As if perfectly designed for the surfing experience, Joyce Hoffman looked like a blond surf angel but hit the water like a competitive demon, winning two world titles and breaking performance boundaries on the North Shore. She was without a doubt surfing’s most popular female athlete in the pre-Anderson era. In 1964, she won the first ever women’s division of the SURFER Poll awards and thus set the bar nosebleed high for future female surfers.
Joyce Hoffman was born in Los Angeles, 1947, and first surfed at age 13. She gained her surname from stepfather, big wave hellman Walter Hoffman (brother to Phillip “Flippy” Hoffman). Naturally athletic and competitive, she surfed every day and progressed quickly. By 1962, Hoffman had surpassed all rivals in California and set her sights on the world stage.
Titles came quickly and often for Hoffman. She won the United States Surfing Association title four years in a row from 1964 to 1967 and took first at the United States Surfing Championships 1965, 1966, and 1967. Utterly dominant, she bested all comers at the Makaha International in 1964 and 1966 and quelled the comp at the Laguna masters in 1965 and 1967.
While her wins in Hawaii exalted her to the world stage, Hoffman’s performance at the 1965 World Championships in Peru made her an icon. Although the surfing media barely noticed, Hoffman made the cover of Life Magazine and was profiled in Sports Illustrated. Further proving she was the world’s best female surfer, she followed up her win in Peru with top honors at the 1966 World Championships in San Diego. The Los Angeles Times named her “Women of the Year” and she soon secured her own signature model surfboard.
Stylistically, Joyce Hoffman was fast and smooth and was equally effective in both small and large conditions. She often traveled to Hawaii and became the first woman to surf Sunset Beach on a regular basis and the first woman to ride Pipeline. Throughout her career, Hoffman was truly a force of nature, but it was always competition rather than surf stoke that drove her performances as she would later comment negatively on her all-consuming need to win.
As it did to all of surf culture in the late 60’s, the shortboard revolution fell like a meteor upon Hoffman’s career. At 15 years old, upstart Margo Godfrey won the 1968 World Championships and essentially nailed the coffin shut on Hoffman’s competitive career.
Not quite done, Hoffman took 4th at the 1970 World Championships and won the 1971 United States Championships, but surfing soon fell to other competitive passions. She picked up motocross racing and later auto racing before a crash sidelined her aspirations on the track. Hoffman was inducted into the Huntington Beach Walk of Fame in 1994.