Bondi View

Waverley Council to honour “unsung hero,” surfing legend Pauline Menczer

Menczer in her younger years (left) and today (right) is proud to have grown up in Bondi. Photos: supplied via Waverley Council

By ALLISON HORE

In 1982 Bondi local Pauline Menczer was just 12 years old. It was then she picked up the surfboard for the first time. Just six years later, she won the women’s amateur world title and in 1993 she took home the women’s world championship.

Overcoming the physical challenges of the rheumatoid arthritis she has suffered throughout her surfing career, and the emotional challenge of growing up without a father after he was murdered, Pauline was a force to be reckoned with on the waves.

A regular competitor on the world championship tour, Pauline Menczer is second only to Layne Beachley in the number of surf championships won. In her 20 years on the scene she has taken out the top prize at almost 30 events. 

Now Waverley Council are investigating options to recognise the local legend whose story is featured alongside other female professional surfers in the new documentary Girls Can’t Surf. The film’s director, Chris Nelius, lobbied the council for a statue of Ms. Menczer to be erected on Bondi Beach. 

Recognising the legend

Despite Bondi being famous world over for its surf lifestyle, Ms. Menczer is the only local to take home a world surfing championship but did not receive any prize money or sponsorship.

“I didn’t want this story of a forgotten World Champion to end there,” Waverley Mayor Masselos said. 

“I believe that Waverley needs to honour its golden girl of surfing and that the Council needs to formally consider ways we can do that.”

Menczer catching some of the world’s best breaks. Image: supplied via Waverley Council

At the March meeting of council Mayor Masselos moved a mayoral motion acknowledging Ms. Menczer as an “unsung hero” of Bondi. She said Ms. Menczer’s ability to overcome her health conditions and the sexism she faced in a field dominated by men was worthy of recognition. 

“Menczer was part of a trailblazing generation of female surfers and struggled throughout her career with rheumatoid arthritis and more recently pemphigus vulgaris, an excruciating skin condition,” she explained.

“To somehow put the pain of knotted hands and aching hands to one side and take out the World Title is no mean feat for any man or woman.”

Options the council are considering to honour Ms. Menczer include a mural in her honour on the  Bondi Beach Sea Wall, showcasing her story in the new “story room” and Bondi Pavillion or a plaque, statue or other such suggestion.

Ms. Menczer, now 51 and living in Byron Bay working as a bus driver, said she was “honoured and excited” that Waverley Council was investigating ways to honour her achievements.

“I spent my entire childhood growing up on the beach in Bondi and Bronte with my brothers and it’s a very special place,” she said.

“Bondi has a huge part of my heart. I’ll always remember when one of my older twin brothers snapped his Coolite and I grabbed the other half and caught my first wave. I was addicted from that moment.”

Council officers will report back on outcomes of its investigation and funding sources in the “near future”. 

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