story by Catharine Lo
photo by Dana Edmunds
Ask any of the would-be pros attending Rochelle Ballard’s annual training camp how they feel about the three-day extravaganza, and chances are you’ll get a giggle. Obviously, this is not your standard pack of testosterone-infused surf rats: Each year, sixty-plus waveriding wahine between the ages of eight and twenty-one descend on Kaua‘i to hone their technique, with the able help of Ballard and other top pros Megan Abubo, Keala Kennelly and Melanie Bartels.
In addition to technical and competition skills, Ballard invites some of Hawai‘i’s finest watermen and women to teach the girls about ocean safety, the dynamics of surfboard design and proper fitness. The camp then culminates with the O’Neill Island Girl Junior Pro, Hawai‘i’s only junior pro contest for women, which Ballard organized after seeing the incredible progress the girls were making year after year.
“This is an opportunity to showcase the talent of the next generation,” says Ballard. “The girls are ripping!” And she should know, having herself finished as runner-up on the 2004 Association of Surfing Professionals world tour. (As of this writing, she’s running fifth on the 2006 tour.)
Of course, camp attendees aren’t the only ones to benefit. “I love surfing with girls!” Ballard enthuses, but the camp and contest also offer her a chance to give something back to her home island, while also honoring the legacy of famed professional surfer Rell Sunn—who, before succumbing to breast cancer in 1998, was a steadfast supporter of Hawai‘i’s youth surf scene.
“I was inspired by Rell to give back to the community,” says Ballard. “She taught us it’s important to know where you came from, to preserve your heritage and to encourage the keiki.”
The 2006 Island Girl Junior Pro takes place August 13 at the Po‘ipu surf spot known as Centers, on the island’s south shore. A portion of the event’s proceeds will benefit the International Women’s Surfing organization and Boarding for Breast Cancer.
2006 Island Girl Junior Pro