Carissa Moore air
© Trevor Moran
Surfing
10 female surfers you should know
Here are some of the best female surfers who may not be actively competing right now but have undeniably dominated the field in recent years.
By Red Bull Editorial Team
Published on
Indeed, best-of lists are always rough: Not everyone will be on it. Thus, to be clear, this list of 10 best female surfers that you should know has some stipulations. They made the list because of their influence, and we looked back only 30 years. The incredible women on this list are also not ranked in any order… the numbers are fairly arbitrary. Regardless, each of these 10 women have changed the sport in irreversibly brilliant ways. Know them. Celebrate them. Then, go surf.

1. Bethany Hamilton

Bethany Hamilton surfs Teahupoo
Bethany Hamilton surfs Teahupoo
  • Stance: Goofy
  • Birthyear: 1990
  • Height: 5’11”
  • Hometown: Kauai, Hawaii
Not many names of famous surfers—women, or men—have transcended the surf space into the greater non-surf consciousness like Kauai’s Bethany Hamilton. A successful amateur contest surfer girl, Bethany survived a gruesome shark attack by a 14-foot-long tiger shark that bit her entire arm off in 2003, draining over 60% of her blood by the time she got to the hospital. End of story? Not even close. Authoring the 2004 autobiography “Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board,” Bethany actually returned to professional surfing, learning to rip with one paddling arm. Interviewed on Oprah, Ellen, The Tonight Show and many others, her story hit the big screens in 2011 with the feature film, “Soul Surfer.” Now, a wife and mother, Bethany’s most recent bio-pic “Unstoppable,” shows this superwoman literally surfing Jaws, the heaviest big wave on earth, to boot. A true living legend among humans.

2. Carissa Moore

Surfing · 2 min
RISS – trailer
  • Stance: Regular
  • Birthyear: 1992
  • Height: 5’7”
  • Hometown: Honolulu, HI
Current World Surfing League world champion, Carissa Moore, from Honolulu, Hawaii is at the height of her greatness. Or…maybe, not. Already a 3X WSL women’s world champion, she could have another 3…or 6 more titles left in her. Finally ending the 7X women’s world champion, Steph Gilmore’s reign through the 00’s, Moore and Gilmore have traded titles in the last half-decade, Carissa proving herself to be potentially the most powerful women’s surfer to have ever gone on rail. With a smile that’s melted away most commentator’s hearts, the raise sharp Moore is a true ambassador of aloha, never without a kind word and a palpable energy that radiates compassion and warmth. You know…outside of the water when she’s not obliterating a section.

3. Keala Kennelly

Professional big wave surfer Keala Kennelly wipes out while surfing a huge day at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii.
Keala Kennelly pin drops Jaws
  • Stance: Goofy
  • Birth Year: 1978
  • Height: 5’6”
  • Hometown: Kauai, Oahu
Unyielding, unphased and fearless AF, while Kauai’s Keala Kennelly is predominantly more well-known for her big wave exploits, she actually came out of the contest gates guns blazing, nearly a world champion in 2003 with a runner-up finish on the ASP Women's World Tour that year. After that, though, is when K.K. (now, a successful DJ) really showed her true prowess in massive surf. A two-time winner of the Billabong Pro in Teahupoo (when the women were allowed to surf there), Keala’s also a Triple Crown champ and Two-time winner of Billabong XXL Girls Performance Award. In 2016, while not the tallest wave ever surfed, she did ride the heaviest (most dangerous) wave ever ridden by a woman at Teahupoo, Tahiti, immortalizing her mark on women’s sport.

4. Layne Beachley

Layne Beachley cutback
Layne Beachley
  • Stance: Regular
  • Birth Year: 1972
  • Height: 5’5”
  • Hometown: Manly, New South Wales, Australia
Poised, competitively deadly, and oozing class, almost no other woman has dominated the top spot in women’s pro surfing like Australian Layne Beachley. Ending her nemesis, Lisa Andersen’s prior reign through the 90s, Layne Beachley won a whopping 7 ASP world titles between 1998 and 2006 (6 of which were consecutive). A true icon of the sport—and, national treasure in Australia—Beachley was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for her distinguished service to the community and range of charitable organizations. She was also awarded the Australian Sports Medal in 2000.

5. Lisa Andersen

Lisa Andersen sits at the beach with her surfboard
Lisa Andersen
  • Stance: Regular
  • Birth Year: 1969
  • Height: 5’7”
  • Hometown: Ormond Beach, Florida, USA
Named as one of the 100 "Greatest Sportswomen of the Century" by Sports Illustrated, it is thought that for women’s surfing, there was before-Lisa…and then after. In short, Lisa Andersen changed the game. Soft-spoken and super stylish, the 4X ASP women’s world champ dominated the mid-90s, her reign culminating in 1997 when she won 5 of the tour events that year. Gracing the cover of Surfer mag in the 90s doing a gorgeous Andersen-esque tailslide, it was an unforgettable statement, considering how male-dominated the narrative was. In most mags—women were in ads (in bikinis). Lisa’s surfing and effortlessly cool attitude launched brands like Roxy, redefining the “surfer girl” stereotype.

6. Maya Gabeira

Surfing · 3 min
The Life of Maya Gabeira
  • Stance: Regular
  • Birth Year: 1987
  • Height: 5’6”
  • Hometown: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
While never a WSL world tour threat…that was never Brazilian Maya Gabeira’s bag. She was destined for—pardon the pun—bigger things. With looks that’d kill, the determined, smoky-voiced young woman from Rio won the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards four consecutive times (2007-2010) in the “Best Female Performance” category. Wintering on the North Shore of Oahu, she became tow-partners with Carlos Burle, seeking bigger and bigger swells until she was nearly killed in 2013, drowning at Nazare, Portugal. Carlos saved her and she was resuscitated…but the experience was enough to scare anyone straight. Not Maya. Returning to that same arena of dangerous, dark ocean in January of 2018, she rode a 68-foot high wave there, winning the current Guinness World Record for the biggest wave ever surfed by a female surfer. And, if anyone’s going to break that record—it’ll probably be her.

7. Paige Alms

Paige Alms running and gunning on a Jaws beast
Paige Alms running and gunning on a Jaws beast
  • Stance: Regular
  • Birth Year: 1988
  • Height: 5’11”
  • Hometown: Haiku, Maui, Hawaii
While the spotlight might be shining on a woman like Maya Gabeira in massive tow-in waves…in the resurging era of big wave paddle-in surfing, Paige Alms may very well lead the pack. A North Shore, Maui local, this smiley, long-legged charger joined the likes of Shane Dorian, Billy Kemper, Ian Walsh and other elite names at Jaws when the group redefined what was possible of paddling into at the gnarliest big wave on earth (Peahi). Out of the four separate WSL Big Wave World Tour events held at Jaws, Paige has dominated and won three of them, her last performance at the cbdMD Jaws Big Wave Championships particularly epic.

8. Sofia Mulanovich

Surfing · 1 min
Join Sofía Mulánovich on the trip of a lifetime!
  • Stance: Regular
  • Birth Year: 1988
  • Height: 5’5”
  • Hometown: Lima, Peru
Small, fierce, and stylish, Peruvian Sofia Mulanovich will go down in history as the one to cut the golden ribbon. The very first South American ASP World Champion (woman or man), Sofia broke Layne Beachley’s streak in 2004 for the No. 1 finish. Opening the door for all South American world champs (from de Souza to Medina to Italo) Sofia was the first, writing a new chapter in the sport’s evolution and global representation. While becoming an instant national celebrity back home, Sofia took it all humbly in stride, surfing many seasons after like a true champion.

9. Stephanie Gilmore

Stephanie Gilmore
Stephanie Gilmore
  • Stance: Regular
  • Birth Year: 1988
  • Height: 5’11”
  • Hometown: Kingscliff, New South Wales, Australia
Just when the world thought that Layne Beachley’s stunning 7-world title winning streak was unbeatable…another Australian came into the game in 2007, and (so far) matched it. Often known as the most stylish surfer on planet earth, 7X WSL women’s world champion, Stephanie Gilmore glides her way into anyone’s heart that watches her surf. Bubbly, and dripping with grace, one would think Steph would throw in the towel after 7 titles. Thing is, she’s young, and appears to be having way too much fun to quit. Might as well make it an even-8, no?

10. Caroline Marks

Surfing · 3 min
Caroline Marks Raw
  • Stance: Regular
  • Birth Year: 2002
  • Height: 5’5”
  • Hometown: Melbourne Beach, Florida, USA
Finishing runner-up to champion, Carissa Moore, on last year’s world tour, Floridian Caroline Marks sure made a statement her sophomore season. By the way, Marks was just 17-years-old the season before (qualified at 16). A potently powerful goofy footer with an extremely deadly backhand attack (perhaps, the Tour’s finest), Caroline started last year’s run with a win at the opening Boost Mobile Pro Gold Coast, sending fear down every competitor’s spine. With another event win in Portugal, she had the title clear in her cross hairs. After this season, it’s definitely not a question “if,” but “when” (and probably “how many”) world titles she’ll shoot down.