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Gilbert Rogin
October 18, 1965
Once a sport enjoyed by a mere handful of thrill-seeking nuts, surfing has become the province of a mass of middle-class nuts who like to perform on small waves. Queen of these hot-doggers is Joyce Hoffman, who wins laughing at sea (right) and smiles when she collects her trophies (above)
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October 18, 1965

An Odd Sport And An Unusual Champion

Once a sport enjoyed by a mere handful of thrill-seeking nuts, surfing has become the province of a mass of middle-class nuts who like to perform on small waves. Queen of these hot-doggers is Joyce Hoffman, who wins laughing at sea (right) and smiles when she collects her trophies (above)

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Steamer Lane, Wild Hook, Rincon, The Overhead, Malibu, P. V. Cove, Lunada Bay, The Cliff, The Pier, Salt Creek, The Cove, Cotton's Point, The Trestles, The Church, San Onofre, The Swamis, Windansea, Sunset Cliffs, The Tijuana Sloughs, K-39, San Miguel, Makaha, Haleiwa, Waimea Bay, Sunset, The Banzai Pipeline. The foregoing makes about as much sense to the middle-aged Middle Westerner as a Gregorian chant or the Upanishads, but to the swelling ranks of surfers it has a stirring, meaningful, "really neat" sound—the roar of surf—for these are the venerated places on the West Coast and in Hawaii that have the top wave.

Surfing has come a long way from Duke Kahanamoku to Annette Funicello, but who knows just how far? Grubby Clark, the president of Clark Foam, the nation's largest manufacturer of blanks—unfinished surfboards—says he doubts that there are more than 200,000 surfers in the U.S. Grubby, by the way, is called that because he has perfected a technique of shaving that almost works. LeRoy Grannis, the publisher of International Surfing, one of two national magazines devoted to the sport, says there are 350,000 surfers, almost all of them teen-agers.

Hobie Alter, who is by far the largest manufacturer of custom boards, which account for about 75% of the market, says there are 400,000 surfers. Don Murray, the executive secretary of the United States Surfing Association, says there are more than half a million surfers in California and another half a million in the East. He also says that the rate of growth is 20% a year. The New York Times says the USSA says there are "several million surfers in the United States and the number has been almost doubling annually." If this keeps up, by 1972 the number of surfers in the U.S. will be greater than the population. "Kalabunga!" as someone always yells, obscurely, in the surfing movies.

Two of the foremost figures in this great, uncomputed mass of surfers are a California father and daughter, Walter and Joyce Hoffman. Walter, a vice-president of Hoffman California Fabrics, Inc. of Los Angeles, is a member of surfing's old guard—he was one of the first and best of Hawaii's big-wave riders—that now comprises a small and fairly lunatic fringe. Joyce, who is a freshman history major at Santa Ana Junior College and is considered the finest female surfer of all time, belongs to surfing's new wave. She is a hot-dogger, or small-wave rider, as, of necessity, is practically everyone else on the West, East and Gulf coasts. In southern California, for instance, there are generally only three or four days a year when the surf gets to be 15 feet, compared to 200 days of two-foot surf.

In place of the largely neurotic thrills sought by the big-wave riders, hot-doggers indulge in stunts, such as hanging ten (standing on the nose of the board, toes curled over the tip). Hot-doggers have a raunchy reputation among grownups. This is mainly because about five years ago some surfers used to drop their bathing suits, did a bit of breaking and entering and threw rocks at a Sante Fe train or two in order to express their attitude toward society, but this antisocial behavior is largely a thing of the past now that the great, imitative middle class has overrun the sport.

The Hoffmans live in Capistrano Beach, Calif., which is halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego. The Pacific forms what Joyce calls "a crummy beach break"—surf breaking directly against the shore—a few yards in front of their house, which is chiefly decorated with polished abalone shells and the trophies Joyce has won in surfing contests. Before the Hoffmans built a low seawall the waves occasionally broke in their living room. Joyce is 18, 5 feet 7, weighs 125 pounds and has long blonde hair. When she was in Peru for a surfing contest last February she was known as The Blonde Goddess of the Sea. "I'm just beginning to live that down," she says. Joyce is usually known as Boo. "They also call her The Jolly Green Giant," says her sister Dibby, who is 13. "I'm taller than the other girl surfers," says Joyce, "not fatter. Most are real heavyset. I don't want to be an Amazon. I like to be skinny. If I get any bigger I'll die. Do I diet? Oh, boy! It's an advantage to be small. When you're big, you just squoosh the waves." One of the reasons Joyce wears her hair long is that she does not want to be mistaken for a boy when she is surfing far from shore. "If they think that I'm a boy, they'll just think I'm crummy," she says.

The Hoffman household is composed of Walter, his wife Patricia, Joyce, Dibby, Tony, 12, and Robin, 4. Mrs. Hoffman hardly ever goes in the water, but she knits 300 sweaters a year. Walter, who is called Heavy, because he is, is much in demand as a judge in surfing contests, particularly for the tandem event, in which a man and a woman form acrobatic tableaux on an extra-long board. Tony is more interested in karate than surfing; he recently broke his hand trying to split a piece of lumber with it. Dibby gave up surfing because she kept getting injured, and has now taken up the inflatable raft.

Dibby aside, surfing is a surprisingly safe sport, much safer, for instance, than skiing, to which it is closely related. Most surfing accidents are a result of being conked by loose boards. Joyce has been knocked out and had her nose broken by her board, has distinctive knobs on her feet from paddling, and suffers from a pterygium, an eye growth prevalent among those who have prolonged exposure to the sun, which in some cases has to be cut away annually. She was also knocked out when she was thrown by her horse, Shanef, a purebred Arabian. Joyce sold Shanef last year because she no longer had time to ride him. "It wasn't fair to the horse," she says. "It made me feel guilty. We'd gallop on the beach for miles. It was so neat. He'd never want to stop. I'd get up at 4:30 and go riding by myself, then surf all day. It kind of made for a long day, though."

During the summer Joyce surfs in front of her house for at least four, and sometimes as many as eight, hours daily. "After eight hours you can't move," she explains. "I get bathtub pucker. If I didn't put lotion on my legs I'd look like a prune." Sometimes she even surfs at night. "It's scary, with the waves crashing outside," she says. In the winter, when the water is 54�, she goes out for two hours. "You have to do it," she says. "That's all there is to it." Although she wears a wet suit, it doesn't cover her feet. "Your feet are purple for three hours," she says. "They get so numb, you get to the beach and you can't walk."

"Boo surfs a lot longer than other girls," says her boy friend, Joe Lancor, who is 20 and studying architecture at the University of Santa Clara. "They surf for an hour and a half and call it quits—they get tired. She forces herself to go out. I hate to cast aspersions, but most girl surfers are slightly unsavory. Boo's not a prude or a dud, and she's not missing anything else out of her life either—that's the neat thing."

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