At Waterman’s Plaza in Dana Point, a collection of statues shares the city’s rich history and connection to surfing.
Until recently, the statues were all of men — surfboard shaper Hobie Alter, filmmaker Bruce Brown, surfer Phil Edwards, and artist John Severson — but that changed when a bronze statue of local surfer Joyce Hoffman was unveiled on January 27, 2022. It’s believed to be the first life-sized statue of a female surfer in the country.
“It's an incredible honor to myself and to women's surfing,” she says. “I'm still on cloud nine about it. I have to pinch myself just to remind myself it’s true.”
Hoffman grew up in Dana Point and her dad helped Alter learn how to shape surfboards out of foam blanks. When she was about 12 years old, she became enamored with surfing and told her dad she wanted to pursue it.
“All right, if that's what you want to do, then let's get going here,” he told her.
In 1968, at age 21, she became the first known woman to surf the Banzai Pipeline, a notorious wave on Oahu's North Shore.
“I was on the beach with my father and my mom, and we were watching the surf. And Bud Brown, who was a videographer of surfing in the early days, was there with his camera. And he said, ‘If you go out, I think you'll be the first woman to ever surf the pipeline.’ And I thought, well, what the heck, let's give it a shot,” she says.
She says in the 1960s, it was nearly impossible to support yourself financially by surfing, but she helped push those boundaries. By cross training, focusing on competition, and securing endorsements, she calls herself the first surfer, male or female, to take surfing to the next level and make it a sport rather than a recreational activity.
“I paddled, I ran, I lifted weights, and I wanted to compete,” she says. “Nowadays, everybody crosstrains and everybody runs and does weights and has trainers and whatnot. But I really was the first one to bring that to surfing.”
Among her accomplishments, Hoffman won three United States Surfing Championships in a row and took a fourth title in 1971. Hobie Alter designed her own signature surfboard model, the first ever for a female surfer.
At 75 years old, you can still find Hoffman in the water near Dana Point, riding a nine-foot Herbie Fletcher longboard.
Here are some of the other statues at Waterman’s Plaza.