How do you feel about having your own statue at Waterman’s Plaza?
It’s very humbling. It’s hard to imagine that I deserve something like that; it seems like it’s for much more famous people than myself. I was very grateful that I was given that honor and grateful to surfing for having given me the opportunities that made that honor possible. The day after the dedication, I had to sort of pinch myself and make sure it was really real.
To what do you attribute the success of your surfing career?
Surfing appealed to the people who weren’t interested in organized sports. I was really successful because, in the beginning, I was the only one who practiced and took it seriously. I cross-trained, I ran, I lifted weights, I wanted to get in shape. I was much more prepared than many of the women, and even the other men at that point to compete. So what really gave me a step-up on everybody else, I think, was my innate competitive nature. I hated to lose.
What has been the most rewarding part?
All the wonderful people I’ve met from around the world. I’ve traveled around and visited all of them over the years. The statue, being named Los Angeles Times’ Woman of the Year—all things that were outside of surfing that I would have never expected but came about because of my career.
Where are your favorite local spots to surf?
It used to be Trestles or Cottons Point or someplace like that. Now I’m more of the San Onofre and Doheny brigade. I just thank God that those places are here, and at 75 years old I can paddle out and catch some waves and have a good time.
Visit Waterman’s Plaza at the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Del Obispo Street.