Pauline Menczer's 1993 World Title

Pauline Menczer is a pioneer in the sport of surfing. The vast majority of her career was spent sponsor-less, cash-less and competing while battling the crippling disease of rheumatoid arthritis – but that didn't stop Pauls. In 1993, she made it to the top and became a World Champion, solidifying one of the greatest underdog stories in sporting history.

Whilst prize money is now a given in the sporting world, the ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) did not award World Title bonus cheques every year that the Tour was run. Like other athletes during this time period, Pauline was never given a cheque for her World Title, which she won in 1993. That year, Pauline’s total earnings from the tour was $30,000 – $25,000 of which she spent on travel to make it to events.

Soon-to-be-released film Girls Cant Surf is the inspiring true story of Pauline and a group of rebellious female surfers in the 1980s, who took on the male-dominated professional surfing world in a fight for inclusion, recognition and equality. The film explores Pauline's story of never getting a major sponsor, competing on the World Tour for 20 years, surfing her entire career with Rheumatoid Arthritis, all while getting paid a fraction of what the men were getting in prize money.

Like other women and athletes in the sport, Pauline Menczer never received a winner's cheque for the year she was the best in the world. She also never had a major sponsor, and struggled greatly with money. She knew how to live off the smell of a bar of wax. Even in the late ‘90s, she took a tent on tour and slept in friends’ backyards. She now lives in Byron Bay in northern New South Wales, Australia, and works as a bus driver.

Pauline is the picture of determination, passion and perseverance, and she deserves to be recognised for her achievements.

Along with the other female surfers chronicled in Girls Cant Surf, Pauline helped pave the way for all women in the surf. So, as a collective group of women in the surf industry – who owe everything to these women – we decided it was time we help pay it forward to Pauline. Let's come together as an industry, as women, and get Pauline Menczer the financial support that she never received!

Learn more about Pauline Menczer:

One of pro surfing’s great individuals, Pauline Menczer won the 1988 world amateur and 1993 professional crowns, took out events in every tour leg, gained the nickname “Naughty Pauls” and fought an incredible lifelong duel with crippling rheumatoid arthritis -- all without attracting the serious attention of a major sponsor. This might make another surfer bitter, but it only draws a mocking grin to Menczer’s freckled noggin. It’s been a long time since she fit any mold.

Born in Sydney, Australia, Menczer raised the ante in the women’s pro scene of the late ‘80s and kept the hammer down on the likes of Lisa Andersen, Pam Burridge and Layne Beachley throughout the ‘90s. She learned to surf at Australia’s great city break, Bondi, and worked up a strong high-energy approach that popped a few egos in Pro-World and even pulled a few hoots from the male pros -- a rare feat, then and now. Speed and snap were key to her early victories in French and Australian beachbreaks.

Watching her perform, it was difficult to imagine its flip side -- hours of agony from the arthritis. She pushed through it during competition, but other times, it hurt just to move her fingers. Eventually, Menczer gained some control over the affliction through a rigorous diet.

She narrowly lost a world title race to Wendy Botha in 1991, but wrecked 1993 for everyone else by making half the finals and winning half of them. In that year, her only income -- slightly more than $30,000 -- came from prize money.

Money has never come easy to Menczer: her family was anything but rich. She knew how to live off the smell of a bar of wax. Even in the late ‘90s, she took a tent on tour and slept in friends’ backyards. Small, fiery and immensely likable, she pulls this kind of thing with relative ease. Off tour, she lives at Byron Bay in northern New South Wales, Australia, and works as a bus driver.

About Girls Cant Surf:

It's the 1980s and the world of professional surfing is a circus of flouro colours, peroxide hair and radical male egos. GIRLS CAN'T SURF follows the journey of a band of renegade surfers who took on the male-dominated professional surfing world to achieve equality and change the sport forever. Featuring surfing greats Jodie Cooper, Frieda Zamba, Pauline Menczer, Lisa Andersen, Pam Burridge, Wendy Botha, Layne Beachley and more, GIRLS CAN'T SURF is a wild ride of clashing personalities, sexism, adventure and heartbreak, with each woman fighting against the odds to make their dreams of competing a reality.

Fundraising team: Girls Can't Surf (2)

Sophie Marshall
Bells Beach VIC
Mimi LaMontagne
Team member

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