Last week, the city of Dana Point unveiled a life-size bronze statue of Joyce Hoffman, a trailblazer in the sport. It is the first life-size statue in the nation to honor a female surfer. Located in the city’s Watermen’s Plaza, it stands among other statues honoring surf legends Hobie Alter, John Severson, Phil Edwards, and Bruce Brown.
Joyce Hoffman’s numerous accolades in surfing led to international fame and notoriety. She dominated surfing competitions during the 1960s, achieving victories in the United States Surfing Championships three years in a row from ’65 to ’67, the Makaha International in ’64 and ’66, and the Laguna Masters in ’65 and ’67. Her influence on the sport was far-reaching and led to her being featured in Sports Illustrated and on the front cover of Life magazine. Hoffman was also the first surfer to be named Los Angeles Times’ Woman of the Year in 1965.
She started surfing at 13 years old when her family moved to Capistrano Beach. She entered her first surfing competition at Dana Point’s Doheny Beach, and quickly gained admiration from local surfers. Hobie Surfboards introduced the Joyce Hoffman Model in 1967, the first ever signature board created for a female surfer.
“For Joyce, it was not just the waves that shaped her career, but the community of Dana Point that played a role as well,” says Dana Point Mayor Joe Muller. “And that relationship continues today, because young girls might just come across Joyce when she’s out there surfing.”
Her success is attributed to her fierce dedication to the sport. From practicing her surfing technique for hours every day, to running and cross-training, Hoffman did everything she could to improve her performance as an athlete. Don Craig, lifelong friend of Hoffman, recognized her determination in a speech given at the unveiling.
“Her greatest contribution to surfing was her competitiveness and her sense of responsibility,” Craig said. “Joyce took surfing from a recreational activity to a serious sport.”
The bronze statue immortalizing Hoffman’s legacy is modeled after an iconic photograph of her. She is influenced by the style of surfer David Nuuhiwa, known for his unique noseriding abilities, which Hoffman is demonstrating in the photograph. All of the statues standing in Watermen’s Plaza are crafted by artist Bill Limebrook, a friend and former neighbor of Hoffman.
“Bill and I have come full circle on this project making it all the more special and meaningful for the both of us,” says Hoffman. “Who would have thought that one day, a surfer and an artist would be celebrating a day like today together?”
Despite her own major success, Hoffman pays homage to other female surfers for their ability to pave a way for women in a male-dominated sport.
“While this statue is of me, I’d like to think of it as an honor to all women surfers who came before and after me,” she says. “All the trailblazers who didn’t accept the concept that surfing was a man’s sport, and that women were expected to stay on the beach while the guys had all the fun. … Having this amazing honor is a testament to how good this life has been for me. I am so fortunate at this stage in my life, that my wave is still in motion. It’s just getting a little smaller and a little slower as I get closer to shore.”