Aloha, welcome to the 15th episode of our podcast! Today with us Vicky Durand author of the book “Wave Woman. The Life and Struggles of a Surfing Pioneer”
Wave Woman is a charming and intimate biography, a love letter from a daughter to her progressive mother who broke glass ceilings with simple curiosity and desire
The book speaks clearly to all women–and men–searching for self-confidence, fulfillment and true happiness.
You can listen to our interview with Vicky on all major podcast platforms (Spotify, YouTube, iTunes,…) or you can read our transcribed interview just below (forgive us if there are mistakes)
TTOS: Hello Vicky…..welcome to the show…. where are you today?
I am in Honolulu, Hawaii.
TTOS: How’s it going in Hawaii in these days?
Beautiful, beautiful day. We’ve had a really nice weekend, you know, today is our holiday Memorial day. Lots of people are going to the beach now.
I went yesterday, there was surfing, a pretty good south swell, in Waikiki, Diamond Head, Ala Moana and on all the Honolulu breaks.
I’m too old to surf now, but I have many fond memories and writing the book brought a lot of them back and I don’t know whether you know it or not, but we surfed in the mid 1950s and that was when only 2000 people surfing on the Island of Oahu and we were pioneers at the beginning of the Renaissance of the surfing movement as we know it today, so I feel very lucky.
TTOS: Actually, you must have amazing stories and we are going to discover a bit of them during the interview. I hope so…
Today, we’re going to talk, of course, about the book about your mom, “Wave Woman, The Life and Struggles of a Surfing Pioneer” and then we’re going to talk about surf, surfboards and quite a lot of stuff….
The first question that I have for you is, in your opinion, what is the most important thing in surfing?
The most important thing I would say now is, first of all, knowing your limits, being strong, being able to hold your breath and “Surfing with Aloha”.
There’s so many people now at all breaks that I think surfing with Aloha is more important than ever particularly as, it could be a very dangerous sport.
I think giving the right of way, learning safety, not going to the beach checking your iPhone, putting it down and going to the water…..
I think when you go to a break, you need to spend some time on the shore, looking out and checking for rip tides, checking for how it’s breaking and things like that.
I think safety is a huge issue now with so many people
TTOS: It’s different than when you started, right?
Oh, yes. Oh yeah.
TTOS: Do you think something changed for the better in the evolution of surf that you have seen that you experienced in your life?
Well, in a way, yes.
Another thing that I think is very important in surfing today is acknowledging gender equity.
The men should realizing that they’re not the only ones that are out there that can surf these big waves and that women deserve just as much to be able to surf especially in the big wave contests and be able to surf at good times. Like the men do…. equality in surfing for women is very important.
TTOS: I agree with you and I would say quite a lot of time, women are even better than men.
For Instance the style… It’s good….It’s amazing and a lot of men should just look and learn, right?
TTOS: I think people should agree….I actually I believe that in competition, you can compete to win, but also you can compete to improve yourself and looking at who’s doing better than you, or who’s doing things differently than you and, if you can look in that way, you progress.
Then you can win or you can lose it. That’s another story…..
I think if in that particular occasion, you progress, then you achieve something right, do you agree?
Of course I do!… keep surfers surfing.
The book has a poem about it that my mother wrote : “ surfers are a breed of people, a restless group of people who go searching the world for a hot curl. They are besieged with a disease that is incurable. One more wave is never a cure. It is only the challenge of man against the elements, the Surf. The bigger, the wave the greater the challenge. Victory leads one on, in search of bigger waves and defeat only means more practice surfing.”
TTOS: It’s amazing. I think it’s very real, actually contemporary…. when your mother wrote this? Which year?
She probably wrote that in 1957.
TTOS: so nothing changed….this is the amazing story of this sport, right? Today there is technology that improves surfboards, different kinds of shapers, maybe a different kind of sport now, you know, with the all techniques, but at the end what is behind the sport, what you said, what your mother said, it’s the essence of everything.
Do you remember your first surfboard?
I don’t remember who made it, but I remember my second surfboard was a Pat Curran, the father of Tommy Curran.
TTOS: And you still have that surfboard or No?
My next surfboard was a Reynolds Yater and I still have that board….
TTOS: It’s good to keep those surfboards as they remind us about the youth days. Unfortunately, most of the people kind of lost or sold or traded or gift away, their first surfboard.. It’s interesting to know the stories behind them.
Let’s go back to the book…..”Wave Woman, the life and struggles of a surfing pioneer” it talks about your mother, Betty, right? Can you tell us more about her stories but, before that, why have you decided to write this book?
Well, I had an amazing mother, she was the best mother ever for me, number one.
She was a mother, but she was also a sister….we had lot of fun together and she was an adventurer and she believed that anything exciting was worth trying at least once….not drugs, but anything like sport was worth trying at least once.
She didn’t start surfing until she was 40 years old, but before that, she trained for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin swimming.
She was a swimmer and a rough water swimmer in Santa Monica, California, but she took up fly at the same time and she crashed a glider which stopped her swimming career.
During her life, she broke glass ceilings, finding always meanings… she was a dental hygienist, a sculpture, a surfer, a jeweler, a builder, a fisher woman, a potter at a poet.
She led a very inspiring life because as one door would close for her another would open.
Like in late life, she had macular degeneration and she became blind, but she didn’t complain….
She just found things that she could do and when she got down to that, she really couldn’t do anything because she was totally blind, she said: “I can write poetry and I can use my brain to create high coup”.
I think her story is a lot of inspiration for women and men of all ages, to step out of their comfort zone and to know that it’s never too late to follow a dream.
We all have gifts, talents, and untapped potential beyond what we think.
She was a progressive thinker, she just thought she could do whatever she wanted to.
Ben Marcus, who was editor of surfer magazine and he was my second editor described her as a mix of Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo, Emily Dickinson, and Esther Williams.
She was just an amazing water woman and it was a story that I just thought I had to to tell.
TTOS: it is a story of resilience as well?
Oh yes, she had a lot of challenges.
She was born in 1913 in Salt Lake city until when she was just a few months away from her high school graduation .. she’d lived a charmed life.
Her father was a mining engineer and had done very well, but, just before the stock market crashed, he had over bought on what we call “the margin” and it was called back where he needed the money to buy the stock back and he didn’t have the money…so they came and took all their furniture out of the house and took the house.
That made a huge impression on her that actually she really never got over it…she was very careful with money, very careful with credit because she never wanted anything like that to ever happen again to her or her family.
That was one thing… also she really loved the ocean, she was a naturally strong athlete, she was very, very strong and she was a thrill seeker.
She loved horseback flying, competitive swimming, skiing you know, different sports, but she always wanted to win like the, she wanted the first place.
She was on the first Hawaiian team invited to Lima, Peru, you know, Makaha was the home of the first big international surfing contest, that started in 1954 at Makaha beach…..she entered in 1956 and took second place.
But Carlos dogny founder club waikiki lima peru was a judge over there and no women surfed in Lima yet, so he invited them to come down, surf and talk about Hawaii, surf in Hawaii and surfboards.
She won first place down there, that whole experience really changed her life in a positive way because the Peruvians loved her and she loved the Peruvians and they became like, family.
It was very long and important friendship.
TTOS: Among the surfing stories of the book, is there one that you particularly love or that has a very special meaning for you?
Well, it’s because of the Peru, like when they got there, the Peruvians took the teams in to their homes and with their families and they were put up at a hotel and fed and taken care of…there were parties and she just had such a happy time.
She was married to my father, they were manufacturing jewelers, but my mother loved to be around people, while my father didn’t want to be around anybody after work, so after 22 years of marriage, she left him and moved to Makaha, which was out…. nobody was out there really.
She bought this property, which is an interesting story that’s in the book and built a house and lived there till she was 98. She lived a long life.
She lived to 98 and a half years. She wanted to live to be a hundred, but she didn’t quite make it.
When she came back from Lima, she said to me “you know, I think Vicki, if you can win the 1957 Makaha international surfing contest, I think we can get a trip back to Lima”
I thought that would be a really good idea, and I’m not particularly competitive, but I wanted to win the contest…so we could go to Lima. And I did, and we had a wonderful six weeks down there as their guests.
They treated us like Queens parties, receptions dinners, I was 18 years old and our job was to make surfing feminine, and fun and something that their women wanted to do.
That was one of the highlights of our surfing.
TTOS: We discuss about it at the beginning of the interview, but anyway let’s talk maybe differently now, before we said about the quality of surfing right….between men and woman….how do you look at today’s woman’s surfing, from your perspective, as you were there when basically all the woman’s surfing started?
I think it’s inspiring. I think equality is moving forward slowly.
They just passed a bill here that women would be given equality in the, in the contests that lead up to the really big contests.
They are starting to let women ride the big waves, the giant waves, like 58 feet… like Carlos Burle and you know, the really big wave riders women are entering that field and I think it’s really fabulous.
You know, when I was surfing the biggest waves we could ever imagine, at the time it was Buzzy Trent, who was one of the early Makaha surfers ,that used to talk about trying to catch a 30 foot wave or a 35, wave.
But now, to think they’re riding the 60 and 70’s and bigger waves….it’s a totally different sport, but it’s pretty amazing.
I just had a one-on-one Instagram with, with Carlos Burle a week before last… it’s on my website …. Nazare! Have you been there?
TTOS: No, but I really want to go…..
I wanted to go to Biarritz after Lima, but because when we were down there, we met a French man that invited me to Biarritz, but I never made it….. I got detoured here with marriage and children,
TTOS: Do you, by any chance, collect surfboard? I mean, do you have like a, some surfboards with you
I just have one surfboard, my Reynolds Yater my mother had and we had a Hobie board, but somehow over the years, like you said, they all just, disappeared.
I hold on to my Renegade or board very tightly.
TTOS: This book is more than a book about surfing, right? Which of what you would use for it?
Inspiring. It’s an inspirational, happy story.
TTOS: I can wait, you know, to, to read those stories really….Just looking at all the comments and all the other information that you can find on-line, it looks very inspiring. In fact, my question was not about surf… I guess it’s a personal story of a woman that did make the difference….
It’s a story of a woman who believed that a career was very important and a profession for a woman to be independent.
My mother loved men, but she also knew that, you know, at times in her life, she had to rely on her own ability to earn a living when things that happen to the men that were, and weren’t there in her life.
TTOS: what are your future plans? Now you released the book and ….
I really I’ve released the books. So I would like to see a lot of like this New York times suggested reading made me happy. I’d like to see lots of publications. And I’d like to have a full feature film made of the book, which I think it would make a great film.
I have been contacted about film and movie rights just this last week.
I want it translated into Japanese, French, Spanish and Portuguese….
Yeah. It’s a nice way to age to have project after five years.
I’m beginning to see my dream come true and I’m learning that it’s never too late to follow a dream.
I’m 79 years old
TTOS: Congratulations! A complete new journey for you, and if there’ll be a movie, that will be amazing.
And an audio book, and also an audio book, maybe in five months,
I want the whole world to know this story.
TTOS: we are going to finish our interview with a short q/a session, ? please answer the first thing that comes up to your mind…..
The best surfboard that you have ridden….
TTOS: The best shaper of all time
Well, I’ve heard that Dick Brewer is very, a really great shaper
TTOS: Your favorite song.
There’s an Italian song that was popular when we were in Lima….. “Romantica” by Tony Dallara
I would mother and I were in Lima. We would go to the hotel Boulevard down below, which was in a very beautiful bar. And they played the plate it with violins and it was, I can still hear it.
I also like Waikiki. There’s a beautiful Hawaiian song called Waikiki, and that I love that.
TTOS: your favorite surf spot
TTOS: the best woman surfer…
Well, there’s so many different kinds of surfing now…..I would say Carissa Moore is one of my favorites for like all around and I’ve just met the Brazilian Priscilla …
I haven’t met any of the women, but she’s one of my new favorite friends.
TTOS: The last question is a little bit unusual….It doesn’t talk about surf …. We ask to everybody : your best relationship advice,
Communication, communication and passion.
Also have the same philosophy and values.
Recorded in May 2020