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Women’s History


Catching The Wave Of Female Surfers

The warm sun and the tasty waves are what energizes the surfing community during the summer months at the Jersey Shore. Every year people flock to the beaches from Atlantic City to Cape May in the hopes of getting to enjoy the surf and the sand! When I was a teenager, my sister and I would spend summers on the beaches in Margate with a group of friends who were avid surfers. We spent every day at the beach either body surfing or catching waves from our surfboards. Over the past few weeks I have had the luxury of returning to the beaches in Margate and have been reminded of fond memories from summers long ago, surfing and baking in the hot sand on Huntington Avenue. As the summer months begin their approach upon us, I thought it would be fitting to highlight a few women from the surfing industry. There have been so many women who have entered the sport of surfing, it is just amazing. However, I have selected three women in particular who have been trailblazers and role models to girls and women in the sport of surfing. First, there is Margo Oberg. Born on September 8, 1953, she started her surfing career at the age of 10. By the age of 15 (1968) Margo had won the World Contest, the Western Surfing Association’s women’s title. Margo took some time out of the spotlight after getting married but later returned to the sport of surfing after being offered a large endorsement enticing her back into the competitive circuit. Margo was a force to be reckoned with and developed a reputation for being a “big wave” competition leader. By the late 1970s Margo began to phase out of the competitive aspect of surfing. Embracing Hawaiian life, Margo opened a surf school and it is reported that it is currently active to this day. Margo continues to mentor other female surfers and she has been known to have the reputation of being one of the top female contenders. As quoted by another female surfer, Rochelle Ballard, “She was the only woman equipped for the barrel.” Speaking of big waves, Sarah Gerhardt, born in 1974, began her surfing career in California and became known for riding big waves by her late teens. What is unique about Sarah is that she is not a hard-core competitive surfer. Sarah grew up surfing and has had a passion for the water and the waves since her childhood. Sarah became a “household” name in the surfing world at the age of 25 when she became the first female to surf the “Mavericks” standing up! In case you are not familiar with the Mavericks, it is one of the most dangerous big wave surfing areas in California. The water is

cold, the seas are rough, and it takes a great deal of endurance and strength just to paddle out to the right spot to catch just the right wave. Often conditions are compromised on the water and a surfer can become exhausted very easily. Surfers have the distinct ability to making the process look easy, pulling themselves up on a surfboard and catching a wave at just the right time. For anyone who has ever attempted surfing, you know that this is a difficult sport, where wipeouts are frequent and it is easy to get sucked under the water by a big wave. Sarah is an avid surfer with tremendous respect of the water. Although Sarah is not just your typical surfer; she is a chemistry professor and mother of two children. Sarah shares her passion for the water with her husband and they frequently surf together, riding the Mavericks. The sport of surfing is an adrenaline rush that creates a competitive nature, and Sarah has proven that one does not have to be extremely competitive to be driven. She is a positive role model for girls in both the STEM and surfing fields! Lastly, I felt I would be remiss if I failed to mention the infamous Bethany Hamilton. In case there are some who have not heard of her, she was the female surfer who suffered a 14-ft tiger shark attack which resulted in the loss of her left arm. Bethany Hamilton has shown the world her amazing courage and strength. She has been quoted as saying, “My passion for surfing was more than my fear of sharks.” Bethany Hamilton was born in 1990. She began surfing as soon as she could stand. At the tender age of 13 she lost her left arm after the brutal shark attack. After allowing herself two months to recover, Bethany returned to the water along with her surfboard. Bethany had won her first national surfing title just two short years after recovery from her shark attack. Both mentally and physically Bethany showed the world that she was strong and determined to return to the sport of surfing, as evidenced by her rankings in the surfing world. Bethany has been a role model and inspiration to anyone who learns about her experiences. Bethany is married and has children and still continues to surf competitively. Bethany has written a book about her experience, and her resilience has carried into her appearances as a motivational speaker. Bethany Hamilton is a surfer with respect and a strong passion for the sport. A person needs to have some level of passion for surfing to get back into the water after a shark attack. Bethany is an inspiration to everyone and has shown all of us that despite life’s challenges, a person can succeed! Always remember, “When in doubt, paddle out!”

Rita King, LCSW is the Associate Director of Justice Involved Services at Jewish Family Service. In this role, Rita currently supervises a Re-Entry program for incarcerated individuals as well as a community based diversion program for consumers experiencing mental illness and involvement with the criminal justice system. Rita is a “De-escalation for Individuals with Special Needs” training facilitator and has trained approximately 1,200 law enforcement professionals to date. Rita is also a CIT trained mental health professional. Rita has a strong passion for women’s history and in her free time she continues to raise awareness of the importance of women’s history through lectures and community speaking engagements.

The County Woman Magazine

July/August 2019

Profile for The County Woman

Atlantic County Woman - July/August 2019  

The County Woman ™ is part of a nationally syndicated publication and has been around for over 31 years. There are over 371 other counties t...

Atlantic County Woman - July/August 2019  

The County Woman ™ is part of a nationally syndicated publication and has been around for over 31 years. There are over 371 other counties t...