Schumacher, Cori

Crusading surfer and activist from San Diego, California; three-time world longboard champion (2000, 2001, 2010), and persistent thorn in the side of a surf industry that has often showed itself to be as ethically challenged as any other sector of global commerce.

Schumacher was born (1977) in Huntington Beach, raised in San Diego, began surfing at age five. In years to come, unlike nearly all of her surfing peers, Schumacher divided her water time between long- and shortboarding, and as an amateur competitor often found herself switching back and forth between disciplines—sometimes on the same day. In 1995 and ’96, she competed as a shortboarder on the ASP pro circuit, along with fellow rookies (and future world  tour stars) Megan Abubo and Keala Kennelly. In 1998, frustrated by both her lack of success on tour and the way women pros were being treated in general, Schumacher moved to San Francisco and focused on college; in 1999, having spent almost no time in the water during the previous year, she nonetheless returned to competition and finished runner-up to Daize Shayne in the first Women’s World Longboard Championships, in Costa Rica.

In what Schumacher would later called her “year of massive transition,” in 2000 she fell in love with a woman (but remained closeted), tried to join the military (deafness in her left ear kept her out), and triple-rolled her car on the freeway the day she was set to leave for the 2000 World Longboard Championships, again in Costa Rica. Surprising all in attendance, Schumacher showed up with stitches in both legs and a mild concussion, overcame vertigo and nausea on the first day of competition, and won the event. She repeated in 2001. In a Longboard magazine poll, she was named the world’s most popular female longboarder.

Solidly built (5’ 3”, 130 pounds), Schumacher was as powerful as she was smooth, and her years as a shortboarder gave her surfing added depth and variety compared to her longboard-only rivals.

After her second world title win, Schumacher again veered away from competitive surfing, and spent a kaleidoscopic six years going to school, drinking heavily, became an activist-in-training (mostly involving LGBT issues, as well the Iraq anti-war effort), getting comfortable with her sexuality, and working everywhere from Starbucks to the California State Parks system. Emerging from she called a long period of “incredibly self-destructive behavior” in 2007 Schumacher again embraced surfing and competition, leading to a US title in 2008 and 2009, and the 2010 ASP longboard crown. As of 2015, she is the only three-time women's longboard world champion.

Schumacher made national headlines when, as reigning champ, she boycotted the 2011 ASP world title event after finding out it was to be held on China’s Hainan Island. "I have deep political and personal reservations with being a part of any sort of benefit to a country that actively engages in human-rights violations," Schumacher said in an email to the ASP announcing her decision, "specifically those in violation of women." With this notice, Schumacher, 33, effectively retired from world-level competitive surfing and became a full-time activist—mostly, but not exclusively, on issues related to surfing. Her best-known effort came after surfwear giant Roxy released an ASP event video spot in which actual surfing was ignored in favor of a faceless skin-baring blonde (world champ Stephanie Gilmore) lounging in bed and showering. Schumacher launched an online petition drive to protest Roxy's sex-over-surf promo, and soon hand-delivered a protest document to Roxy headquarters with 22,000 signatures attached.

Waves of Disruption: the Cori Schumacher Story, a short documentary, was released in 2016. Schumacher has also appeared in a small number of surf videos, including Costa Rica: Land of Waves (2001) and The Road (2001), and was featured in Flux: Redefining Women's Surfing (2007), as well as Out in the Lineup (2013), an award-winning documentary about homosexuality in surfing.