No other female surfer was the omnipresent popular face for women surfing in the mid-‘90s than Lisa Andersen. In the early 80’s women’s surfing was basically hidden from the dominance of men’s surfing. But when Lisa exploded into the competitive league of professional surfing with her smooth yet aggressive surf style, the world took notice and gave exposure for women in surfing. Her journey began as a 16 year old runaway.
Lisa Andersen was born March 8, 1969, in Amityville, New York. During her young years, Lisa and her family had moved to Maryland and then to Virginia. Growing up with two older brothers and then a younger brother, Lisa was the quintessential tomboy. At the age of 13, Lisa and her family moved south to Ormond Beach, Florida. It was this move that gave Lisa the chance to fall in love with the ocean and find her talents in surfing.
Lisa’s family life in Ormond Beach, Florida was a turbulent one. When she was just 16, she ran away to Huntington Beach, California to pursue her dream of becoming a professional surfer. It was in California that Lisa met and trained with some of the best surfers in America. Within an eight month time span, she had won 35 National Scholastic Surfing Association trophies and the US Championships at Sebastien Inlet. Her first year as a professional surfer, Lisa was ranked 12th and became Rookie of the Year.
In the 1987 and 1988, the ASP world professional women’s surfing tour was a gaunt add-on to the male-dominated, male-run sport. Lisa could barely support herself, let alone afford to travel to the eight surf contests. Yet this surfer girl from Florida persevered and earned the respect of the boys on the tour. Lisa had an inner understanding of the wave and with her fearlessness eroded the tour’s vas gender barrier.
Being a newcomer on the pro tour, Lisa befriend Australian pro surfer, Wendy Botha. Wendy had grown up surfing the male dominating breaks of Nahoon Reef in South Africa. In the beginning of their friendship, Wendy was beating Lisa in almost every surf contest. It wasn’t until Lisa began gaining confidence in her surfing that Wendy admitted, “I used to think, Oh dear, she’s as good as me – then I began to realize she was better.”
In 1990, Lisa won her first big tour event in Australia along with some prize money. Two years later, Lisa received her first sponsorship deal from Quiksilver. It was the same year that Quiksilver launched their very successful line of women’s board shorts under the Roxy brand. That was the moment when expectations began to rise for Lisa. It was around the same time that she began a relationship with Renato Hickel, a Brazilian judge on the ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) tour. Lisa was just 23 years old, ranked fourth in the world, the surfer every girl dreams of being, married to handsome Renato Hickel … and she was pregnant.
In 1993, Lisa gave birth to her daughter, Erica Andersen Hickel. It seemed Lisa had been struggling with staying focus while competing throughout the previous two seasons, but after giving birth to Erica, Lisa found improved concentration and reached the finals in Japan. She finished the year ranked ninth in the world.
In 1994, Lisa surfed her way into five of the first six event finals, winning two – including the big US Open at Huntington Beach. In six month she was a world surf champion. Lisa Andersen, surf star, wife, mother and surf champion, was living the dream.
As Lisa was leading the girl-power Roxy generation as a paid pro by Quiksilver, she, Renato and Erica had moved to Florianopolis, Brazil. After only 18 months, their marriage was beginning to dissolve. In a few years, Lisa and Renato had split up.
1996 was Lisa’s real year of being famous. She had become more famous than another surfer from Florida, Kelly Slater. She was featured on the cover of Surfer magazine, was interviewed in Surfing magazine and had received a reported 360 million media “impressions” (this was before social media). In addition, Lisa graced the front covers of magazines such as Motion, Surfgirl, Pro Surfing and Conde Nast Sports for Women, just to name a few. Reef Sandals came out with a “Lisa Andersen” signature shoe.
By 1997, Lisa had won twenty of her career twenty-one World Championship Tour victories. And she was getting tired of the contest circuit. Lisa had been dealing with a lower back injury she suffered while free surfing in Huntington Beach, CA several years previously. Unfortunately, the injury never healed and Lisa was having to deal with chronic back pain.
During 1998-1999, Lisa did a series of surf trips to her home town of Ormond Beach, Florida and surf-explorations on Quiksilver’s new Crossing Project that voyaged surf breaks around the South Pacific. She needed a break from competitive surfing. While competing at the peak level of surfing is a kind of addiction to many pros, Lisa tries to let go of it, but knows she hasn’t, not completely.
In 2000, she competed in contests in Australia, against then up-and-coming champion, Layne Beachley. As Lisa began to climb the ranks among the elite surfers, once again, she became pregnant. Her son, Mason, was born on June 4, 2001. The father, New Zealander Paul Osbaldiston, was by her side to welcome their new son.
At the time of Mason’s birth, Lisa was ranked fifth in the World. She never ranked higher than fifteenth again. Her competitive surfing life had taken a turn. Struggling to get back in the top of her game, Roxy freed her from that responsibility by cutting her salary in half. This released Lisa from the added pressure to perform at the top of her game and gave her the much needed breathing room to reinvent herself.
Lisa knew that with her popularity in the surfing community, moving to California would open new doors to opportunity. In 2005, Lisa she was hired by Roxy as their Global Brand Ambassador at their headquarters in Huntington Beach, California. This role made her part coach, part businesswoman, part enforcer of contest guidelines, and part confidante to the young women on the tour. Unfortunately, this move would cause a rift between Paul and her and the custody of their son for years to come.
Rochelle Ballard, a former World Tour rival and one of Andersen’s closest friends, distills Andersen’s continuing appeal: “Women are empowered by seeing a woman fulfill her own dream and find her own balance. She had something driving her more than her goals. Because of the timing, she was the Wonder Woman of the group. In art and entertainment there is always someone that rises to be an iconic figure.”
In 2008, Lisa found true love again and married former professional baseball player Tim Shannon.
This year, 2017, Lisa launched her New Roxy Collection at the Roxy store in Laguna Beach, California.
While women surfers still trail behind men in terms of pay and coverage, there is no doubt that female surfing would have missed a crucial burst of progress without the style and performance juggernaut of Lisa Andersen.
An inspiration and a pioneer who has trail-blazed a path for today’s generation of professional women surfers, Lisa is a warrior who took on the world on her own terms.
Lisa Andersen’s Claim to Fame
- 1994 – 1997 Four Consecutive World Surfing Titles
- 24 contest victories, including wins the U.S. Open twice (1994 and ’97), and the OP Pro (1995)
- 1987 ASP’s Rookie of the Year
- No. 76 among the “Greatest Sportswomen of the Century,” Sports Illustrated for Women
- 1992, 1994-1999 – Surfer Poll Awards
- 1995 – First woman to ever grace the cover of Surfer magazine, with the title, “Lisa Andersen Surfs Better Than You.”
- 1998 – Conde Nast Sports for Women magazine named Lisa “Female Athlete of the Year”
- 2002 – Lisa was inducted into the Surfer’s Hall of Fame
- 2004 – Inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame in Huntington Beach, CA
- 2007 – Lisa’s biography in Nick Carroll’s book “Fearlessness”