Stab Magazine | Meet Surfing's First Ever Female World Champ

Meet Surfing’s First Ever Female World Champ

“I won two beautiful trophies and a packet of cigarettes.”

cinema // Jan 23, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: < 1 minutes

1964 was the year that determined surfing’s first ever World Champions. The event wasn’t held at Pipe or some other notorious reef, it was held at Manly, and consisted of a handful of the globes logging, or at that stage, high performance talents. 

Midget Farrelly (who passed away at 71 in 2016) took out the men’s division with ease against a stacked international lineup. The tale of Midget has rightfully being told numerous times over the years, but the stories of his female counterparts were much less emphasised. 

Surfing in Australia throughout the early 60’s was booming. Not quite to the standard of today’s peppered coastal sandbanks, but busy nonetheless. In 2019, most lineups are still mostly comprised of men, but it’s a big step forward compared to the early 60’s. Phyllis O’Donnell was the first ever women’s World Champ, and here, in this video courtesy of the ABC, she runs through her early years and 1964 victory.

She was a self described “aggressive surfer” among those male dominated days. 

“To surf with so many blokes, you had to be an aggressive surfer.” Phyllis said. “If a guy dropped in front of you, I would get him by the wet suit and push him in the rocks.”

And used both this approach and the aid of some “jazzy music” to knock off the favourite, Linda Benson, in the inaugural world surfing event. 

Watch the clip here for a meeting with the world’s first female champ. 


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