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Hoffman, Joyce


Dynamic regularfooter from Capistrano Beach, California; world champion in 1965 and 1966, and arguably the world's best-known and most successful surfer of the mid- and late '60s. "Her approach was clean, strategic, sexy, stylish," fellow world champion Cori Shumacher wrote in 2014, "and absolutely obsessed with victory."

Hoffman was born (1947) in Los Angeles, California, raised in Newport Beach, and began surfing at age 13, not long after her mother married big-wave pioneer and surf textile magnate Walter Hoffman, and the family moved to Orange County's Capistrano Beach. A sparkly, attractive, easy-smiling blonde fixated on competition, Joyce Hoffman often surfed for six hours a day in what amounted to a kind of free-form training routine. She later acknowledged that "soulfulness" wasn't part of her surfing experience, and that her satisfaction came from being "the best prepared," which led to winning contests. "My daughter's real weird," Walter Hoffman once said. "She wants to win. The other girls couldn't care less."

By 1963 Hoffman was among the best women surfers in the state; from 1964 to 1967 she was nearly invincible in competition, placing first in the United States Surfing Association's year-end ratings four years in a row, and posting multiple victories in the United States Surfing Championships (1965, 1966, and 1967), the Makaha International (1964, 1966), and the Laguna Masters (1965, 1967). Hoffman's 1965 World Championships win in Lima, Peru, went virtually unnoticed by the surf press (Surfer magazine dispatched with the women's portion of the event in a single sentence), but earned her the first of dozens of general-interest magazine feature articles, including a Sports Illustrated profile titled "An Odd Sport, and an Unusual Champion," in which Hoffman is quoted as saying, "If I didn't think I was considered the best I'd quit."

Following her victory in the 1966 World Championships held in San Diego, the 19-year-old Hoffman made the cover of Life magazine, and was featured in Seventeen, Look, Teen (who described her as a "blonde surf goddess"), and Vogue, and was named the sporting world's "Woman of the Year" by the Los Angeles Times. Hobie Surfboards introduced the Joyce Hoffman signature model surfboard in 1967, while Triumph gave her a Spitfire coupe. Not until the 1990s, with the arrival of four-time world champion Lisa Andersen, did a woman surfer come close to matching Hoffman's popularity.

Hoffman was an athletic and kinetic hotdogger (5'7", 125 pounds), with lightning-quick feet, given at times to striking theatrical poses while riding. She also performed well in medium-large surf, and was the only woman in the '60s to tackle Sunset Beach in Hawaii with any regularity.

Nineteen-sixty-eight marked the beginning of the end of Hoffman's competitive reign, as she was upstaged by Margo Godfrey, a braces-wearing 15-year-old from La Jolla, California, who won the 1968 World Championships in Puerto Rico. Hoffman stayed active in surfing for another three years (placing fourth in the 1970 World Championships and winning the 1971 United States Championships), then dropped off the surf scene entirely. She became a competitive motocross racer, then switched to auto racing, giving up in 1983 after spinning into a wall at 150 miles per hour.  (More than a decade later, Hoffman told Longboard magazine that her drive to compete was "horrible. . . the bane of my life.") She returned to surfing in 1987.

Hoffman appeared briefly in a few surf movies, including Free and Easy (1967) and Five Summer Stories (1972), and was featured in Surfer Girl: A Century of Women in Surfing, published in 2000. She was a four-time Surfer Magazine Readers Poll Award winner (1964–67), and was twice the top female vote-getter in the International Surfing Magazine Hall of Fame Awards (1966, 1967). She was inducted into the Huntington Beach Walk of Fame in 1994.

Hoffman is niece to gruff big-wave trailblazer Philip "Flippy" Hoffman, sister-in-law to longboard master Herbie Fletcher, and aunt to Christian and Nathan Fletcher. She's been married once, has one child, and lives in Laguna Beach, California.