Wisdom: Joyce Hoffman

LESSONS FROM THE 1965 AND 1966 WORLD CHAMPION

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Surfing without crowds is the best. In the ’60s, there were so few people surfing that you almost always knew everyone out in the lineup. It was way more laid back. It was what you would consider the ideal of what surfing is and could be. I’d go back to my 40-pound, 9-foot Terry Martin board if I could have Trestles with only four other people out again.

It can be tough being a female competitive surfer. We were definitely second-class citizens when I was competing. All the women’s finals were set for the middle of the afternoon when Huntington Beach was blowing 20 knots and the tide was low. We always got the leftovers, but that was just the time we were living in.

It’s a challenge being in the spotlight as a teenager. I always wanted to reflect well on the sport of surfing, so I took whatever limited amount of fame I had seriously and I tried to comport myself as best I could. But it wasn’t like fame nowadays. I would imagine it’s more difficult being in the spotlight today because everything is so much more invasive.

A lot of where you are is just luck. I know how lucky I was with the timing of my career. I was in the right place at the right time when surfing and beach culture were taking off in the ’60s and I was able to benefit from that. I’m forever grateful to surfing for all the wonderful experiences it gave me.

If you want to get into surfing bigger waves, make it a progressive thing. Don’t go from 4 foot to 25 foot. Work your way up and go to places like Hawaii to get used to surfing bigger waves. I used to like surfing Makaha and not-too-big Sunset Beach. But women in the ’60s weren’t riding the humongous waves they’re riding today.

I don’t know if I would have the nerve to paddle into some of the waves women are riding today. You need both talent and determination to be a great surfer. Talent might seem more important, but if you’re not able to direct that talent in a positive direction, then you’re not going to maximize your potential.

Work hard and find passions you can pursue your entire life. That’s the best piece of advice my dad [legendary waterman and surf textile tycoon Walter Hoffman] gave me. He set a good example for us; he worked really hard and was successful at his business, yet he made sure he had the time to pursue the things that mattered most to him, like surfing and diving.

If we want the ocean to still be there for us in the future, we have an obligation to pick up trash on the beach and take care of it as best as we can. I wouldn’t want to treat it like shit after all it’s brought to my life.

You can’t get away from competition in the lineup today. I think it’s gotten out of hand at a lot of breaks. I don’t want to fight for waves and I don’t want people yelling and screaming and being angry. Sometimes it feels like driving on the 405 freeway, and I avoid the 405 freeway as much as I can.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. If you’re in the spotlight, recognize where you are, be grateful for that and don’t get too full of yourself. Big life changes are not easy to make, but you’ll usually know when it’s the right time to make them. When I left competitive surfing and got into motocross, it felt like the right decision. I spent a long time surfing contests and I took it very seriously and trained really hard–I was ready to not have to work that hard in surfing.

You need to have other things in your life besides surfing. You could break your back and not have surfing anymore, so you better have other things that bring you joy, because you never know what might come your way.

Having a family tends to put life in perspective. You realize what’s really important and what’s not. One of the biggest joys in my life is getting to still surf with my dad and my nephews [Christian and Nathan Fletcher.] It doesn’t get better than that.

Raising good kids is going to be your most important job and you don’t get a do-over. You need to make sure you’ve got your priorities right for your family, and if you don’t, then make a different decision based on that. Not everyone is cut out to have kids.

If you don’t use it, you definitely lose it. Surfing is the most fun thing I do, so I go to the gym, I paddle, I mountain bike and I just try to stay active so that when there is surf, I can still paddle and get myself up off my board.

I think surfing can get better with age. I probably love it more now than I did when I was 18, even though I’m not able to surf the way I used to. At this point in my life I’m more settled with everything–I’m not trying to compete and I don’t have to be the best surfer. I’m grateful that I’m still able to get out there.

Article courtesy to SURFER Magazine

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