Local surf legend and La Jolla native Debbie Beacham now has her name on the Surfer’s version of Hollywood Boulevard, the Surfing Walk of Fame in Huntington Beach, as 2011 Woman of the Year.
Beacham came into the sport when females were vastly underrepresented, prize money was limited, and heats were held at times during which bikini contests were often scheduled.
She then tenaciously changed the face of the sport.
Despite winning a Women’s World Professional Surfing Championship in 1982, Beacham’s quest for progression was not limited to the water. She served on the board of the ASP as the women’s representative from 1982-1991, during which time she worked toward insuring opportunity by pushing the ASP to pressure contest organizers to hold both men and women’s divisions.
“Working for the ASP was a lot of work," Beacham said. "We had a collection of people in a room every year that represented all the different aspects of surfing, from editors to sponsors, and we had to come up with a plan to make the events represent both men and women.
"I felt like I really did some work and a lot was accomplished throughout those years. For me, just being there in those early years was a tremendous experience.”
From 1985 to 1991, Beacham worked for Surfer Magazine’s advertising department while also devoting time to promote and organize contests.
Beacham later co-produced Surfer Girl in 1994, a surfing documentary shot in 16 mm film starring Beacham and several other world-class female surfers.
“The surfing documentary was a lot of fun, unbelievable fun," Beacham said. "At the time it was unheard of to put only women in a surfing film, and we didn’t have sponsor dollars or any funding. We did it all on our own. We went out on a limb, and people who see it are amazed.”
In the film, Beacham herself equates elevated surfing success a result of a “burning desire…that overcomes you to focus on your goals.” The film won an award at the Chicago International Film Festival and has shown on both Discovery and National Geographic networks.
Beacham remains active in the surf community as one of the vice presidents of the International Surfing Association.
“Based on the fact the ISA is an international group, it’s a good balance to not only have a past competitor, but a female as well," Beacham said. "I was the perfect combination to represent them, and I'm from the US-which they didn't have.”
She also manages the marketing of her husband’s construction company, Beacham Construction, one of the oldest construction firms in La Jolla. Other San Diego inductees into the Surfing Walk of Fame this year include Skip Frye and Rob Machado.