Gerhardt, Sarah


Big-wave rider from Santa Cruz, California; the first woman tow-in surfer, and the first female stand-up surfer to ride Maverick's. Born Sarah Livermore in 1974 in Port Townsend, Washington, she learned to surf in the late '80s at Pismo Beach, California, and started riding bigger waves during her freshman year at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

During her second visit to Oahu's North Shore, in the winter of 1995-96, Livermore dated big-wave veteran Ken Bradshaw, who also served as her boardmaker and coach; on Thanksgiving day, he took her out to ride 20-foot waves at Waimea Bay. A few weeks later she became the first women's tow-in surfer when Bradshaw launched her into some 15-foot outer-reef waves. Livermore and Bradshaw split later that year, and two years later she married Malibu surfer Mike Gerhardt; the newlyweds moved to Santa Cruz, where she began a doctoral program in physical chemistry at University of California, Santa Cruz.

Gerhardt paddled out twice at Maverick's without taking a wave (bodyboarder Sarah Lucas broke the Maverick's gender barrier in 1994, catching a single left-breaking 15-footer) then finally caught one on February 26, 1999. She never considered herself a big-wave specialist. "I love it all," she told Wahine magazine not long after her first Maverick's wave. "I love the smallest, junkiest days; I love head-high waves, I love big waves. I'd surf in my toilet bowl if I could."

One Winter Story, a documentary on Gerhardt, came out in 2003. She was also featured in Game Face: What Does a Female Athlete Look Like?, a photo book published in 2001. Gearhardt was included as an alternate on the invite list for the 2000 Quiksilver Maverick's Men Who Ride Mountains competition; she and her husband have two children.