She adopted the boys' high-risk, high-speed, go-for-broke attitude. Like doing skateboard tricks on salt water, she says. Aggressive is a mild word for what Zamba does on, and to, a wave.
Once her board flew out from under, her, then returned like the world's largest boomerang. It hit her less than half an inch from her right eyeball. When she was 13, she tried to shoot the Flagler Beach pier. The pier shot her instead. Smacked her in the head and rearranged her thoughts. Incidents like that scared her, but they didn't stop her.
Feisty is one thing. Fanatic is what she was. Nothing existed for her except the waves. Zen is not big in Flagler Beach, but Zen it was. The entire world in a wave.
By the time Zamba was 16, Flea Shaw knew she was one in a million. He was a pro surfer and custom board shaper who had grown up by the ocean in Ormond Beach, just south of Flagler, spending hours on end, day after day, gazing out to sea, studying wave patterns and currents and weather.
As a child in the mid '50s, he surfed on his father's 14-foot balsa surfboard. Bright pink. No fins. Riding the breakers in from half a mile out, his dad standing behind him while the family boxer, Spook, balanced on the front end.
When he grew up, Shaw surfed the amateur and pro circuits. But in all those years, on all those waves, he never saw a woman like Zamba. He was wiped out by Zamba's radical 360-degree turns, her slashing, torpedolike maneuvers off the foaming lip of the wave, her electrifying aerials, her manic speed and her uncanny ability to squeeze every inch of trick space out of the most mediocre wave before it died.
Shaw started shaping triple-finned boards for her ferocious attacking style, making them fast and ultralight, with concave noses that would help lift the board over mushy parts in a wave instead of pushing water the way conventional convex noses do.
And when Zamba was 17, he shipped her out to face the seasoned West Coast pros at the Mazda, and she clobbered them. "A lot of 'em were real cruisers down the line," Zamba says. "Their whole thing was to surf feminine and really casual. I never liked just standing on a wave and cruising. So I was doing roller coasters, real high-speed surfing, sharp turns and radical maneuvers. They said, 'Gosh, you surf like a man.' "
She was shocked by her victory in her major competition. The papers called her Cinderella Surfer. She flew home, and the shy, small-town girl turned party animal. She would not win an event for another year.
Living away from home for the first time, sleeping six to a cheap-motel room and dining on fried grease, Zamba was introduced to the game of quarters, which was fatal to her surfing. "It was terrible," she says, shamefaced. "You get this glass and you fill it with beer. Then you take a quarter and you flick it, but it's gotta bounce once on the table before it goes into the glass. If it goes in, you pick who drinks the beer. If you miss, you gotta chug it."