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Byron Shire
June 18, 2024

Surf like a woman

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World surfing champion Pauline Menczer. Photo supplied.

Local surfing legend Pauline Menczer has told her remarkable story in a new book, ‘Surf Like a Woman’, which tells the story of how she overcame sexism, homophobia and rheumatoid arthritis to become World Surfing Champion.

Surf culture in the 80s and 90s was exceedingly toxic — particularly for women. Ignored by sponsors, underpaid (if paid at all), underestimated and insulted, female surfers had to overcome countless hurdles to make it on the professional surfing circuit. Pauline Menczer was one of those who broke down the door of surfing’s boys’ club for the next generation of women.

A mural featuring Pauline Menczer has been painted at Bondi Beach. Image: Waverley Council.

Originally she grew up and developed a love for surfing at Bondi Beach. Four decades later, Pauline Menczer is still the only surfer from Bondi to win a World Title.

She’s been memorialised by a mural on the beach’s promenade, to be followed soon by a bronze statue.

Despite her World Title win in 1993, Pauline never received any prize money – all funds went to the men’s champion. Even in other tournaments when she placed or won, men got the bulk of the prize money.

Ms Menczer and her fellow female surfers had to scrape by with minimal income to cover everything from travel around the world to compete and their equipment to food and doctor’s appointments, often barely breaking even.

Surf Like a Woman cover Pauline MenczerHighs and lows

‘Surf Like A Woman’ chronicles the highs and lows of her surfing journey, including her battle with debilitating rheumatoid arthritis and need to hide her same-sex relationship while on tour, for fear of judges discriminating against her in competitions.

Recently, Australian Molly Picklum achieving a perfect score at Hawaii’s Pipe Pro, making history as the first woman to ever do so (women were not even permitted to surf at Pipeline until 2020).

Following this event, Picklum stated that she was ‘so inspired by the women before [her] time who charged and pushed the limits’. Pauline Menczer is undoubtedly one such trailblazer.

Following her pro surfing career, she continues to fight sexism and misogyny in the sport, as well as raising awareness for sportswomen like herself who suffer from autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

She recently starred in the documentary Girls Can’t Surf alongside other surfing legends including Jodie Cooper, Stephanie Gilmore and Layne Beachley, as they challenged the male-dominated nature of surfing culture.

‘Surf Like A Woman’ is both the memoir of a surfing icon, and a rousing feminist manifesto celebrating the  resilience, strength and power of women in sport.

Find out more here.


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1 COMMENT

  1. Just one small point Cheyne Horan, won a masters (over 40) world title. I spent many days watching Pauline rip up the little left reform in the corner at Bondi with vertical backhand hacks. She rips.

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