SURFING SISTERHOOD HAWAII
by Mindy Pennybacker
In Hawai‘i, its birthplace, surfing is being renewed by a surge of female power and creativity as girls and women reclaim the sport wherein they traditionally held equal rights with men. In Surfing Sisterhood Hawai‘i, Honolulu native Mindy Pennybacker, a columnist for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, brings waveriding in the islands to life blending Hawaiian legends, historical accounts, and interviews with more than thirty contemporary female surfers of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities.
What all these girls and women express in common is the freedom and affirmation they get from surfing, despite discouragement and interference from some—not all—of the males who vastly outnumber them in the water. Surfing Sisterhood recounts how female surfers got pushed aside and deprecated by a male-dominated industry in the mid-twentieth century and how they’ve come roaring back. In 2021, Hawaiian five-time world champ Carissa Moore won gold in the debut Olympic surfing event. In 2022, Hawaiian Moana Jones Wong won the first women’s World Surf League championship tour event at Banzai Pipeline, in big, barreling waves that were, until then, considered too dangerous for female contests.
Above all, this book shows how surfing in Hawai‘i is a daily celebration and lifestyle for its women, who celebrate and sustain community, nature, culture and ‘ohana in its waves on top of having a lot of fun.
Size: 7 x 9 inches (portrait)
200 Pages, Softcover
Hawai‘i native Mindy Eun Soo Pennybacker is surfing columnist at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, and author of Surfing Sisterhood Hawai‘i: Wahine Reclaiming the Waves (Mutual Publishing, 2023), and Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices (St. Martin’s, 2010).
Her stories and articles have appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Nation, Sierra Magazine, The Surfer’s Journal, Stanford Magazine, Self, Martha Stewart’s Whole Living, Fiction Magazine, and elsewhere.
A graduate of Punahou School, Pennybacker earned a B.A. in English Literature from Stanford University, an M.F.A. in fiction writing from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and a J.D. from the University of California at Davis, Martin Luther King School of Law. She was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford and received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and Joseph Henry Jackson and James Michener awards for fiction writing.
As a youngster, Pennybacker was mentored by famed Waikīkī beachboy Albert “Rabbit” Kekai and became the only girl member of the Tongg’s Surf Gang, a competitive group of boys in her Diamond Head neighborhood. The boys entered her into junior contests at Waikīkī, where she faced the famous, fierce Mākaha sisters, Martha and Rell Sunn, and never placed better than third. She withdrew from competition for 40 years, then surprised herself by winning the women’s 35-and-up shortboard division —and placing second in longboard—at the Honolulu Bar Association’s Landshark contest at Kewalos. In the open-gender championship final, she was defeated by a male Punahou classmate.
After a lifetime of seeing women outmaneuvered, outnumbered, and bothered in the ocean by men, including a tourist who praised her perfect English, Pennybacker found her joy and confidence in surfing restored as she interviewed the more than 30 waveriding wahine who share their stories and strategies in Surfing Sisterhood Hawai‘i.
Inspired early on by the Hawai‘i environmental group Save Our Surf, Pennybacker went on to serve as editor-in-chief of The Green Guide in New York City, where she also worked for the Trust for Public Land and Natural Resources Defense Council, Glamour and This Old House magazines, before returning home to edit Honolulu Weekly, then join the Star-Advertiser as a staff reporter.
She lives in Honolulu with her husband and fellow journalist, Don Wallace, who since their wedding day has understood she’ll always be arriving late, with wet hair, if the waves are good.
REVIEW & INTERVIEWS
“A beautifully illustrated and super in-depth journey into women’s surfing. I highly recommend Surfing Sisterhood Hawai‘i.”
–Keala Kennelly, winner of multiple big-wave championships and contests on the women’s world championship tour; pioneer woman in the Eddie Aikau Big-Wave Invitational at Waimea Bay
“Girls and women have ridden waves with expert athleticism since pre-colonial Hawaii and been central to every great advancement in the modern sport. But the new and still-surging floodtide of women’s participation at every level of surfing—and new athletic standards being set–is the greatest thing ever to happen in the world’s greatest sport.
Mindy Pennybacker captures it all in her marvelous, indispensable Surfing Sisterhood Hawaii—a book that belongs in every library and on the bookshelf of every serious surfer everywhere.”
–Daniel Duane, author of Caught Inside: A Surfer’s Year on the California Coast
“A great look into our beloved sport from a wahine perspective and many views–so good to read about normal, everyday surfing, too. Surfing is how we make friends, and Mindy’s vision brought it home, we are all one clan! I loved Surfing Sisterhood Hawai‘i.”
–“Banzai” Betty Depolito, WISA California Champion, big-wave and Pipeline pioneer, Queen of the Bay and Magnitude event director, TV producer and surf equity advocate.
“In Surfing Sisterhood Hawaii, Honolulu journalist Mindy Pennybacker tells the inspiring story of wahine who dare to challenge the waves: from ancient Hawaiian queens to Gidget, from Rell Sunn to Olympic champion Carissa Moore. This insightful and entertaining book honors the growing ranks of recreational and competitive women surfers and demonstrates that he‘e nalu, the art of riding waves, is the sport of kings and queens.”
—David Davis, author of Waterman: The Life and Times of Duke Kahanamoku
“A book rich with beauty and meaning, due to the depth with which Pennybacker knows and reveres her subject–the style, exuberance, and courage of the countless, often unrecognized women who surf, and the many vibrant photographs showing the infinite variety of the female capacity for joy.
‘Surfing Sisterhood Hawai’i’ is a transcendent and important book.”
–Susanna Moore, best-selling author of My Old Sweetheart, Light Years: A Girlhood in Hawai‘i, and The Lost Wife
“In Surfing Sisterhood Hawai‘i: Wahine Reclaiming the Waves, Mindy Pennybacker shows how surfing has always had kinship to music and dance; she reminds the reader that Hi‘iaka, the Hawaiian goddess of hula, is also a surfer, and describes communities of wahine surfers who are regulars at the surf breaks she knows well.
Pennybacker’s prose style is joyful. Surfing Sisterhood will doubtless be added to reading lists for high school and college students because it shows how so-called surfing etiquette is sometimes shaped by an aggressive sexism that hinges on the male gaze. However, the reader is provided with a view of emerging changes coming from groups of women, including mothers, who learn from one another how to navigate the complex situations that arise in the surf zone, (offering) a picture of a nurturing social environment.”
Jim Kraus, The Hawaii Review of Books, hawaiireviewofbooks.com
“The female experience in the waves is a reflection of what is happening in society–whether it be a push for equal opportunities and pay, or how they are treated in surf breaks. In Surfing Sisterhood Hawai‘i, Mindy Pennybacker thoughtfully weaves powerful tales of struggle and success.”
–-Laylan Connelly, surf and oceans reporter, The Orange County Register/ Southern California News Group
“In Surfing Sisterhood Hawai‘i, Mindy Pennybacker catches a literary wave to fill a void with the first book to focus on the unique culture of Hawai‘i’s female surfers. With this wonderful and exceptional work, journalist Pennybacker adds the title of top-tier surf historian to her coverage of this fast-evolving sport.”
–John R.K. Clark, author of Hawaiian Surfing: Traditions from the Past
“Mindy is a long-time journalist and observer of the surf scene in Hawaii. So she, as much as anyone, is perfect for writing about the incredible women surfers there.
The fact that she says she was inspired by my book Women on Waves is one of the best compliments I could receive. The women she covers in Surfing Sisterhood Hawaii are absolutely amazing – and their stories need to be told!
I am sure she will totally kill it – the readers are hungry for this type of material.”
Jim Kempton, president, the California Surf Museum, and author of Women on Waves: A Culture History of Surfing—from Ancient Goddesses and Hawaiian Queens to Malibu Movie Stars and Millennial Champions
“Mindy Pennybacker writes about the rich history of women’s surfing with a local, insider’s perspective. In stories, photos and personal reflections, she shows the long line of wahine who have ridden the same waves over time, from ancient Hawaiian legends to the six big-wave riders who in 2023 became the first women to compete in the Eddie at Waimea Bay.
Surfing Sisterhood Hawai’i is a wave worth catching.”
–Stuart Coleman, author of Eddie Would Go: The Story of Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian Hero and Pioneer of Big Wave Surfing, and Fierce Heart: The Story of Makaha and the Soul of Hawaiian Surfing