“Lisa Andersen Surfs Better Than You” is the latest History of Surfing chapter, and this Andersen clip is the latest EOS video, and to round things out I ventured deep into the archive for this previously unpublished interview I did with Lisa in 1995. This was at the height of LisaMania. She had a stalker in France, was getting mobbed after her heats on the world tour, and was the face of not only Roxy but the entire long-overdue female push in surfing.
My interview with Lisa was uncomfortable partly for these reasons (any additional claim of her time was unwelcome), and partly because she didn’t like me. A year earlier I’d written that the tour was having too many contests in shit waves and the judging seemed off and etc, and Lisa, as reigning champ, felt I wasn’t being supportive enough of pro surfing. We plodded forth nonetheless and ended up talking for two or three hours in a stuffy Huntington Beach hotel room during the US Open while Lisa’s mom Lorraine watched Lisa’s young daughter Erica. At one point Lorraine joined us, and the conversation went as follows:
Matt: What was Lisa like as a child?
Lorraine: She was a very good baby, then as she got older she became a monster. She was a good kid until we moved to Florida. Lisa was a tomboy. She had two older brothers and they threw her around like a football, so she didn’t know any other way except to be a tomboy.
Matt: How did you feel when Lisa left? [At 16, Lisa left home and ran away to California.]
Lorraine: Scared. I didn’t know where she was. After a while I thought, “No news is good news,” and just hoped everything was okay.
Matt: What do you think Lisa should do after she retires from pro surfing?
Lorraine: I think she should be a model.
Lisa: I’m never going to be a model.
Lorraine: Well, you don’t have to, honey, but I want you to. You do what makes you happy.
Filmmaker Bill Delaney died last week at age 72, and that’s a hard one for any surfer who was young and frothing in 1977 when Delaney’s Free Ride debuted. Free Ride was our movie, our banner, our manifesto. Endless Summer belongs to all surfers, but Free Ride belongs to late-generation Boomers the way Momentum belongs to Gen X, and when somebody like Delaney goes down it’s like you can hear the Reaper taking a step forward. In times like this, I like to remember Rabbit’s voice-over during that first go-out of his at Sanur, Bali.
I took off on that wave, and it was a mellow hotdog wave, and I was really digging on it, just feeling it out. They said sea snakes run around the place in packs, and if you ever see a pack of sea snakes coming toward ya, it’s a pretty heavy sight. So I was just cruising, looking for any sea snake packs, and I came into the inside, and felt myself getting dragged over this ledge, and I just went with this wave.
Every Free Ride acolyte knows what happens next. Bugs styles through a boxy below-sea-level tube in tantric slow motion. He was a hero to us kids in that moment not just for his barrel technique, but for the casual way he navigated those sea snakes. Delaney was a hero not just for getting it on film, but for catching Rabbit in storytelling mode and pressing “play” on the recorder. A great moment in a great movie. RIP Bill, and thank you for putting it up on screen the way you did. Free Ride will not be forgotten. You see something like that coming toward ya, it’s a pretty heavy sight.
[Delaney photo by Art Brewer]