History and female surfers. Do you automatically think of Gidget? Either the blond Sandra Dee or the brunette Sally Fields? Those old fashioned bikinis and the enormous surfboards. The sun was always shining on that Californian beach with perfect waves with plenty of good looking guys and gals strutting around in their swimwear.
Gidget the movie was released in 1959, and the TV series in 1965. However, did you know that there are actually records of female surfers in Hawaii dating back to the 1600’s? Back then, apparently the females and males were all equally fond of surfing and there was no discrimination between the genders while out in the waves.
The first famous female surfer was considered a Polynesian demi-god, or kupua. This extraordinary surfer was known as Mamala, and she was recognized as being a fantastic and brave surfer in the wildest of waves. Mamala could appear as many creatures including a great shark, gigantic lizard, and not the least, as a beautiful female. Beautiful and fearless, sounds much like the latest crop of contemporary female surfers, doesn’t it?
In 1905, a surfboard dating back to the 1600’s belonging to Princess Kaneamuna of Hawaii, was found in her burial cave. Centuries before Gidget! There are also many traditional Hawaiian chants about female surfers.
Mary Ann Hawkins was a famous female surfer in California in the 1920’s. Faye Baird Fraser was the first female to surf in San Diego.
The first person to surf in Australia was a 15 year old girl called Isabel Letham. She was famously chosen by Duke Kahanamoku to surf tandem with him in 1914 at Freshwater Beach, just around the headland from the world famous Manly Beach.
By the late 1970’s the A.S.P. annual circuit had a division for females. In this era, female surfers like Rell Sunn, Linda Merrill, and Jericho Poppler came to fame for their surfing prowess.
Surfing for girls didn’t really seriously take off until the late 1980’s. Prior to this, girls were expected to be decorative on the sand in their bikinis, working on their suntans. Their boyfriends surfed and the girls watched. That’s just the way it was. Until this time surfing was considered by many to be a male’s sport. In many surf breaks girls were not welcome. Their place was on the sand, or possibly on a boogie board or surf mat out of the way, closer to the shore with the kiddies.
Check out tomorrow for Part 2 of 2.
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