The California Golden Girls
The California Golden Girls – Jericho Poppler, Shannon Aikman, Candy Woodward, Lisa Tomb, Brenda Scott Rogers, Betty Depolito. These ladies were the precursors to today’s professional female surfers. The legacy they began continues to undergird the trajectory of women’s professional surfing.
The California Golden Girls are a team of professional, “elegant, attractive,” athletic women who surfed the Pro Tour in the 1970s-80s. Formed in 1977, the Golden Girls created a global presence and awareness for women in surfing. They competed on the International Professional Surfing (IPS) World Tour in 1978 in Australia, California and Hawaii, progressing into the 1980s when the IPS became the Association of Surfing Professionals, known today as the World Surf League.
The Golden Girls continue to surf, serve as ambassadors to the sport of surfing and continue to encourage women in surfing. These pros laid the foundation for women in competitive surfing today. The Golden Girls were the forerunners of the big wave riding female surfers today. In the 1970s and 1980s, they rode hard railed single-fins, charging Sunset Beach, Hi and massive Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz, California.
Before the Golden Girls, Marge Calhoun, Eve Fletcher, Linda Benson, and Joyce Hoffman, were the most visible women taking on big waves on the North Shore of Oahu, though they did so on heavy logs (longboards with soft rails and big single fins).
For the last 20 years, Sarah Gerhardt has been surfing large waves at Mavericks in Northern California, usually as the only woman in a lineup dominated by men. This was how it was for the women who surfed normal sized waves in the 1960s-70s. Today, the women are again charging big waves and pushing the limits. Bianca Valenti, Maya Gabiera, Keala Kennely, Sarah Gerhardt and Page Alms are but a few of the names of women pushing the limits of big wave riding. Thanks to their efforts, built upon the history of women doing the same before them, women now have their own big wave tour.
Jericho Poppler charging Sunset Beach, Hawaii.
Talking Story: This photograph of Shannon was taken during a W.I.S.A. contest in Santa Cruz, California at Steamers Lane on a Saturday. No one could tell how big it was on the outside as no one could make it out that far. A man drifted in the strong current from Mitchell’s Cove through the outside of the Lane. Everyone held their breath as he passed and he was lucky there was a lull when he went through. A helicopter plucked him out of the ocean at a nearby harbor. The competitors surfed 10-12 foot waves on the inside all the way to Cowell’s. A driver picked up the competitor and drove her back to the Lane. She walked back down the steps, waited for a lull and made haste back to the lineup. That scenario was repeated all day. “This was the biggest I’ve ever witnessed the Lane,” Aikman reminisced. The City of Santa Cruz closed the beach the next day because of the dangerous conditions and the competition was called off.
Betty “Banzai” Depolito has made an impact charging big waves on the North Shore of Oahu since 1979 including Waimea Bay. The California West Coast Champion and California Golden Girl traveled the world as a top ten rated international surfer. “Banzai Betty” is a pioneer of women’s surfing videos and produced the first ever DVD in the 1980’s. She went on to work in the television field as an ESPN reporter. technician and media & marketing professional. She also has produced and directed many surf competitions including the Eddie Aikau, The North Shore Tow-In and The Pipeline Womens Pro. She now produces a Womens Sports TV and online show for Women called FlHi Girls Sports TV, https://www.facebook.com/Flhi-Girls-Surfing-Sports-244817505579979/?ref=hl and continues to organize Women’s surfing competitions. Betty was a member of The California Golden Girls.
Brenda Scott-Rogers is the founder of Hotline Wetsuits in Santa Cruz, California.
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