By Tom Keck, Special to the Star-Bulletin
Lynne Boyer, a two-time world champion, has recaptured
her old form after shedding her old habits.

Back on Board

Former world champion Lynne Boyer
has returned to surfing with a new attitude
and a less reckless personal style

By Greg Ambrose
Special to the Star-Bulletin

AFTER pulling a vanishing act that mystified the surfing world for more than a decade, former world champion Lynne Boyer has reappeared, as a kinder, gentler surfer who no longer strikes terror into the hearts of her competitors.

Boyer amazed judges, spectators and competitors in the 1970s and '80s while setting the women's standard for fearless power surfing in big waves.

Along the way she won two world championships and engaged in titanic matches with fellow Hawaii surfer Margo Oberg, who seized three world titles of her own.

And then Boyer vanished in 1984, at the peak of her ability.

Her disappearance was so complete, it was as though she had pulled into a wave's deep, dark tube and never emerged.

Boyer is back, surfing as strong as ever. She has stepped from the darkness telling an inspirational tale of winning her toughest contest, a battle against drug abuse.

Boyer didn't completely vanish back in the '80s. Her friends knew where to find her all along, at secret surf spots far from the crowds. After spending years at center stage in the bright lights of professional surfing, Boyer had slipped into the shadows to hide her relationship with the twin demons cocaine and alcohol.

The fact that Boyer achieved success in the heady days when professional surfing was created put her firmly on the path to disaster. Everyone believed that surfing would soon achieve the exalted financial status of the nation's most popular sports.

"I had dreams and visions of being like a tennis star, like Chrissie Evert and Martina Navratilova," Boyer says. "It seemed like it was so easy. I loved it so much and it was a fun thing to do. That you could make money at it was like a bonus."

Brenda Scott-Rogers had a front-row view of the legendary battles between the two top wahine surfers from Hawaii. "You have to have that vision that you are No. 1. That is something Margo and Lynne had," Scott says. "They had to win, and I was just a pawn for them to beat."

Boyer joined the fledgling world tour in in 1977, not three years out of high school. The next year she won her first world title.

The youthful vigor that made her such an indomitable competitor also proved destructive, however. Boyer would stumble out to surf in contests with blinding hangovers, and win. "I told myself I couldn't be an alcoholic if I was winning contests," she says, ruefully.

Finally, in the early '80s, her dream of glory and endless riches was replaced by a nightmare of emotional and physical lethargy.

Boyer followed the world tour for a few more desultory years, but it was obvious that the ultimate competitor had lost her will to win. She was so busy trying to rebound from the ravages of drinking and drugs that she had no desire to compete.

After being on top of the world making money at something that was joyous to her, Boyer drifted, cleaning houses, working in stock rooms, uncertain what she wanted out of life.

She finally ended up moving back into her parents' home in Kailua. The homecoming was especially painful because, although they loved her dearly, the Boyers are a family of high expectations and achievements. Her father is a physician, her brother a heart surgeon, one sister a psychologist, another an actress and the other the local manager of a national chain of restaurants. Lynne felt that she had let them down.

With family support, rehabilitation clinics, self-help programs and her own fierce determination, Boyer fought to regain control of her life. "I was really motivated to never get back to that terrible level with all the blackness," she said. "There was no joy in it."

By Tom Keck, Special to the Star-Bulletin
Lynne Boyer: Kinder, gentler.

Ironically, by devoting less time to her beloved surfing, Boyer found time to rekindle her passion for art, which more than a decade before she had abandoned to pursue surfing full time.

But perhaps the strongest force that helped Boyer break free from drugs and rediscover the joy in life was the curative power of love. During her glory days, Boyer was a silent, secretive loner, afraid to let others beyond her fierce facade lest they attain a competitive advantage.

"It was a very lonely life at the top," she says sadly. "You have all these secrets, you can't let everyone know how you are because they might get an edge on you.

"So many people end up alone at the end."

That won't be her fate, because Boyer found someone who helped her find herself. "Reka Domokos is my partner for life. There's nothing like sharing something you love with the person you love. It's because of her that surfing is fun again. She has forced me to get back into it because she knows how important it is to me."

Boyer now laughs easily and often, her eyes crinkling with merriment. The change has been dramatic, especially to former competitors.

"She has opened herself up and allowed herself to know who Lynne is," says Scott-Rogers, who vividly remembers the unsmiling Boyer. "She is a sensitive, gentle, caring, lovely person.

"I would never have guessed that person existed, knowing the competitive Lynne."

Although she's not on the world tour, Boyer is back in a place she thought she would never be again, trying to beat the person next to her in the waves. This time, there is a huge difference. She's having fun. Even when she loses.

In two recent contests in California, a woman who never bested Boyer in the old days beat her twice in a week. And Boyer just smiled. "She beat the guys and everything. It was really fun to see her, she was really happy," Boyer said.

The competitive spirit dies hard, and Boyer has to remind herself to kick back and enjoy the contests. But she has the benefit of hard-learned lessons to guide her.

"It took me 13 years of being sober to make surfing fun again. It took a lot of work to get here, but it's finally paying off. I finally learned that if you want something, you have to work for it. And it makes it even sweeter when you do."

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