History of Women’s Surfing

In many sports throughout history women have had to fight their way through sexism and injustice to get the fair chance to compete at the same levels as men. Surfing is actually one of the few sports where the visibility of discrimination is limited. Here’s a brief history of their journey…

According to research there are records of female surfers in Hawaii dating back to the 1600’s. Supposedly back then both genders were equally fond of surfing and there was no discrimination between the females and males while out in the water. From what we know, the first female surfer was Mamala, a Polynesian “demi-god”. You may have heard a tale of her beauty or presence among other life forms. Next we have Princess Kaneamuna of Hawaii who was another surfer whose existence dated back to the 1600’s. It has been recorded that her surfboard was buried beside her when she died.

Fast forward a couple hundred years to 1914. This was the year Duke Kahanamoku chose Isabel Letham, the first person to surf Australian waters, to surf tandem with him in 1914 at Freshwater Beach. An event that gained international praise and rightfully so, helped pave the path for many other females wanting to get on a board. In the 1920’s other surfers such as Mary Ann Hawkins began carving up the California Coast.

Moving along to the 1970’s. During this time the A.S.P. annual circuit opened a division for females and began highlighting women. In the 1980’s Lisa Anderson, a Florida native, made her way into the limelight. She was the first woman to wear board shorts with a bikini top and actually started a new fashion trend.

By 2008 female surfers had made their presence known. Layne Beachley had won 7 World Titles already and had the best stats of any female surfer. By this era movies such as “Blue Crush” were making their way to the theaters. Another name we have to throw in here is Sarah Gerhardt. Sarah was the first woman to enter the ring at Mavericks. She truly opened the gates for big wave surfing for women.

And now here we are..

Names like Tyler Wright, Tatiana West, Alana Blanchard, Carissa Moore and Sage Erickson have made a dream their reality and an attainable goal for young girls all over the world.

Some may suggest there is still discrimination towards women in sports but we hope that surfing is and continues to stay at the bottom of that list. Female surfers have become not only worldly renown for their athletic abilities but also as iconic figures for their healthy lifestyles.

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