Keala Kennelly

CEWS Co-Founder

Born and raised in the beautiful Hawaiian islands, Keala is one of the best female surfers in the world and arguably the best female big wave surfer on the planet.


She spent over a decade ranked in the top 10 in the world on the WSL World Championship Tour finishing runner up to the World Title in 2003. She left the WCT tour in 2007 to star as a season regular on HBO tv drama series John From Cincinnati. After the shows conclusion Keala instead of returning to the WCT competition circuit decided to chase her passion of surfing big waves. Keala helped establish a Women’s Big Wave Tour and was part of a committee that was responsible for getting women included in the Titans of Mavericks Big Wave Event and winning the fight for equal pay in surfing in 2018. A true pioneer Keala’s groundbreaking performances in some of the heaviest waves in the world have shattered glass ceilings in her sport. She continues to challenge peoples perceptions of what a women is capable of in the water and break through the gender barrier by doing things that no one ever believed was possible for a female. On land Keala has another career as an international DJ playing events all over the world. She has also had acting roles on the popular film Blue Crush and HBO’s John From Cincinnati. She has been in numerous award winning Documentaries including She is the Ocean and Out in the Lineup (a film about LGBT Surfers). Keala is a role model for women and a crusader for LGBT rights and equality in women's sports.



  • ESPN’s Surfer of the Year 2002

  • XGames 13 Gold medalist 2007

  • 4x Champion at Teahupoo (Gotcha Black Pearl Pro WQS Pro 1998, Billabong WCT Pro 2000, 2002, 2003.

  • Roxy Pro Fiji WCT Champion 2003

  • Triple Crown Champion 2003

  • Runner up to the WCT World Title 2003

  • Won the first women's big wave contest (Nelscott Big Wave Classic in 2010) opening the door for more female big wave surfing competitions in the future.

  • WickrX Super Sessions Women’s Overall Big Wave Champion 2014
    Won multiple XXL Big Wave Awards Women’s Performance of the Year Awards. 2011, 2013, 2014

  • 2013 “Woman of the Year” inducted into Surfing Walk of Fame in Huntington Beach

  • 2013 Inducted into the Surfing Hall of Fame

  • 2013 Speaker at TEDX Malibu

  • 2016 Won the Pure Scot Barrel of the Year award at the XXL big wave awards making her the first woman in history to win an open gender category.

  • 2017 WSL Peahi Big Wave Challenge 2nd place

  • 2018 WSL Peahi Big Wave Challenge Champion

  • Last year WSL Big Wave Tour Ranking #2

  • Current WSL Big Wave Tour Ranking #1

  • This year Keala Kennelly becomes the first woman in history to ever be invited to compete against the best male big wave surfers in the world at the prestigious Eddie Big Wave Event at Waimea Bay.