Quiet but hypercompetitive surfer from Haleiwa, Hawaii; world champion in 1978 and 1979; a cool hand in the big Hawaiian surf, but lauded for her aggressive and tight-cornering approach in smaller waves. "You could say she was a more radical surfer than I was," rival and four-time world champion Margo Oberg of Hawaii recalled. "She was pretty, she had wild red hair, she painted her boards up . . . she sure looked radical."
Boyer was born (1956) in Allentown, Pennsylvania, the daughter of an army oncologist, raised in Maryland, and was 11 in 1968 when she moved with her family to Hawaii, where she began surfing. She placed third in the 1973 state championships, won in 1975, and turned pro the following year, just out of high school, flying to California to win the Hang Ten Pro Championships at Malibu, earning $1,500.
Margo Oberg, the 1968 world champion and long the dominant figure in women's surfing, finally had a worthy rival. Whereas Oberg was a classicist, using a fairly upright stance and connecting turns with quiet precision, Boyer (5' 7", 125 pounds) rode in a low attacking crouch and worked her board constantly. She was often described as the female Larry Bertlemann—the electrifying Hawaiian who reinvented hotdog surfing in the early 1970s. Boyer meanwhile accoutered herself with a set of brightly airbrushed boards, most of them bearing her trademark ribbon pattern across the deck.
The women's world tour made its debut in 1977, and for the next few years it was essentially a two-surfer showcase. Boyer won three of nine events in 1977, but Oberg won four and took the title. In 1978 they each took two, but Boyer had the higher result in the fifth and final contest, and won the championship. Oberg took the following year off, and Boyer won three of the four scheduled contests to easily take her second title. She also won the 1979 Surfer Magazine Readers Poll Award. Just two contests were held in 1980; Oberg won both and reclaimed the championship, with Boyer runner-up.
Boyer's rating slipped over the next three years, from fourth to fifth to eighth. In 1984 she won the World Cup at Haleiwa, but had otherwise all but vanished from the surf scene, revealing years later that she was addicted to cocaine and alcohol, and that her reticence as a pro had been determined in large part because she'd been a closeted lesbian. "It was lonely at the top," she told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in 1997. "You have all these secrets, and you can't let everyone know who you are because they might get an edge on you."
Boyer worked as a stock clerk in a Honolulu surf shop after quitting the pro tour; in 1985 she moved back to her parents' house while she got sober; through the '90s she worked as a housecleaner and did tropical-landscape oil paintings for the tourist- supported Haleiwa Art Gallery. She continued to surf, but as she said in 1997, "It took 13 years of being sober to make it fun again." A successful full-time artist, Boyer's paintings are now sold in galleries throughout Hawaii and through her personal website.
Boyer was the most photographed female surfer of her era, and appeared regularly in surf films, including Playgrounds in Paradise (1976), Five Summer Stories Plus Four (1977), and Ocean Fever (1983). She was also profiled in writer Andrea Gabbard's book Girl in the Curl: A Century of Women in Surfing, published in 2000. Boyer was inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame in Huntington Beach in 2008, and the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.