Marge Calhoun, a cheerful, robust regularfooter from Laguna Beach, California, won the Makaha International in 1958, and was the matriarch of the surfing Calhoun family. She was born (1926) and raised in Hollywood, California, the daughter of a film set designer. Always athletic, by the late '40s Calhoun was one of America's best young swimmers and divers. She gave birth to her first daughter, Candy, in 1945, married her high school sweetheart Tom Calhoun in 1946, had second daughter Robin in 1947, and began surfing at Malibu in 1955, with instruction from Darrylin Zanuck, daughter of Hollywood mogul Darryl Zanuck.
Calhoun visited Hawaii for the first time in 1958, where she lived for a month out of a panel van with surfing friend Eve Fletcher, and earned a reputation for charging into larger waves. "I was a big, strong woman," she later recalled, "and I was always good in big surf." While in Hawaii, the 32-year-old Calhoun won the Makaha International, then the surf world's most prestigious event.
Calhoun and her two daughters were beaming surf world fixtures in California and Hawaii during the early and mid-'60s. Marge was the first secretary of the 1961-formed United States Surfing Association, and was the organization's first and only female surf contest judge; Marge and Candy finished second and fourth, respectively, in the 1962 Makaha contest; the following year Robin placed third in the annual Brooks Street Surf Classic surfing contest in Laguna Beach, while Candy won the West Coast Surfing Championships; Candy and Marge were both selected for Surf Guide magazine's All-American Surfing Team in 1963; Candy placed third in the 1965 World Championships. Candy also became a top bodysurfer, and was the first woman to ride both the Newport Wedge and Pipeline.
The Calhouns were all beautiful and athletic, with sun-streaked hair and radiant smiles, and were often celebrated as the feminine surfing ideal: the debut issue of Petersen's Surfing magazine in 1963 featured a centerspread photo of Marge, Candy, and Robin, walking merrily down the beach at Makaha with surfboards; the cover of the December 1964 issue of Surf Guide shows the Calhouns shoulder-to-shoulder in the ready area of the U.S. Championships at Huntington Beach. "They were like Greek goddesses," California surf icon Mike Doyle recalled. "Each one beautiful. And together, they were just overwhelming."
Marge Calhoun worked part-time as a stuntwoman in the '50s and early '60s, appearing in Frank Capra's Hole in the Head (1959), among other movies. In 1967, she was married for the second time, to popular surf event master of ceremonies Brennan "Hevs" McClelland. Calhoun was featured in surf moviemaker Bud Browne's films from the late '50s, as well as his 1994 compilation video Surfing the '50s. She also appeared in the PBS-aired documentary Surfing for Life (1999), and was profiled in Girl in the Curl: A Century of Women in Surfing, published in 2000. She was inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame at Huntington Beach in 2003.