Drew Kampion's profile on Margo Godfrey ran in the June 1979 issue of Surfing magazine. This version has been slightly edited.

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She's been the number-one woman surfer for so long now that most of us cannot remember when she wasn't. She was the 15-year-old who deposed Joyce Hoffman in 1968, both on the AAAA circuit in California and in the World Contest in Puerto Rico. She was close in 1970, in Australia, but was edged by Sharron Weber. Then, in the early '70s, she found Jesus Christ, got married, and moved to Kauai.

Margo Godfrey Oberg resurfaced in 1975 for the Hang Ten / WISA contest at Malibu. She won that event, and has been active in competition ever since. She was 1977's WCT champion, and almost repeated in 1978, losing by only a few points to lady slasher Lynne Boyer.

Margo now has her professional surfing career better established than any of the top male surfers in the world. Even more significant, she has balanced it successfully in a lifestyle that includes family, religion, and recreation. To mix professionalism with family seems to be nearly impossible, like mixing water with oil. Yet, in Margo, we see that it is possible.

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“The guys talk about breaking into the big time, and it makes me laugh because I've done that more than any of them!”

We were sitting in Margo's North Shore condo in early December, at the clean, white-topped Formica table. There was almost no furniture, but things were very clean, especially when compared with the typical pro surfer's accommodations. Against one white wall leaned a quiver of Bill Barnfield surfboards; he has shaped and glassed 95% of Margo's boards over the four-plus years since her comeback began, though she also owns a few from Tom Parrish.

Margo spoke rapidly in a strong, powerful voice that seemed too large for her small, athletically feminine body. But why not? She knew what she wanted to say, because most of it had been said before, and certainly she'd figured out where she was in relation to her family, career, and God a long time ago—and besides, she is the best.

"I have associations with a lot of people that are generally idolized," she said. “I don't say that to brag, but just to show that surfing has the potential to be like any other big sport. Like when Billie Jean King visits Kauai, we spend the day together playing tennis and having lunch. She's really good, and I've been playing for 15 years, so I can keep the ball in bounds."

Last February, Margo was flown to Las Vegas to participate in the All Star Salute to Women's Sports at Caesar's Palace. The event was promoted by Ms. King for the Women's Sports Foundation. "I got to meet and play tennis with a lot of famous people, like Carl Reiner, Alan King, Lloyd Bridges, Dean Martin, Dorothy Hamill, Bill Cosby, and a lot more. I gave away a free surfboard, and Billie Jean and I gave away a trip to Kauai, together with surfing lessons from me. Muhammad Ali donated his boxing trunks from the Spinks loss."

Perhaps because she has been so clearly the best in her sport for so long, whereas in men's surfing we've had three different champions in the past three years, and maybe, too, because a woman on a surfboard has greater general appeal, Margo's position in relation to professional acceptance outside of surfing is special.

"I'm definitely one step ahead," she commented. "I stand out in my field. I can present myself clearly and say, 'Here's my credentials.' The guys are different; no one has really dominated the scene or been incredibly unique enough to get the public's attention, whereas I've established a name that is reliable."

That name is proving itself in the commercial world, as Margo has parlayed her surfing abilities into a broad-based professional entity. Aloha Airlines has sponsored her, and she's also the beach recreation supervisor and surfing instructor for the Kiahuna Beach and Tennis Resort at Poipu Beach near her home on Kauai.

"My job at the hotel is fantastic!" she said. "I get a good salary, plus extra money for surfing lessons. In fact, a lot of the time I feel a greater loyalty to the hotel than the pro circuit because it's the kind of job I can have for a long time. To them, I don't have to prove that I'm the world champion; they know it. To keep current and hot is okay, but what they're after is to have me do a good job—and it's a full-time job being a supervisor there, but it's a job I'm really stoked on. I feel like Jimmy Connors or Chris Evert; I feel like I'm that caliber of professional."

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Steve Oberg, Margo's husband, 28 years old and a life-long surfer, is an assistant pastor in Church of the Living Word, an evangelistic Christian organization that they both belong to. He's also got a good job as an accountant. In high school, Steve scored 98% on his math SATs, then got straight A's through college. Once his father told him he could either work with his hands or with his brains. The choice seemed obvious. Steve's working toward his degree as a CPA.

He also manages his wife's career. Margo: "He looks at the pros and asks, 'What are they going to be doing when they're past 30?' A lot of surfers seem to feel like surfing owes them a living, but I've never felt that way. Like Steve says, the money's a bonus, a present." Being married to someone like Steve gives Margo an underlying support that most professional surfers, male or female, don't have. "It does make me feel really secure," she agreed, "because my working isn't really essential. I could quit competing and go home now and make good money at the hotel; it's almost like living at home with your folks. A lot of pro surfers worry about debt. I'd hate to have to think about that."

Having this kind of support has always been key to Margo's success. Her family was tolerant of her bizarre wish to surf, almost from the beginning. "I've always done everything I've wanted to do, whatever I felt was best. And surfing was something I wanted to do. I get a charge out of it! The first wave I ever rode, I took off and made it all the way to the sand, then I paddled back out and rode about 50 waves that day, all the way to the beach. It was total enthusiasm! In six months I passed people that'd been at it for three or four years.”

Her family thought it was rather odd of her to go around being so athletic, but they let her be. As for Margo, she couldn't understand why she was supposed to just sit and watch while all the guys were out having such a good time. Margo likes being a lady, and being feminine, too, and at one point, when she was 14 or 15, she decided to give up surfing when she turned 16. Of course, when she was 16 she couldn't very well give it up, because she was the world champion. "Besides," she said, "I found it was a farce, a projection of society. And then I discovered that male surfers find women who surf to be quite attractive."

Her sponsors feel the same way. Besides the arrangement with Aloha Airlines and her utopian job at the hotel, Margo is a Lightning Bolt team member, along with Gerry Lopez, Rory Russell, and Mark Richards. ("I'm sort of their women's Gerry Lopez.") She also writes a weekly column for the Honolulu Advertiser, is women's competition reporter for Surfing, will soon be doing color commentary for ABC's Wide World of Sports, and does promo work for Shelly Mazda in Honolulu in exchange for some wheels.

All of this means that the pressure is on Margo's private life, both in the family and in the church.

"I started surfing because I really like to be alone, and most of my time is still spent alone, surfing, reading, whatever. I enjoy all the publicity, but sometimes I need to remember my priorities. In fact, sometimes I'd like to be just totally anonymous."

Margo credits her success in professional surfing not only to her physical abilities, but also to her ability to make herself marketable. She has no difficulty communicating with people, and she is down to earth and friendly, especially in the past few years since her teenaged "Praise the Lord!" Christian enthusiasm has been modified to a more mature relationship with God and other people. A couple of years ago she told me that her religion was becoming "more personal now, more individual," and that seems to be borne out by her unpresumptuous amiability this last winter.

At the same time, she said that her religion was keeping a check on the head-expanding tendencies of stardom: "A lot of my trying to stay down to earth comes from my Christian background of the past seven years and trying not to become arrogant. My church group keeps me humble and in line. They remind me that just because you're a hot surfer doesn't necessarily imply any spiritual superiority."

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Although exposure for women isn't significant within the surfing media itself, compared to the men, the girls are unlocking markets outside of the sport. When Aloha sent her to Japan and Canada on recent promotional adventures, Margo said she was treated like a "goddess or a mermaid." And then, before last winter's first Cuervo Classic, Heublein Inc. brought her to California for a promo tour which involved numerous television appearances, interviews, and a Los Angeles Times feature written by sportswriting legend Jim Murray.

Yet she is using her newly-expanded power within surfing carefully. We talked about Jericho Poppler, contemporary women's surfing activist and equal rights proponent. "She's more vocal for women's rights, and she says exactly what Billie Jean King would say," Margo said. "In theory, I totally agree with her, but in the timing of when to say what, I sometimes disagree and tend to not want to rock the boat. My feeling is that we aren't yet able to bargain from a position of power in surfing. Like in tennis, the women can say they won't play unless they get more money, and they get it. In surfing they'd just say, 'See ya later!'"

At the time I spoke with Margo, Australian sponsors had just decided to eliminate the women's division of both the Coke and Stubbies contests, ostensibly because there wasn't much interest, but actually because the American women were taking a lot of money out of Australia. That means significantly less money in the women's pro tour in 1979. Margo, however, feels that the women's events are exactly what the general public might go for in surfing.

"In the future, I can see the women having their own circuit," said Margo. "It'll explode in a couple of years. In fact, I think people are more interested in women surfers than men. You know, bikinis, women paddling out into big surf; it's really a shock to see a little girl on a big wave, you know? And women have more style and grace, and they move slower, which make them easier to watch. The Cuervo people would rather have the women surf against the guys; it'd be more what they're into with their whole trip and publicity. If a girl beat a famous guy, that'd get a lot of publicity, yeah?"

Regarding the IPS, Margo sees it simply as a sanctioning body that awards points, and certainly not as a surfers' union or organization for surfers' rights. And as for IPS president Fred Hemmings, she says: "What super-bugs me about the pro trip is that everyone criticizes Hemmings but nobody does anything. He makes a living out of it, but I don't think he takes any money out of me or other surfers. If pro surfers want to make money, why don't they go out there and get their own sponsors and TV shows instead of just griping?"

And if any pro surfers need advice or guidance in that area, Margo can show them how it's done.

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"Sometimes these days," Margo said, "at contests, I just don't feel any inspiration. After 15 years of the same old thing, I just think: Here we go again." It was a brief, slightly negative reflection. Margo continued. "I guess I'm at a crossroads. I might put competition aside and put my contacts together into some business ventures." Contest organizing was mentioned, and more television work.

But then Margo was talking surfing again. The sport clearly interests her, still. A lot, in fact. She talked about how she's dying to show the men that she can do it all too, that she's not totally conservative in her approach to riding waves. Being around the pro men these last few years has made her surfing a lot more radical, she said, but she said she tends to “hold off on radical maneuvers unless it's totally under control and conforms to the wave. I could be a lot more radical if I wanted, but I don't surf that well in crowds. It would be neat to go for it at Off-the-Wall for publicity, but would it mean anything to me?”

Which brings her back to her basic philosophy of life: to try to lay up her riches in heaven. "I don't need to kiss up to people," she said, "and sometimes I don't drive my surfing simply because I'm really content."

"Right now," Margo wrote in a letter to me recently, "I'm getting more into creative and progressive surfing. I'm away from the contest focus and pressure, so I'm pushing my freestyle surfing to the limit. By no means do I feel burned out or bored. I'm totally surf stoked!"

This reminded me of something she'd mentioned back in December, at her condo: "I know a lot of the girls on tour would like to see me leave."

That's probably true. As long as Margo's around, it's going to be hard for anyone else to take a turn at the top. When I first interviewed Margo way back in 1968, she said, "I'll compete for the next few years, but I won't give up school for it. When people start passing me up as a surfer, I'll just do it for fun. When somebody else is coming up, there's no use fighting it. After you've been the best, your ego shouldn't need any more building,"

Yes, but what if you're still the best?