Pauline Menczer 2023 Woman of the Year

Led the charge for a generation of female surfers determined to shatter the glass ceiling

Born and raised along the pristine shores of Bondi Beach, Australia, Pauline Menczer’s unwavering dedication to the sport of surfing and its pursuit of equality in the water has left an indelible mark on the world of professional surfing. Determined to do it her way and on her terms, she led the charge for a generation of female surfers determined to shatter the glass ceiling.

Bit by the surf bug early, she learned on her brother’s broken board, and by the time she was in her late teens the Aussie surf punditry was already keenly aware of Menczer’s talent and drive. Boasting a graceful style, impeccable timing, and fearless approach, in 1988 she won the World Amateur Surfing Championships and joined the pro ranks quickly thereafter. She’d finish the year rank fifth in the world.

Menczer would spend the later ‘80s and early ‘90s entrenched in the Top 10 in the rankings, all while quietly struggling through bouts of rheumatoid arthritis.

“Pauline’s commitment to excellence is unparalleled,” describes good friend Bethany Thompson. “She has this uncanny ability to read the waves and adapt her technique accordingly. It’s like she becomes one with the ocean.”

If ever there was a moment where Menczer’s grit shone brightest it was in 1993. Without a sponsor to support her, she invested $25,000 of the $30,000 she earned in prize money just to get out on the road and compete on tour. Winning the first three events of the season, heading into the final contest of the year in Hawaii she held a slim ratings lead and stood as the top world title contender. Then, just two weeks before the event started, the 23-year-old Aussie was hit by a bout of arthritis. Battling back from the brink, in wind-blown, 8-foot Sunset peaks she paddled out and won her much-deserved title.

“I couldn’t even brush my own hair,” Menczer explained. “My body just shut down.””

PHOTO: Courtesy of Pauline, photographer Paul Cohen
PHOTO: Courtesy of Pauline, photographer Paul Cohen

A constant contender for the next decade, Menczer finally retired from tour life in 2006 with 21 Championship Tour victories to her credit. For a second act, Menczer dedicated herself to sharing her passion for surfing with others. She actively takes part in local surf events around her home in Byron Bay and is involved in disabled surfing programs, as well as indigenous surfing organizations. She remains dedicated to her community and the environment, leading volunteer and charity initiatives to share the magic of riding waves and connecting connection with the ocean.

Menczer’s dedication to giving back to the surfing community has earned her widespread admiration. Surfer and environmental activist, Jake Morgan, explains, “Pauline’s commitment to nurturing the next generation of surfers is awe-inspiring. She understands the transformative power of the ocean and is determined to share that gift with others.”

“The ocean has taught me so much about resilience and the beauty of embracing the unknown. It’s not just a sport; it’s a way of life,” surmises Menczer.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Pauline, photographer Paul Cohen