(PC:Bluegrass)

Surfing may seem like a male-dominant sport, but it's the furthest thing from the truth.  Many are surprised to hear that women surfers have been around since the early 1600s.  In honor of Women's History Month, we're taking a look back at the pioneering wahines (female surfers) of the wave riding world.

At Ho’okena in 1905, a surfboard was discovered in Princess Kaneamuna’s burial cave, making it the oldest known papa he’e nalu (surfboard) found.  The board likely belonged to the princess, who lived during the early 1600s.  That means women were surfing as far back as the time of William Shakespeare, Pocahontas and Galileo!

Australian surf pioneer Isabel Letham was born in 1899, and had already begun swimming, diving and bodysurfing by her teenage years.  She volunteered to surf tandem on a wave with Hawaiian surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku when he visited Freshwater, Australia to give a surfing demostration.  After the ride, the 15-year-old girl became widely known as the first Australian, man or woman, to ride a surfboard.

Hollywood-born surfer Marge Calhoun grew up around the beaches of Venice and Santa Monica in the 1930s and 1940s.  Starting as a competitive swimmer and diver, she trained for the 1940 Olympics.  Calhoun never got her change to compete.  Due to World War II, the games were unfortunately cancelled.  Calhoun won the 1958 Makaha International Surfing Championships riding a 10-foot surfboard, and she co-founded the U.S. Surfing Association.

Another icon in women’s surfing history is California native Mary Ann Hawkins.  She won the Pacific Coast Women’s Surfboard Championships three years in a row (1938, 1939 and 1940), and was crowned the paddleboard champion too.  Hawkins dabbled in the film industry as well, doubling for Dorothy Lamar in Beyond the Blue Horizon and Aloma of the South Seas.

Since the time of these early female surf pioneers, women have made their presence in the lineup even stronger.  Present-day professional surfers like five-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore, big wave surfer Maya Gabeira and Women’s Pipeline champion Alana Blanchard are pushing women's surfing to newer heights, bigger waves and better tubes.

 Alana Blanchard Women's Surfing History

March 18, 2014

Women in Surfing: A Brief History

(PC:Bluegrass)

Surfing may seem like a male-dominant sport, but it's the furthest thing from the truth.  Many are surprised to hear that women surfers have been around since the early 1600s.  In honor of Women's History Month, we're taking a look back at the pioneering wahines (female surfers) of the wave riding world.

At Ho’okena in 1905, a surfboard was discovered in Princess Kaneamuna’s burial cave, making it the oldest known papa he’e nalu (surfboard) found.  The board likely belonged to the princess, who lived during the early 1600s.  That means women were surfing as far back as the time of William Shakespeare, Pocahontas and Galileo!

Australian surf pioneer Isabel Letham was born in 1899, and had already begun swimming, diving and bodysurfing by her teenage years.  She volunteered to surf tandem on a wave with Hawaiian surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku when he visited Freshwater, Australia to give a surfing demostration.  After the ride, the 15-year-old girl became widely known as the first Australian, man or woman, to ride a surfboard.

Hollywood-born surfer Marge Calhoun grew up around the beaches of Venice and Santa Monica in the 1930s and 1940s.  Starting as a competitive swimmer and diver, she trained for the 1940 Olympics.  Calhoun never got her change to compete.  Due to World War II, the games were unfortunately cancelled.  Calhoun won the 1958 Makaha International Surfing Championships riding a 10-foot surfboard, and she co-founded the U.S. Surfing Association.

Another icon in women’s surfing history is California native Mary Ann Hawkins.  She won the Pacific Coast Women’s Surfboard Championships three years in a row (1938, 1939 and 1940), and was crowned the paddleboard champion too.  Hawkins dabbled in the film industry as well, doubling for Dorothy Lamar in Beyond the Blue Horizon and Aloma of the South Seas.

Since the time of these early female surf pioneers, women have made their presence in the lineup even stronger.  Present-day professional surfers like five-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore, big wave surfer Maya Gabeira and Women’s Pipeline champion Alana Blanchard are pushing women's surfing to newer heights, bigger waves and better tubes.

 Alana Blanchard Women's Surfing History

Sarah Webb
Sarah Webb

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