Female surfers played a vital role in the sport's Polynesian pre-history. At times, women actually outnumbered their male counterparts at Hawaiian breaks. The situation changed in the 20th century, and female surfers found their influence reduced for the most part to decoration and novelty. Even though long-standing competitions like the Makaha International featured a women's division, participants were few and the intensity of the competition paled in comparison with the men. The first crack in this picture appeared in the 1967 when the Western Surfing Association's created a new 4A division for "professionally-oriented super stars." A precursor of today's elite world tour, the women's division showcased child star Margo Godfrey, who carved her way straight through to the World Title at age 15 on the way to becoming one of the greatest surfing champions ever. Margo set the stage for future generations of women surfers to follow. Names like Rell Sunn, Jericho Poppler, and Lynn Boyer became standard fixtures in the surfing press. Today, through the efforts of contemporary surfers Lisa Andersen, Rochelle Ballard, Layne Beachley, and Keala Kenneally, women are reclaiming their rightful place in elite lineups the world over. The movement is most palpable in the freesurfing realm, and one of the 21st century's most obvious surfing trends is the explosion of females at beaches everywhere. We explore all of the above in this edition of The Surfer's Journal.
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