By Breeana Greenberg
Legendary surf icon Joyce Hoffman, who began her surfing career at 13 in Capistrano Beach, is the latest to be honored by the City of Dana Point with a life-sized, bronze statue at Waterman’s Plaza.
The statue of Hoffman, the surfing pioneer who says she’s a “product of Dana Point,” is the first life-size figure in the United States to honor a female surfer and was unveiled to a packed crowed at Waterman’s Plaza late last week.
The latest Waterman’s statue off of Pacific Coast Highway, across from Doheny State Beach, joins others honoring Bruce Brown, Hobie Alter, John Severson, and Phil Edwards—all prominent watermen in the city’s history who influenced the surf industry.
“To be included among these great surfing icons Hobie, Bruce Brown John Severson, Phil Edwards, and others who will soon be honored here, all of whom have made enormous contributions to surfing and its industry, is something words alone can’t quite express, but I’ll try,” Hoffman said at the unveiling.
“Thank goodness for the city of Dana Point and the Waterman’s Plaza for recognizing the historic significance local residents have made serving its industry and culture in general,” Hoffman said.
The statue, created by Dana Point artist Bill Limebrook, is modeled after a famous surfing photo of Hoffman from the 1966 World Surfing Contest in San Diego.
“When the city envisioned Waterman’s Plaza, it was to recognize the iconic waterman and women who made their mark in Southern California and throughout the world and while they live, worked, innovated and served in Dana Point,” said Dana Point Mayor Joe Muller.
“Now Joyce Hoffman is not just the first woman to be honored here, but the first life-size bronze statue in the nation honoring a female surfer,” he added.
Hoffman was the first female ocean lifeguard in California, and possibly the entire United States, Don Craig, a lifelong surfing friend of Hoffman said last week.
Hoffman began surfing at 13 when her family moved to Capistrano Beach. Since then, she’s won United States Surfing Championships in 1965, 1966, and 1967, the Makaha International in 1964 and 1966 and the Laguna Masters in 1965 and 1967.
At her first surf contest at 13, Hoffman entered a tandem competition at Doheny State Beach along with her dad.
“It was the first and last time I ever rode competitive tandem,” Hoffman recalled, while her father, Walter Hoffman, was in attendance. “No offense dad, but I wanted to pick the waves and surf myself, not be a hood ornament.”
She honed her surfing skills in Dana Point, in front of her family home on Beach Road.
“I think Joyce’s career epitomizes the surf culture here in Dana Point,” Muller said. “She was sponsored by Hobie Surfboards and it was her friend Hobie Alter who approved a signature surprise for Joyce, then directed Terry Martin to shape the first prototypes.”
In 1967, Hobie Surfboards introduced the Joyce Hoffman signature model surfboard. She has also been featured on the cover of LIFE magazine and was the first surfer to be named Los Angeles Times’ Woman of the Year in 1965. In 1994, Hoffman was inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame as Woman of the Year.
“While this statue is of me, I like to think of it as an honor to all the women surfers who came before and after me,” Hoffman said. “All the trailblazers who didn’t accept the concept that surfing was a man’s sport, that women were expected to stay on the beach while the guys had all the fun.”
“These were women who wanted to challenge themselves and the assumption that they did not belong in the surf,” she continued. “As I look out over this crowd of people, I see so many women who deserve credit for making this statue possible.”
Craig said that Hoffman always felt the responsibility to be a positive role model both in and out of the water. Craig added that Hoffman once told him, the best thing about being a professional surfer was the friendships she made around the world.
“She wanted to reflect well on the sport,” Craig said. “It was giving her so many opportunities. She took her position as a champion very seriously. While these attitudes would have been customary in any other sport, they were new to the sport of surfing, especially during an era of extreme overindulgence.”
Hoffman continues to be a role model for young women, with many asking for her autograph after the event.
“For Joyce, it was not just the waves that shaped her career but the community of Dana Point that played a role as well,” Muller said. “And that relationship continues today because young girls might just come across Joyce when she’s out there surfing. And that is remarkable.”
“She is more than an icon,” he added, “she’s an everyday inspiration and one of the best ambassadors for the surf industry and for the city of Dana Point.”
Breeana Greenberg is the city reporter for the Dana Point Times. She graduated from Chapman University with a bachelor of arts degree in English. Before joining Picket Fence Media, she worked as a freelance reporter with the Laguna Beach Independent. Breeana can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org