Caroline Marks riding the tube at Teahupo'o, Tahiti.
© Beatriz Ryder/World Surf League
Surfing

These are 10 female surfers you definitely need to know about

Join us in paying tribute to 10 incredible women who've shaped surfing's present and are now taking it into the future.
Written by Brian Roddy
12 min readUpdated on
Best of lists are always tough. They're subjective, they're open to interpretation, and not everyone can be included. To be clear, this list of 10 female surfers you need to know has some stipulations. The crew below made the list because of their incredible influence on modern surfing, meaning we haven't gone back any further than the turn of the millennium. The surfers aren't ranked in any order, and finally, 10 people isn't many and we apologise to deserving surfers who are not featured.
Each of the 10 women highlighted below have changed the sport in irreversibly brilliant ways. Know them. Celebrate them. Be inspired by them, then go surf.
01

Caitlin Simmers

Caitlin Simmers surfing in Hawaii

Caitlin Simmers carving her own path

© Ryan Miller/Red Bull Content Pool

  • Stance: Regular
  • Born: 2005
  • Height: 5’3”
  • Hometown: Oceanside, California, USA
It's hard to know what to say about California kid Caitlin Simmers, as her story has only just begun. In 2021 she won the US Open then declined a spot on the 2022 Championship Tour despite qualifying, a move not seen since similarly-talented teen phenom Taj Burrow did the same all the way back in 1997. Simmers then released Toasted, arguably the best women's surf profile movie of all time, right as she qualified for the CT a second time. After finally accepting her place the second time around, in just her fourth-ever CT, Simmers won the 2023 MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal to put her name up in surfing's brightest lights and announce her arrival to the world. She then kicked off her 2024 season by mastering one of competitive surfing's most feared waves to win the Pipe Pro.
Hailing from Oceanside in Southern California, Simmers is a product of the modern digital era. She's grown up watching her favourite surfers and skaters from around the globe online, then built her incredible style by replicating and combining the individual attributes she likes best. Alongside Molly Picklum, Sierra Kerr and Bella Kenworthy, Simmers is surfing's future.
02

Carissa Moore

2 min

RISS – trailer

Watch the trailer for Carissa Moore's new film, RISS.

Spanish +2

  • Stance: Regular
  • Born: 1992
  • Height: 5’7”
  • Hometown: Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii
Five-time World Surf League world champion Carissa Moore, from Honolulu, Hawaii, recently announced her decision to take a step back from competition at the height of her powers; a decision that will come into effect after Paris. As well as her fistful of world titles and a comprehensive catalogue of wins on the WSL Championship Tour, including her recent Billabong Pipeline Pro crown, Moore became surfing's first-ever Olympic gold medalist in 2021 as she rounded out an incredible surfing resume. While Moore has traded titles over the past 15 years with Tyler Wright and Stephanie Gilmore in competition, beyond the jersey Cshe has pushed performances in waves of consequence, as highlighted at Teahupo'o, Tahiti in her 2020 biopic Riss.
riss_landscape_hero

riss_landscape_hero

© Ben Thouard / Red Bull Content Pool

With a smile that melts hearts across the surfing world, the razor-sharp Moore is a true ambassador of aloha, never without a kind word and bearing an energy that radiates compassion and warmth. Her Moore Aloha Foundation has one simple goal: to encourage young females through the sport of surfing to be strong, confident and compassionate individuals. It's fair to say that in Moore, young surfers have never had a better role model.
03

Caroline Marks

21 min

That’s Caroline

Caroline Marks is just a normal young woman – who also happens to be the face of surfing’s future.

English +4

  • Stance: Goofy
  • Born: 2002
  • Height: 5'5"
  • Hometown: Melbourne Beach, Florida, USA
In 2018 American young gun Caroline Marks became the youngest surfer to ever qualify for the World Surf League's Championship Tour, doing so at the age of 15. Hailing from Florida, but now calling the waves of California home, it didn't take long for Marks to let the world know she'd arrived, finishing seventh in her first season at the highest level.
A year later, she won the 2019 season-opening event, the Boost Mobile Pro Gold Coast, to find herself ranked first in the world and deliver on the hype that had been following the goofyfooter through her teens. It was stirred to fever pitch a few months later when Marks released her first film, That's Caroline. When she claimed the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal she came into the last event of the year with a genuine shot at claiming her first world title, the ensuing runner-up finish only hardening her resolve to one day wear the crown.
Caroline Marks surfing in the Mentawai Islands

Caroline Marks lays it on rail in the Mentawai Islands

© Marcelo Maragni/Red Bull Content Pool

Now firmly entrenched on the Championship Tour, Marks tasted further success when she won the Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic in 2021 and became the youngest surfer to qualify for Tokyo.
The eldest sister in a family of six siblings, Marks has been competing in and out of the water her whole life. With the love of her family, an incredible team surrounding her, talent to burn and a fire in her belly, it was only ever a matter of when, not if, she became the first goofyfooter since 2005 to wear the crown. In 2022, with wins in El Salvador and Tahiti during the regular season, Marks came into the WSL Finals with a head of steam and delivered on the hype to claim a maiden world title at Lower Trestles in front of an adoring crowd of Californians – with no shortage of Floridian support either.
Caroline Marks and the world surfing champion trophy

Caroline Marks's crowning moment

© Pat Nolan/World Surf League

"If I'd written in my notebook as a little girl how I'd like to win a world title, this is exactly how it would have gone down," an ecstatic Marks said on stage, shortly after being handed the trophy.
04

Bethany Hamilton

  • Stance: Goofy
  • Born: 1990
  • Height: 5’11”
  • Hometown: Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii
Not many surfers have transcended surfing fame and entered the mainstream consciousness like Kauai’s Bethany Hamilton. A highly successful junior with world title potential, Hamilton lost her arm in 2003, at just 13 years of age, when attacked by a tiger shark, losing 60 percent of her blood before she made it to hospital.
End of story? Far from it. As detailed in her 2004 autobiography Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board, Hamilton made an incredible return to surfing, not only teaching herself to paddle and catch waves again, but going so far as to compete at the highest level. In 2016 she even beat world champions Stephanie Gilmore and Tyler Wright en route to a semi-final finish at the Fiji Women's Pro on the WSL Championship Tour, after being awarded an event wildcard.
Bethany Hamilton surfs Teahupo'o

Bethany Hamilton surfs Teahupo'o

© Rip Curl

Interviewed on Oprah, Ellen, The Tonight Show and many others, her feature film Soul Surfer hit the big screen in 2011. Now a wife and mother, Hamilton’s most recent biopic shows our modern superhero surfing Jaws, the heaviest big wave on earth, and performing aerials the likes of which are rarely seen. In 2018, to top it all off, she towed into mammoth waves at Teahupo'o in Tahiti while pregnant for the second time. Not too hard to see where Hamilton's movie, Unstoppable, got its name from, hey?
05

Keala Kennelly

1 min

Keala Kennelly Red Bull Magnitude

Check out this clip of Keala Kennelly surfing at Red Bull Magnitude

  • Stance: Goofy
  • Born: 1978
  • Height: 5’6”
  • Hometown: Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii
Unyielding, unphased and fearless, Kauai’s Keala Kennelly came out of the contest gates with all guns blazing, finishing second in the world on the ASP World Championship Tour in 2003. This came after winning the Billabong Pro Tahiti for the third time and taking out the Roxy Pro Fiji. After nine years in the Top 10 on the WCT, in 2007 Kennelly pivoted to the big wave realm and showed the world where her powers truly lie.
A Hawaiian Triple Crown champion and two-time winner of the Billabong XXL Girls Performance Award, in 2016 Kennelly rode the heaviest tube ever tackled by a woman, at Teahupo'o in Tahiti, to immortalise her name in women’s sport. In 2018, she won the women's Big Wave world title after taking out the Jaws Challenge, and in 2023 she was one of the first six women to ever compete in the Eddie Aikau Invitational, held at maxed out Waimea Bay on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii.
Keala Kennelly rushes Jaws

Keala Kennelly rushes Jaws

© Ryan Miller

Beyond surfing Kennelly has found fame as an actress, a DJ and a motivational speaker but would prefer to be recognised for her work as an advocate for LGBTQ and women's rights, and as an ambassador for mental health causes. KK is a true surfing champion, in and out of the water.
06

Layne Beachley

Layne Beachley cutback

Layne Beachley

© [unknown]

  • Stance: Regular
  • Birth Year: 1972
  • Height: 5’5”
  • Hometown: Manly, New South Wales, Australia
Poised, competitively deadly and oozing class, no woman has dominated the top of surfing's podium like Australia's Layne Beachley did by winning an incredible seven ASP world titles – including six in a row – from 1998 to 2006. Pre-Beachley we saw Lisa Andersen rule the roost, post-Layne came the Stephanie Gilmore and Carissa Moore era, but for an incredible nine-year run Beachley was going it alone, and doing so while putting women's competitive surfing on her back at the same time. Shunned by the surf industry, she founded her own clothing company, sponsored events with her own money and did so with the betterment of her peers as much as herself at the front of her mind.
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 in 2015. She was awarded the Australian Sports Medal in 2000, won the Laureus World Alternative Sportsperson Of The Year Award in 2004, was inducted into the Australian Surfing Hall Of Fame in 2006, and is the founder and director of her own foundation, Aim For The Stars. As well as regularly appearing on Australian national television, Beachley is a public speaker who tells her tale – that of a young girl who used surfing to escape the traumas of a troubled childhood and became a world champion – to motivate others to chase their dreams. Incredible.
07

Molly Picklum

15 min

Molly Picklum: What it Takes

Follow surfer Molly Picklum's tumultuous rookie year at the elite level of surfing on the WSL World Tour.

English

  • Stance: Regular
  • Born: 2002
  • Height: 5’5”
  • Hometown: Terrigal, New South Wales, Australia
At the tender age of just 20, Australia's Molly Picklum found herself wearing the WSL Championship Tour's yellow jersey for the first time after winning the Hurley Pro Sunset Beach in early 2023. Was she phased? Not one bit.
Molly Picklum rides the tube at Backdoor Pipeline in Hawaii.

Picklum's picture perfect Backdoor Pipeline positioning

© Tony Heff/WSL

"It’s all exciting to me," Molly said afterwards. "My eyes are opened now, like, 'OK, this world tour thing is on. You’ve won one event, let’s just keep winning'. It’s fuel for the fire, it doesn’t feel like a relief, it feels like go time."
Picklum's win came on the back of another equally significant victory at another of Hawaii's most famed and feared waves, the Vans Pipe Masters, and signalled to the world that the next generation of competitors are not only capable of mixing it up with the planet's best high-performance surfers, but they're also going to be taking it to the next level in waves of consequence as well. The Australian heir apparent to Stephanie Gilmore and Tyler Wright, Picklum takes her cues from athletes in all sports, counting tennis legend Ash Barty and snowboarding prodigy Valentino Guseli as sparring partners, while renowned mindset coach Ben Crowe is happy to help her pursue her lofty goals. Watch out world!
08

Justine Dupont

33 min

à la folie

Strap in for the ride of your life as we follow Justine Dupont through a ground-breaking big wave season.

English +2

  • Stance: Regular
  • Born: 1991
  • Height: 5’10”
  • Hometown: Nazaré, Portugal
Justine Dupont is the planet's pre-eminent female charger. A multi-talented teen who once came second in the World Junior Championships, Justine has also won a world stand-up paddle title and finished runner-up in the world in longboarding. The Frenchwoman found her true passion for XXL waves in 2012 and moved to Europe's biggest mountain of water a short time later. Since relocating to Portugal, Dupont has gone from strength to strength, winning two Nazaré Tow Challenge events and multiple XXL and Big Wave Awards.
Dupont's act isn't restricted to Nazaré alone, in 2021 she rode the wave of her life at Jaws in Hawaii, within a week of scoring the best swell ever seen at Mavericks. The scary part? She's just getting started, as examined in detail in her recent biopic, à la folie.
Justine Dupont surfing at Jaws.

Dupont flying through the wave of her life at Jaws

© Fred Pompermayer/Red Bull Content Pool

It's nice to be recognised as one of the best big wave surfers in the world for all sorts of reasons. I've dedicated myself to Nazaré, to big waves, and it makes me feel like I'm doing the right thing
09

Paige Alms

1 h 7 min

The Wave I Ride

Paige Alms is leading the charge in women's big wave surfing, and she's doing it for all the right reasons..

  • Stance: Regular
  • Born: 1988
  • Height: 5’11”
  • Hometown: Haiku, Maui, Hawaii
While Justine Dupont is dominating big wave surfing in Europe, Hawaiian powerhouse Paige Alms is leading the pack in more tropical waters. The smiling charger from Maui joined the likes of Shane Dorian, Billy Kemper, Ian Walsh and other elite names at Jaws when the group redefined what was possible when paddling into the gnarliest big waves on earth. Of the four separate WSL Big Wave World Tour events held at Jaws, Alms has dominated and won three of them, her last performance at the cbdMD Jaws Big Wave Championships was particularly epic.
Paige Alms takes the drop while surfing at Jaws on Maui.

3-time Jaws champ Paige Alms is the pride of Maui thanks to waves like this

© Tony Heff/WSL

In 2023 she won Best Overall Performance at Red Bull Magnitude, a first of its kind big wave video competition for women, voted on by a panel of some of the most respected big wave surfers in the world, male and female. Some might point to this win as vindicating what the WSL's judges have been saying for years, while naturally, Alms prefers to share the plaudits. “It was really incredible to see the level of all of the women pushing boundaries in waves of consequence this year,” Alms told Surfline after her win.
10

Stephanie Gilmore

29 min

Steph and Leo explore Italy

Leo Fioravanti and Roby D’Amico take Ashton and Steph Gilmore on a Mediterranean strike from Rome to Sardinia.

English +6

  • Stance: Regular
  • Born: 1988
  • Height: 5’11”
  • Hometown: Kingscliff, New South Wales, Australia
Just when the world thought that Layne Beachley’s stunning seven-world title-winning haul was unbeatable, another Australian came along and not only matched it she went one better. Known as the most stylish surfer on the planet, eight-time WSL women’s world champion Stephanie Gilmore glides into the heart of anyone that watches her dance in the ocean. While Gilmore is clearly and unquestionably a competitive machine – early on she was nicknamed Happy Gilmore, a moniker that did not last long – her flawless technique and fluent grace in the water are held in as high a regard as her heaving trophy cabinet.
Stephanie Gilmore rides the tube at Honolua Bay in Maui

Stephanie Gilmore celebrates another world title at Honolua Bay in Maui

© Ed Sloane/WSL

While eight world titles and 34 Championship Tour victories might seem plenty, Gilmore is showing no sign of quitting yet, she's having too much fun travelling and enjoying all that the world has to offer. This ethos was on full display in 2022 when she joined Leonardo Fioravanti in his homeland for Red Bull No Contest's Italian adventure.

Part of this story

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Carissa Moore has established herself as a powerhouse in surfing, a world champ who loves to help other young women achieve their dreams.

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Justine Dupont

From Belharra to Nazaré and Jaws to Mavericks, Justine Dupont might just be the best all-around female big wave surfer in the world.

FranceFrance

Molly Picklum

A natural athlete with enormous potential, Molly Picklum might just be Australian surfing’s next big thing.

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Caroline Marks

The youngest woman to ever surf on the Championship Tour or at the Olympics, America's Caroline Marks rose to the top of her sport in 2023 when she won her first world title.

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Caroline Marks is just a normal young woman – who also happens to be the face of surfing’s future.

21 min

à la folie

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The Wave I Ride

Paige Alms is leading the charge in women's big wave surfing, and she's doing it for all the right reasons..

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2 Seasons · 10 episodes