savannah in big surf. So many people show up to surf Mavericks with so much excitement but don’t last more than a few sessions or a season. Savannah has kept coming back and proved her competency, enthusiasm and deservingness of being a XXL finalist,” said Santa Cruz surfer Zach Wormhoudt, the 2004 Billabong XXL Monster Paddle In Award winner, in a statement.
In order to win the Billabong XXL Girls Performance Award, Shaughnessy will need to best four of her peers — Hawaiians Keala Kennelly and Paige Alms, and Brazilians Maya Gabeira and Silvia Nabuco.
The Billabong XXL Girls Performance Award criteria are for the greatest number of outstanding performances at the most diverse number of venues over the course of the entire year. Excellence in the water and leadership in safety at both paddle-in and tow-in surfing is considered.
“I am stoked to see a woman like Savannah dedicated to charging big surf, and it shows when she’s out surfing at Maverick’s,” said Maverick’s pioneer Jeff Clark in a statement.
Shaughnessy’s submission to the XXL contest includes six waves on video and four waves captured on a still camera. This is the second year Shaughnessy has been nominated for an award in the Billabong XXL Girls Performance category.
“I’m really happy to see Savannah nominated as one of the finalists for the XXL women’s performance award,” said Derek Dunfee, the 2009 Billabong XXL Monster Paddle In Award, in a statement. “Over the past few years, Savannah’s been pushing the limits of big wave paddle-in surfing for women. She’s done this by paddling on all the biggest and heaviest days in Puerto Escondido and Maverick’s. Plus, she’s not just sitting out there; Savannah’s catching bombs, taking wipeouts and coming back out with a smile. Savannah’s on her way to becoming the best women’s big wave paddle-in surfer ever.”
Mention her name to anyone familiar with Santa Cruz big wave surfers, and it’s immediately obvious that Shaughnessy has a reputation for fearlessness.
During bad wipeouts, “I just try to relax and distract myself by thinking about other things,” she said.
Still, getting mowed down by a 30-foot wall of whitewater isn’t exactly a trip to the dentist.
“Training is really important,” Shaughnessy admitted. “If I’m planning on going to Puerto or getting ready for the winter, I try to run and surf as much as I can. … Right now, I’m trying to get back into Bikram [yoga] and to start swimming more.”
Shaughnessy is also focused on success outside of surfing. Not only did she graduate a year early from high school, she also graduated with a B.S. in biology from UC Santa Cruz. She plans to continue her education in the future and eventually pursue a career in nursing.
Step by step
Like many local surfers, Shaughnessy caught her first waves at Cowell’s and 38th Avenue when she was a 13-year-old grom with sun-bleached blond hair. It wasn’t long before she distinguished herself from her peers, showing a natural athletic ability under the guidance of Scotts Valley High surf coach Duke Brouwer.
Shaughnessy felt the pull of Maverick’s early on, from the first moment she heard about the famed big wave break and saw footage of the behemoth waves breaking far out to sea.
“The first time I paddled out to Maverick’s, Sarah Gerhardt took me up there,” Shaughnessy remembered. “I’ve always looked up to her, I still do. But at that time she was like my idol. She pointed out things that I needed to know in the lineup and gave me some tips. Then I watched her catch a couple of waves and we headed home.”
Gerhardt, a chemistry professor, was pursuing a doctorate at UCSC when she became the first woman to surf Maverick’s .
The world of big wave surfing has always been wide open to young surfers from Santa Cruz with the skill and commitment to go big when the ocean gifts them with opportunity. Shaughnessy followed in the footsteps of other surfers before her — Jay Moriarity, Anthony Tashnick and Nic Lamb, all of whom entered the lineup at Mavs before their 18th birthdays.
This first tantalizing taste of the world of big wave surfing was all it took to hook the 16-year-old Shaughnessy.
“What stood out to me,” Shaughnessy remembered of her first day in the infamous Mavericks lineup, “was the power of the waves. They barrel so much harder and are moving so much more quickly than you gather just by seeing a photo or watching video. I decided that I needed more experience before I could surf there.”
That summer, Shaughnessy made the first of many pilgrimages south to Puerto Escondido, a warm-water big wave break located on the Pacific coast of Mexico, almost at the Southern border in the state of Oaxaca.
With added big wave experience to draw on, Shaughnessy returned to Maverick’s to ride her first waves when she was 18.
For the full article go here:
If you have a product or service that is a good fit for our surf community, we have opportunities for you to sponsor this blog! Download our media kit now!