Surfing Walk of Fame Adds Aussie Legend Phyliss O’Donnell

by Amy in News

The lifetime achievements of Australian surfer Phyliss O’Donnell are being recognised on an international scale, with her name set to land on the Surfing Walk of Fame.

O’Donnell was the world’s first Women’s World Surfing Champion, earning the title in 1964 at 27 years of age and her journey has inspired many surfers since.

Born in 1937, O’Donnell began surfing at a time when men dominated the sport – and were fiercely competitive about it.

In an interview with the ABC in 2006, O’Donnell says some surfers would take aim at her when she was just starting out.

“I used to have guys that used to aim at me, and I didn’t know you could turn the boards,” she recalls.

“And hence I’d be paddling out, and this guy used to come at me, and then he’d swing the board around and of course I’d get a bit scared and I’d fall off, and of course I’d lose the board and I’d have to swim in.”

She says there were actually no competitions when she first started surfing, but as the sport of it evolved, so too did the opportunities.

As well as winning the inaugural women’s World Championship Surfing Title at Manly Beach in 1964, Phyliss O’Donnell is a two-time winner of the Women’s division of the Australian National Titles (1964 and 1965).

When it comes to surfing now, the Australian Women’s Register says O’Donnell is “delighted how far the sport has come and how the position of women in it has improved”.

The Walk of Fame induction highlights her role in this evolution, with the organisation behind it giving her the honour as Woman of the Year.

She now joins five other inductees getting their names on the Surfing Walk of Fame in its 21st anniversary year: Randy Rarick, Larry Bertlemann, Mike Haley, John Van Hamersveld and Vince Moorhouse.

The walk, which is located on Huntington Beach, California, honours “those individuals who have made significant contributions to the sport and culture of surfing”.

The Surfing Walk of Fame website says that the sidewalk surrounding the iconic Jack’s Surfboards store is “now covered with more than 130 granite stones representing the champions, heroes and legends of our sport.”

The annual Surfing Walk of Fame ceremony takes place on Thursday 31st July 2014 outside Jack’s Surfboards, with the inductee class of 2014 also joined by select honourees from the past 21 years.