Orange County

For Joyce Hoffman, 75-Year-Old Wave-Riding Pioneer, the Ocean Will Always Be in Her Surfing Soul

Joyce Hoffman is 75 years old with a lifetime of firsts linked to her name.

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Joyce Hoffman will be the first to tell you she was an odd duck who didn’t fit in with the 1960s "Beach Blanket Bingo" crowd.

She was different. She was a teenage girl who was waxing up her surfboard.

"When I was 13 all I wanted to do was surf, surf, surf, compete, compete, compete, and win, win, win," she said. "That was it.

"My father would look at me and say, 'what’s wrong with you?'"

In hindsight, the Orange County woman says, there was nothing wrong. In fact, everything was right when she hit the water.

"Every time I’m out there it's like a special magical moment," she said. "At my age you never know how many times you’ll be out there."

Hoffman is 75 years old with a lifetime of firsts linked to her name.

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She was the first woman to surf Hawaii’s Bonzai Pipeline, the first female lifeguard on the West Coast and the first woman to get a surfboard named after her, thanks to Hobie Atler.

"I said to Hobie I’ve won more contests than any of those guys put together," she said. "I think I should have a model and he said, 'I never thought about that, but, sure, go on down to the shaping room and let's get one going.'"

Looking back, Hoffman says what surprises her are the things that happened outside the surfing industry, like a life-size statue erected very recently in her honor.

"I never thought in my wildest dreams I'd have a statue, for goodness sakes," she said. "Usually you’re dead when you have a statue, so the fact I’m alive is plus right there."

"I hope I just keep surfing into the sunset. As I like to say my wave is getting a little smaller and it's a little closer to shore, but I’m still riding it as much as I can."

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