Women of the waves: Final Panther Speaker Series features big wave surfer Valenti, Hamilton documentary


Photo credit: Grace Doyle

Professional big wave surfer Bianca Valenti discusses her career as a professional big wave surfer, activist for gender equality and advocate for ocean conservation as the final speaker in the ALC’s Panther Speaker series. Her conversation ranged from mental toughness to fighting for equality across sports, with the hope to expand the conversation surrounding female empowerment.

By Grace Doyle, Sports Editor

As the Athlete Leadership Council’s (ALC) Panther Speaker Series comes to a close, the final presentation featured a showing of professional surfer Bethany Hamilton’s documentary, “Unstoppable,” as well as Bianca Valenti, a professional big-wave surfer, as a speaker. On Friday, April 16, the ALC put together a movie night for the Archer community in preparation for their final speaker the following Thursday.

Junior Marissa Gendy helped develop the idea for the movie showing.

“We thought it was a perfect introduction,” Gendy said, “and it was a very inspiring movie to get the community excited for the speaker series.”

In order to prepare for Valenti, the movie helped to introduce themes like perseverance in regards to surfing and empowerment within female athletics.

“It was really important because both in the documentary and in the speaker series it was a big point about finding your passion and finding the thing that you’re really inspired by and no matter what comes along in life you stick to it,” Gendy said.

On Thursday, April 22, Valenti, who is not only a surfer but also an activist for gender equality and ocean conservation, emphasized core themes that paralleled Hamilton’s sentiments. Valenti — the only woman who regularly surfs Mavericks, one of Outside Magazine’s Most Accomplished Athletes and an environmental activist — highlighted her mantra of “dedicate don’t hesitate.” 

“Before I ever commit to taking off on a huge wave, I’m spotting my landing zone way down the line so I’m focusing on where I’m going, not where I’m at,” Valenti said during the Zoom presentation. “That’s super key, and it’s also a metaphor for making change. As we know, especially in the last year, all the changes that we need to make in our systems are not super clear, but we have an idea of where we want to get. And so, to successfully ride a giant wave, first, you have to see a clear landing.”

Along with themes of dedication and hard work came a conversation about mental toughness. For sophomore ALC member Rose Sarner, Valenti’s conversation about the mental aspect of sports was very applicable.

“As a tennis player, I’m always getting in my head — for any sport really — and she just has such a positive outlook on it [surfing] and really focuses and takes time to perfect every part of the sport, not just the performance,” Sarner said.

As the co-founder of The Committee for Equity in Women Surfing, Valenti dedicates herself to be not only a “change-maker” for women in surfing but also for all female athletes. She hopes to expand the conversation and connect with athletes across sports.

“What I want to do is collaborate will all the other best athlete change-makers in their sports and to just start a forum and get to know each other because everyone more or less is fighting the same fight,” Valenti said. “We know that all women more or less are in this together.”

Overall, Valenti looks to being an advocate for women, the planet and being one’s best self. From athletics to everyday life, she lives by the theme of “riding the wave.”

“Whether you’re a surfer or not, an athlete or not, every day you can wake up and choose to ride a better wave,” Valenti said. “It’s a metaphor for life and a metaphor for the tiny choices we make every single day.”