Surfer Inspiration: Lisa Andersen

Born March 8, 1969, Lisa Andersen is a four-time world surfing champion. She began surfing at the tender age of 13 in Ormond Beach, Florida. At the time, she was the only woman surfing her hometown; much of women’s surfing was underground in the early 80s. She worked hard to impress her peers, pioneering her own smooth but aggressive style. At 16, she ran away to Huntington Beach, California to pursue her passion and train with America’s best surfers.

While in Huntington Beach, Andersen entered amateur competitions, winning 25 National Scholastic Surfing Association trophies in just eight months. In 1987, she won the US Championships at Sebastien Inlet. This victory allowed Andersen to become a professional surfer, and when she finished her year on tour, she ranked 12th. She was elected Rookie of the Year.

In 1990, Andersen won her first pro event. Though she struggled to remain focused throughout the competitive season, the birth of her first child, Erika, allowed her to reclaim her center. Just one month after giving birth, Andersen reached the finals in Japan. She later made competitive surfing history as a single mom.

This success allowed Andersen’s persona to become iconic. She transformed women’s surfing for the better, ignoring the former “beach bunny” image and edging out the “unfeminine” stereotype that often plagues female athlete. She drove thousands of young women to the sport, later gaining a sponsorship from Roxy and changing beach fashion with the development of the women’s board short.

Andersen retired from surfing in 2001; she had sustained several back injuries and gave birth to her second child, Mason. She currently works as a global brand ambassador with Roxy, and she is the subject of Nick Carroll’s biography, “Fearless.”

Surfer Inspiration: Kathy Kohner

Born in the mid-50s in Brentwood, California, Kathy Kohner began surfing at the age of 15. She spent most of her childhood on Malibu’s beaches, becoming a sort of mascot for the local scene there. Her proximity to Malibu allowed her to befriend and surf with seminal surfer like Terry “Tubesteak” Tracy, Johnny Fain, Miki Dora, and Dewey Weber.

You may know Kathy Kohner by a different name: Gidget. According to David Rensin’s All For a Few Perfect Waves, Terry “Tubesteak” Tracy gave her the nickname as a kid, calling her a “girl-midget.” The name stuck around. When Kohner explained her exploits in Malibu to her father (and journaled about her trips privately), Frederick Kohner, a screenwriter, wrote Gidget: The Little Girl with Big Ideas. The novel was completed in a month and a half, full of young Kohner’s stories from the beach.

The book was eventually turned into a movie in 1959, spawning a surfing phenomenon. Malibu was taken by storm as armies of inland surfers moved to the coast in search of their chance to embody the surfer’s lifestyle. Most surfing historians consider this to be the true beginning of the surfer culture as we know it today. One year later, Surfer Magazine was founded. A year after that, the Beach Boys began their rise to fame.

In the following decade, Gidget’s father wrote and released several additional Gidget novels and films. She still surfs annually to benefit a cancer charity, and she was named Number 7 in Surfer Magazine‘s 25 Most Influential People in Surfing. In 2011, she was inducted in to the Surfing Walk of Fame in the Woman of the Year Category.

Surfer Inspiration: Duke Kahanamoku

If you’ve ever stepped onto a surfboard, you have Duke Kahanamoku to thank. Known colloquially as “The Duke,” Kahanamoku was born in Honolulu Hawaii in 1890. The first of nine children, Duke is responsible for spreading the love and compassion concomitant with the surfer lifestyle.

At age 20, the Duke broke the American short-distance swimming record for the 50-yard sprint, then beat the 100-yard world record by close to five seconds. In 1912, he set another world record, winning gold in both the 100 and 400-meter freestyle relay at the Stockholm Olympics. From a young age, Duke was a menace in the water. The popularity and global acclaim later brought him to the front of the public’s perception of surfing.

Between Olympic competitions, as well as after his Olympic retirement, the Duke began to travel internationally to give swimming exhibitions. This widespread travel and teaching experience allowed him to popularize the sport of surfing; previously, it had only been known in Hawaii. He incorporated surfing exhibitions into these visits, and his Australian show in 1914 is regarded as a seminal event in the development of surfing in the country.

Later in life, Kahanamoku lived in Southern California, performing in Hollywood as a background actor and character actor in several films. Though this may have been for personal interest, the connections resulted in his knowing and befriending people who could further publicize the sport of surfing.

Kahanamoku died of a heart attack in January of 1968 at the age of 77. The City of Honolulu commemorated his Waikiki Beach burial site with a 9-foot cast bronze statue of the Duke.

 

Surfer Inspiration: Doc Paskowitz

When imagining a surfer’s lifestyle, laidback beaches, hammocks, and relaxed attitudes come to mind. For that, we thank Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz: the man considered to be one of the earliest pioneers of the surf culture we know today. Doc spent nearly 25 years on the road, living in used campers and travelling up and down the coast of California.

Galveston, Texas, 1921: Dorian Paskowitz was born. Raised in a Russian Jewish immigrant household, Doc was encouraged to pursue a degree in medicine. At age 25, he graduated from Stanford Medical School with his doctoral degree. Though a skilled physician, Doc was unhappy as a doctor; after several years of practicing medicine, he moved to Israel for a year. Realizing he was happier here than he was in California, Paskowitz volunteered for the Israeli army during the Suez crisis. He was rejected.

Doc returned to America with a new sense of purpose. He and his third wife, Juliette, embarked on a transient, bohemian lifestyle. Nine children later, the family continued to live, travel, and surf together, living in a succession of camper vans. None of Paskowitz’s children were formally educated; Doc believed that formal education was dangerous to young minds (despite being a Stanford graduate and a professor at several community colleges). However, this health-centered lifestyle began to pervade surf culture at large.

The bohemian lifestyle adopted by surfers is attributed to Doc. His personal philosophy molded the ideals surfers now live and work by; despite the public perception of irresponsibility, he lived unapologetically.

Surfer Inspiration: Bethany Hamilton

If you’ve spent any time reading about surfing, you’ve likely encountered Bethany Hamilton. A titanic voice within the Hawaiian surfing community, Hamilton is known for her excellent competition record, distinct surf style, and—most notably—for surviving a devastating shark attack in 2003.

The attack happened when Hamilton was just thirteen years old; she was out for a morning surf along Tunnels Beach in Kauai with her best friend, Alana Blanchard. At around 7:30 in the morning, Hamilton took a short break from the waves, instead lying on her surfboard, her left arm dangling into the water. A fourteen-foot-long tiger shark attacked, severing her left arm just below the shoulder. Upon reaching the shore, Hamilton was rushed to a nearby hospital; by the time she arrived, she had lost over 60% of her blood and was in hypovolemic shock.

Coincidentally, Hamilton’s father was scheduled to have knee surgery that morning–he was already at the hospital when she and her friend arrived. Hamilton spent three weeks in recovery before being released. Later, the attacking shark was caught and killed; in 2004, the police officially confirmed the match.

Despite the traumatic attack, Hamilton returned to surfing just one week after her hospital release. She has since won several surfing competitions and athletic awards and has appeared on 20/20, Good Morning America, Inside Edition, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Today Show, and The Tonight Show. Just a year after the attack, Hamilton published her story, Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board. Now twenty-eight years old, Hamilton is an accomplished athlete and activist.

 

Photo by Troy Williams.