CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Lisa Andersen reveals the story of her sometimes troubled life in the new biography "Fearlessness: The Lisa Andersen Story."
Surfer Lisa Andersen holds nothing back in her biography
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Lisa Andersen wears a badge of courage around her neck -- a pendant that reads "Fearlessness."The word is also the title of the recently released biography of the former four-time women's world champion surfer by writer Nick Carroll.
Andersen merits the attribute and the book, as she is uniformly recognized as the most influential female surfer ever. She won a handful of world titles, legitimized and advanced the place of all women in the traditionally male-dominated arena and served as the first face of Roxy -- the women's surfwear company that she helped bring from infancy to half-billion-dollar juggernaut.
Andersen is not sure why she agreed to do the book. She only knew that while it was at times difficult to examine and share her experiences, it was cathartic for her and likely would help others.
"I think sometimes stuff is just waiting to come out," said the 38-year-old Andersen, who retired from competition in 2003 but still works in a promotional and administrative capacity for Roxy. "Instead of keeping it inside, part of the healing process is to talk about it all."
Anderson overcame a difficult upbringing that included running away from home as a teenager to pursue her surfing dream.
"What I realize now is that I came from a broken home -- (but lots) of people come from broken homes," she said. "It doesn't mean that things can't change or get better. It's up to you to go in the right direction."
Carroll gets Andersen to share the various phases of her competitive career in the biography. Yet the pair also delve into much more intimate details, like the pained relationship she's always had with her father -- he apparently didn't show he cared much when she ran away -- and even the personal post-retirement insecurities that led her, among other things, to get breast implants.
Accompanying the words are many photos that span her childhood, her surfing career and on to life these days with her two kids, Erica and Mason.
"It was sometimes hard to remember times and places and things like that -- (but) I revealed mostly everything," Andersen said. "I wanted to do a book that was kind of like a scrapbook kind of thing. I wanted it to be not so glamorized. I wanted it to be candid."
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Lisa Andersen's form won the admiration of men on the professional circuit and continues to influence a new generation of female pros.
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Seeing Lisa Andersen immersed in her element, carving buttery-smooth lines with her surfboard on the world's best waves, it's difficult to imagine that her life has been filled with challenges that loomed more formidably than a close-out set blackening the horizon.
"Fearlessness: The Story of Lisa Andersen"
By Nick Carroll
(Chronicle Books) $24.95
She is a four-time world champion, perhaps the most naturally gifted woman to ever stand upright on a board to harness the motion of the ocean. She is a seminal figure in sports history -- a Michael Jordan-like influence to thousands of female wave riders.
But Andersen is also a former teenage runaway, a product of a broken marriage. She was raised a Virginia farm girl with horses and chickens, never touching the ocean but for a few summer trips to placid shores on the East Coast. Her family moved to Florida while she was in high school -- there, her nickname was Trouble.
She eventually dropped out of school and became a single mother to two children from different fathers. Her first -- daughter Erica -- came unexpectedly as she was beginning to experience consistent success as a pro surfer in the early '90s. The sport was so male-dominated then that bikini contests were still major components of the biggest events and the women's draw was often hardly more than an afterthought. Being barefoot, of course, wasn't a problem in pro surfing, but to many -- including most of her female peers on tour -- being pregnant was.
"The question was, 'What are you doing? You just completely screwed up,'" said Andersen, now 38 and retired from competition.
"But then I was like, 'No, this is going to work.' I competed that whole time. And then after I had (Erica), I showed up to all the events, still competed. Maybe it was a bad decision, maybe it wasn't. At the time it was the stupidest thing in the world to do. But with all that came from that -- it changed me, made me a little bit more focused on things."
With her baby in tow, Andersen went on to win the first of her four world titles in 1994, barely a year after Erica's birth. She was one of the few female surfers -- often the only one the guy pros actually stopped to watch and praise. She surfed with the fluidity and connection they had, with the same fearlessness that comes from knowing you are doing what you were destined to do.
It has been her fearlessness, above all, that has pushed Andersen through -- and to -- many of the monumental moments in her life and career. It was what drove her to flee her family in Florida at age 16 and head to Huntington Beach in California to pursue pro surfing -- an activity her mother can still barely relate to today.
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Andersen holds daughter Erica after winning the Lacanan Pro event in France in 1994.
It's "Fearlessness" -- spelled out on a pendant she was given by "Law and Order: SVU" actress Mariska Hargitay -- that serves as the title of her biography by noted surf writer Nick Carroll. Previously approached to do a movie about her life, Andersen instead went with the book and friend Carroll because the film's script tweaked the truth too much.
The book is revealing in every aspect, from relationships with men both abusive and kind, to bouts of inner restlessness that sometimes drove Andersen to quit in the middle of competitions, sometimes on the verge of winning, as though suddenly it didn't matter.
"There comes a time in your life when you're just ready to talk about things -- when you don't feel ashamed," Andersen explained. "The truth is the best way to get people. I think (the book) will reach a lot of girls in terms of the whole following-your-dream type thing -- there is a lot of that in there -- and never giving up, pushing forward. There's a lot of good motivation in there."
These days the female pros currently on tour motivate Anderson to keep free-surfing. Many of these women grew up idolizing Anderson, and today, instead of surfing like the men, it can more appropriately be said that they surf like Andersen.
She left her son Mason's father a couple of years ago, and is engaged to a new man -- his first name, Tim, was all she would give -- a surfer, too. She lives just south of Huntington in Newport Beach and still gets bitten some by the competition bug when she attends events for Roxy. But Andersen says she's mostly content in retirement, with her Roxy job and primary role as a mother.
Andersen is finally comfortable with being a role mode -- comfortable with her past and comfortable with her present self, too.
"As far as a career, a job, surfing is all I really want to do," Andersen said. "Most surfers say that, but still, for me, I've been able to reach people, touch people -- do everything you could possibly do -- just through that.
"A lot of times I chose the hardest way to go, the hardest route, the worst way to go, and I don't know why. I still sometimes do that with little things now, and I kind of laugh about it. But none of the things I do now are so life-changing. Things are a lot better now."