Words by Beth Franklin

While the women’s surf industry isn’t often portrayed as equal to their male counterpart, there is one thing you will find in female surfing, solidarity. The surf sisterhood is filled to the brim with supportive, bold, and strong women who will always be there to help when one of us falls. Whether that’s in the local surf WhatsApp you’re a part of, or simply in the comments of this post. We are here. This has been so expertly portrayed in recent weeks when we saw our favourite surfers rise up for Pauline Menczer. 

While you might not have heard Pauline’s name before; she was holding down the likes of Layne Beachly and Lisa Anderson, dominating the circuit in the 90’s. During this time she was sponsor-less, and suffering with arthritis. Menczer had the spirit and fire to rule any contest she entered, and eventually she solidified her efforts by becoming the 1993 World Champion. However, while most people expect to be sprayed with champagne on the podium along with a check to support the life of an athlete on the road, she did not. Her family was far from rich, so the $30,000 she made from the tour was spent on travel to the events.

‘I was initially just very flattered that these ladies had thought of me and wanted to set it up. Once it started going crazy and doubled the $25k goal I was absolutely overwhelmed by all the love and beautiful messages about my achievements. The love and recognition for me was way more important than the money. It also feels so good to be able to help our local disabled surfing charity and provide financial support to a  guy and his family in the Philippines who has the same rare disease and doesn’t have access to the same care and medicine as we do.’

As well as currently working as a bus driver in New South Wales, Pauline is set in to feature in the upcoming film Girls Can’t Surf which focuses on women surfers in the 1980’s when every event win was a step towards equality in the male-dominated world of surfing. We asked her about the experience she had working on this film:

“It’s been so much fun going through thousands of photos and videos… the memories have been flooding back. The crew are an amazing bunch of humans who have really become my lifelong friends now…Probably the best bit for me is reconnecting with the other girls and getting to know more about their personal stories back then and seeing where life has taken them.”

Pauline spoke of her time on the tour and asked what differences the women were faced with in comparison to the men, saying the film gives an accurate depiction of this scenario and stated that women sometimes felt like a ‘sideshow’. Despite this she was able to snatch the 1993 world title. She described winning a world title as: “the biggest goal of all Pro surfers”. Pauline went on to say that Hawaii was particularly tough due to her suffering with arthritis: “Especially in a big wind-blown Hawaii when I felt my body was working against me.” Pauline’s resilience knows no bounds, as an underdog herself she said her favourite advice to give to the next generation of underdogs is “Never give up, believe in yourself and always be true to yourself #BeYou”. Something I’m sure will speak to all you fellow surf girls out there!
For more inspiration from the likes of Pauline Menczer, Frieda Zamba, Lisa Andersen, Pam Burridge, Wendy Botha, Layne Beachley and many more you can check out Girls Can’t Surf which is out now! We can’t wait to watch the story of these rebellious women and how they smashed the glass ceiling to create a more equal space for women in surfing today. The final thing we asked Pauline was what she thinks of the female surfing community and she said that it’s: “Growing stronger by day! I feel women work together and support and nurture each other more than guys.” We still have a long way to go for equality, but from what we have seen so far, and inspirations like Pauline, everything and anything is possible.