The Linda Benson Interview

linda benson

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Interview by Sally Mac

When starting up this site I was so excited about the endless opportunities to meet some of the women that inspire me every day. Linda Benson is at the top of that list and we are so excited to bring you this interview so she can inspire you too. She has surfed her whole life, seen all the trends in and out and the evolution of boards and still enjoys every part of surfing.

As a US and International surfing icon, Linda was inducted into the International Surfing Hall of Fame, Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame and the Hermosa Beach Surfers Walk of Fame. She still surfs most days as well as revolutionising the way we carry longboards with her Rail Grabber, she also helps out with in fundraisers and exhibitions.

Linda Benson, the Trail Blazer…

Linda Benson photo John ElwellWhen did you first get interested in surfing ? When I was 11 years old I used to watch my brother and his friends surf at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas (California). I’d stand in about knee deep water and wait for them to lose their boards (before leg ropes). I held on to them and hope one would let me have a go, which happened after a while. That was it… I was a pest from then on and always wanted to borrow boards. Of course they had to take the board down to the water and come get it.

Tell us about the surf culture and era when you first started surfing… what was the general populations attitude towards surfing and was there a stigma against women out in the water? I started surfing in 1955 and most of the guys that surfed were a little older but I was in that golden era group that started in the mid 50’s. That was pretty much the beginning of the explosion so it really wasn’t a guy’s domain. Women were very much the minority but I didn’t experience any resentment at all. They were all my big brothers and I was just one of the guys. This might not have been the case everywhere. Women were surfing very early on in Hawaii so it wasn’t a big deal over there either. We were all just stoked to go surfing… It was a wonderful vibe!!

What was your competition like, were there many other girls who could pull off the moves like you? If so where were they from and are there any notable names? I was 11 when I started, I was very athletic. With the beginning of the light foam boards, everyone started moving around and walking the nose. I might have been one of the first girls to do that but we all copied the best surfers so the others girls were getting into it like everyone else.

What has stayed the same with long boarding since the early days? I think longboarding, particularly in the women’s domain, has held on to a very special vibe that was similar to how it was in the beginning with the true spirit of surfing and lots of good camaraderie!

Linda BensonWhat is your best memory of your early competition days Makaha the obvious highlight but any others that were really special? My trip to Hawaii in 1959 when I was 15 will always be the grand daddy of them all!! I was thrilled with winning but just being able to go over there was truly an amazing experience. There was an awful lot of history during that Fall of 1959. John Severson was taking photos that were in the very first Surfer Magazine and they appeared on the stands early 1960. Other photographers like Bud Browne and Bruce Brown were also filming for movies that would be shown in High School auditoriums the next year.

Do you remember your mindset pre-Makaha, were you in it to win it? Yes, I did want to win. I was actually a very shy, introverted little girl who stumbled onto something that I was pretty good that I loved with all my heart. I wanted to be the best women surfer in the world.

Where is the best longboard wave in the world and why? On the Pacific Coast there are a few all time classics… Rincon, Malibu, Swami’s. I have a favorite in Mexico that I won’t mention. You have your own classics in Australia too!!

The girls who compete in long boarding these days are so skilful and stylish on their boards but no one seems to have your classic manoeuvres any tips for aspiring girls out there who want to try something new or have a little sneaky trick in the bag?  The female surfers today are unbelievably good. Their athleticism and style are superb!! I’m one of their biggest fans!! They have earned and deserve a lot of respect!!

Linda Benson Photo: Sally ClevengerAny dry land exercises or activities that you recommend specific to girls surfing? I stand-up paddle when it’s small. It’s great back and core strengthening activity. I do daily stretching exercises, walking, and a little tennis.

Who shapes your boards these days ? Are there any specific board specs you recommend for girls who want to get into classic long boarding? You must have tried and seen lots of changes in boards…I have ridden a Donald Takayama board since the mid 60’s. I met Donald in 1959 and we stayed close friends through the decades. I still ride his boards today. I have ridden a 9′ DT2 for many years, but right now I’m riding an 8’6 “In the Pink” and “Opihi”.  Both are a little wider and thicker than my 9′ DT2 and that allows me to go smaller and still have paddling power.

Your product Rail Grabber is such a nifty device especially I think for girls who are starting out and have quite wide mini mals or longboards. How did you come up with the idea and how is it going? Can you buy it anywhere in the world?  It’s good for anyone that can’t get a good grip on their boards and have a way to walk to get to the waves. When I started surfing I struggled with carrying my board. I designed Rail Grabber in 2004 to help with this challenge and after my Doctor suggested I stop carrying my surfboard on my hip. The first Rail Grabber was a very rustic version. It worked so well that I made more for my surf school kids that allowed them to carry their own board for the first time.

Railgrabber linda BensonWe’ve worked on the design and it’s now made of a durable, UV resistant ASA plastic. It is attached to a easy grip handle by a nylon cord, tensile strength of 1800 lbs. A pad made of closed cell eva material formulated for marine applications will grip and cushion your surfboard.

They are available in many surf shops in California., Hawaii and the US East Coast. The best way to buy for other countries is to buy online. I ship free and quickly. Word is getting out about it. I get orders from most surfing countries.

Do you have any other entrepreneurial ideas under your hat?? No… Rail Grabber is enough for now!

You’ve been in the water all your life do you think it’s the key to happiness? No, I don’t think it’s the key to happiness but it’s a phenomenal gift that only a very small percentage of people of this world get to experience. I can’t imagine my life without it, but I think that it’s important to do and experience others thing in life. There is so much to do and see.


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