Layne Beachley looks to make her mark at surfing’s Triple Crown
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Dispatches, November 1998
Gale-force winds were whipping the peaks off six- to eight-foot waves last December when Layne Beachley paddled into the surf on Oahu’s Sunset Beach, caught what looked like a promising wave, and suddenly found herself catapulted off the lip, down the face, and into the aquatic equivalent of an industrial-strength wood chipper. When she finally
The 26-year-old Australian’s unflappable approach to the perils of her sport (“When I look at a wave, all I see is the thrill of making it”) is matched by the kind of bullish persistence more often associated with, say, door-to-door vacuum-cleaner sales. After her Oahu wipeout, Beachley strode right back into the surf and snatched the 1997 women’s Triple Crown. This year, she
In a tour filled with technically flawless small-wave surfers, Beachley has emerged — and distinguished herself — as the doyenne of big waves: the 12- to 15-footers that smash across Oahu’s North Shore like runaway express trains and that demand exceptionally powerful torsos and legs to sustain the wild, punishing rides down their faces. “Among the women,” says
The territory in which she practices her specialty has been all but unknown to women for nearly two decades. Back in the 70s and early 80s, of course, surfers such as Margo Oberg and Jodie Cooper were tackling big waves with relish. By the mid-80s, however, the tour had moved on from Hawaii to small-wave venues such as California and Australia, and the women, in response,
Somewhat oddly, given her flair for such a bold and seemingly emancipatory enterprise, Beachley insists on crediting much of her success to her boyfriend, Ken Bradshaw, the celebrated surfer who last January caught one of the largest waves ever ridden — a 50-foot behemoth off the North Shore. For the past year, Bradshaw has been pushing Beachley to tackle ever-larger