Women's [Surf] History Month

Women's [Surf] History Month

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 In honor of Women’s History Month, we decided to take a look at some of our favorite iconic riders in the world of women's surf. Here, our SeeaBabes reflect on the ladies who shaped surf history and their own personal surf stories. At Seea, we are dedicated towards continuing the legacy our surfing foremothers have made possible for us, a space to celebrate womanhood and our endearing connections with the ocean and dancing to the music of the waves... Leah Dawson kicks off the shared shred with a heartwarming intro:

"While surf culture and media have long been focused from a male-centric point of view, there have been numerous women who have stood proud among them, gracefully following their desire to ride waves and have a relationship with the ocean. We are lucky today to have access to stories, books, articles about heroes from the past and present, as our surfing foremothers are not just talented surfers, but exemplary human beings. With a broadening access to inspiration, our next generations have been greeted with a strong road of moral support from their peers and trailblazers."

Leah Dawson honors Linda Benson

"I met Linda in the early 2000’s through a mutual friend and hero Donald Takayama. They were lifelong friends and both carried a youthful spirit and admiration of surf that mirrored the most passionate ocean lovers. Larger than life, an exuberant spirit packed into a petite frame, Linda’s influence on surf culture has continued to evolve far past her multiple championship wins in the 60’s as surfing boomed and became a worldwide sensation.
Soon after I met Linda, she became in charge of the Women’s World Longboard Championships in 2005, devoting her time towards making a platform for the next generation to pursue their dreams.  She nurtured us, put her foot down to get prize money for our events, and made us all feel special for choosing long boarding.
She told us stories of her early days surfing in Hawaii.  A few years later as I stood on the beach at Waimea, I marveled at the recognition that Linda became the first woman to surf the Bay at age 15, just 4 years after she began to surf. I finally got up the courage to surf the Bay on a small day at age 23, with up-to-date equipment. A few sessions out there, I learned quickly that it wasn’t for me, but also had an entirely new appreciation for the iconic photos of Linda surfing the Bay in 1959 on an old-school 10ft gun.
Linda’s lifelong celebration of riding waves continues today, as does her influence on generations of women’s surfers. Her dance with the ocean is truly an art form and an expression of love. As a woman, I am so grateful that Linda exists and that her humble approach continues to influence our culture today. We love you Linda, thank you for all the love you share with our world!!!
-Words by Leah Dawson

Makala Smith honors Joyce Hoffman

With a true appreciation for women’s surfing, we must honor the incredible groundwork Joyce created for all of us - from a humble, endearing love for the simple pleasures of being in the ocean. While her drive to be a champion surfer found her at the top of many podiums, pioneering women’s surfing at the Banzai Pipeline, and becoming a household name as surfing spread like wildfire around the world, it is her heart and respectful, kind spirit that has continued to influence the surf culture for decades.
With one hand in the air, Joyce Hoffman’s iconic surfing style seems to connect to the cosmos; the incredible magic forces that make riding the earth’s waves possible. Sharing the same hometown of Dana Point, Makala Smith considers Joyce one of her lifelong idols and inspirations. “I want to honor her as a competitor, she was so composed with so much poise in her surfing when it comes to that playing field.  She played the game so well and I strive to have that in my surfing.
She stands out not only as a competitor, but as an amazing powerful female role model for all ages. Being surrounded by men as surfing developed throughout the years,  she not only paved her own way, but she glows through the generation for all women to celebrate.
At a young 75, Joyce continues to surf and enjoy the wondrous feeling of riding waves. A statue of Joyce was recently erected in her hometown of Dana Point, honoring a true living legend, and a woman we can all strive to live like— joyous, lighthearted, appreciative, and full of the ocean’s spirit.
- Words by Makala Smith + Leah Dawson


Mele Saili honors Rell Sunn

In honor of women’s history month I’d like to glorify one of the women who has contributed so much to the sport and culture of women’s surfing. Rell Sunn, also known as the Queen of Makaha.

Rell was a master diver, a skilled lifeguard, a surf legend. In 1979, Sunn, along with Jericho Poppler, Lynne Boyer, Margo Oberg, Cherie Gross, Linda Davoli, Debbie Beacham, Becky Benson and Brenda Scott, formed Women's Pro Surfing (WPS) along with other pro women surfers.In 1982, Sunn ranked number one in the world for women's longboarding. She also finished in the top eight in the world seven times, twice reaching number three.

Despite all of her accomplishments, Rell’s true spirit lived outside of her competitive career. She isdescribed as a “Surfer. Disc jockey. Hula instructor. Freediver. Youth speaker. Black belt. Contestdirector. Lifeguard. Teacher. Waianaie Cancer Research Project Guide.” (Rellsunn.com). Rellremained humble and selfless... gaining the title “Queen of Makaha” for the spirit she carried with her, and the enthusiasm she devoted to every aspect of her life.

My grandmother actually gifted me ‘The Heart of the Sea’ documentary when I was 13 years old. I'd play it day and night studying her approach to wave riding. She became such an icon to me. The surfer that I would always aspire to be like.Although she will never read this I want to thank her for all that she has done for women. She was a truepioneer in the early days of women's professional surfing, especially when women were not given the opportunities that men were and even more so, were not necessarily welcomed to take part in. Thank you Rell.

A Tribute: In 1983, Sunn was diagnosed with cancer. For 15 years, she battled the disease, surfing nearly throughout and never once complaining orwavering in her positive outlook.While unfailingly happy, her physical condition hit a downward spiral that culminated in her passing on the second day of 1998. Thousands of mourners turned out at Makaha to bid her farewell, each in some way affected by her warm charm. As the world of surfing lost a great ambassador, her spirit remains with everyone she touched.” - Jason Borte, (Rellsunn.com)
- Words by Mele Saili

Rosie Jaffurs honors Becky Benson

I grew up a few doors down from Becky and watched her raise her two children over the years. I didn’t realize it at the time, but later in life we would become good surf buddies... getting surf reports each morning and evening. I am inspired by the daily way she lives life:  she worked hard as a teacher for many years and is now retired, living to surf everyday walk her dogs every afternoon. She is an inspiring and active at her beautiful age, and I aspire to follow in her footsteps and be able to shortboard on the North Shore in my 60’s!

In Becky’s competive career she was quite successful: taking a win in the 1971 Makaha International Surfing Championship and the 1982 OP Pro Huntington Beach. She also won the 1973 Hawaii State championships, and was ranked #3 in the world in 1977.

Becky Benson moved from Texas to the North Shore when she was 9 years old. Her father Albert Benson got stationed at Schofield barracks, and the rest was history. He bought himself a camera, and his three kids surfboards, and they all fell in love with the raw beauty and breaks of the North Shore - taking every chance he could to film his kids surfing. Being one of the few (if not the only cameraman out here at the time) he made lots of friends easily. Everyone would gather at his house to review and chat over the footage after good swells.

Becky’s entire family has been an inspiration in my upbringing of just how to be a good kind person, a hardworker and a lover. Becky and her mom are two of the kindest women I know, and are always trying to take care of everyone and everything. If I am ever out and see a dog loose on the road I call Becky. She not only rescues dogs, but fosters them until they find their forever homes - that’s the kind of heart she has.

I am so grateful for the inspiration Becky brings to my life by still being an everyday surf frother. Becky is a testament to the timeless and ageless joy of surfing, and its ability to provide community, kindness and friendship to us all. Thank you Becky!
- Words by Rosie Jaffurs

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