Banzai Betty

Gary Kewley
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Friday - March 10, 2006
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Banzai Betty: Crankin’ another West Side story
Banzai Betty: Crankin’ another West Side story

Aloha, surfers and surfettes! I remember it was about 20 years ago ... I was surfing 8-footers in the country 150 yards out at Laniakea. It was a sunny trade wind day; it was so good and so crowded. There were long, winding rights with open faces and barrels keeping me busy. I love to watch others cranking down the line - especially out here; it’s a wonderful arena.

So I’m watching this one wave start throwing. It’s big - 8 feet solid - about three times overhead. I see this surfer drop in perfectly and make it to the bottom and begin turning. It’s a woman! Whoa ... a gutsy haole-looking girl! I’m impressed and focusing in ... She’s the only female out there. This is a “set” wave ... it is moving lots of H20 in its belly and it looks like it’s about to heave. Not just anyone can ride this type of wave. This surfer girl leans over till her face is near the water and plants her inside forehand into the wave for a powerful bottom turn. She jams up the face on her rail without losing an instant of speed. Once at the top of this liquid roller coaster, she “threw spray” with a hard “off the top” 180-degree turn, back down the steep face ...going for more! Wow, was that Banzai Betty Depolito? I asked myself. Yep!

I had seen very few women surf with this kind of power, aggression and finesse. If I had, it was usually at a contest with top pros, and I was sitting on the beach. This was so close and personal. You see, I knew Betty. We were both friends and teammates on Surf News Network back when surfer Joe Teipel owned the company. This was a different era for surfers. Top women were really good, but they had a long way to go before closing the performance gap with men. Betty was obviously intent on changing this status quo. She did on that wave. Betty has always been competitive and loves to help her female counterparts thrive. Betty continues doing it to this day.

Indeed, it’s Banzai Betty who’s directing the second annual T&C Surf Women’s Pipeline Pro presented by Tony Volkswagen at the Tony Autoplex. (Thanks also to XS energy drinks and Seaductive.) It’s her same tenacious spirit in the water that helps her on dry land. This event is truly ground-breaking - paving the way for a new generation of surfer girls in pursuit of the same guts and glory the men have enjoyed for decades. The Women’s Pipe Pro includes three types of wave riding: body boarding, short boarding and long boarding. It is a “sanctioned” international event and has more than 100 ladies from more than six countries waiting for the waves to come to Pipe.

GQ: So, Banzai, what are you hoping for this year vs. last?

Betty: Well, last year was pretty epic as far as the waves went, really. When you look at what we’re getting right now ... all these north swells. I hope we see some medium-size clean, fun waves. I’m also hoping that all the publicity we’ve been getting gets balanced for the body boarders, ‘cause, actually they are the ones that kinda pioneered Pipe. They ride it bigger and they’ve done it longer. They rip. Last year was the first year for stand-up short board surfing, and that took a lot of the angle from the press.

GQ: But all these women are special ...

Betty: These women have a different kind of mentality ... the ones who come out here and ride Pipeline. And especially to think they can ride it in a contest setting, you know what I mean?

GQ: Yeah ... yeah!

Betty: These are extreme thinking kind of people ... otherwise they wouldn’t take it on.

GQ: Are there some competitors who’d really rather not take it on, but are going for it anyway?

Betty: There’s always some worry here ... maybe a parent pushing a daughter a little too far. But most of them want it. And many won’t paddle out if it gets too big.

GQ: How many short boarders out of the 110 field?

Betty: About 50 ... which is more than last year and less than next year.

GQ: Wow, this thing could get huge.

Betty: This will grow and grow ... Eventually, the girls will be ready to surf 8-foot Pipe and bigger.

GQ: You have to start somewhere ... someone needs to give ‘em the chance to prove to them-

selves and the world.

Betty: That’s what we’re trying to do.

GQ: Thanks so much, Betty, and good luck to you and all the amazing surfer girls! Any quick finishing thoughts?

Betty: No, you know ... I just want the girls to have a lot of fun and stay safe. It’s a multi-disciplined festival-type event that’s going to rock. Pray for surf, GQ!

GQ: I’ll be glad to! Thanks again, Betty - for everything! I’ll see you out there!

I’ll be talking to Banzai every day from now till the 14th or sooner till the two days of competition are used up! Come and get your “on or off” status on 596-SURF, 638-RUSH and SURFNEWSNETWORK.COM It includes detailed weather reports, too!

Also, don’t miss this final weekend of the 30th Annual Buffalo Big Board Surfing Classic at Makaha!

I’m GQ, dropping in 4 U!

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