“The Divine Miss M,” last week’s History of Surfing chapter, is a too-short look at the long and incredibly accomplished career of Margo Oberg (née Godfrey), the only female surfer to win world titles in three different decades (’68, ’77, ’80, ’81). I added another Above the Roar interview to Margo’s account, this one mostly from her pro tour years, to go with this Roar piece from 1970. And for good measure, here’s something Margo herself wrote in 1969, when she was just 16.
To be honest, Margo is a cipher to me. I’ve never talked to her, but from what I gather she’s both fragile and tough as hell. Margo put me off as a kid, during her early Born Again phase, when she herself was still just a kid, giving interviews in which every response became a testimonial for Jesus. She sounded brainwashed. People who know Margo well, though, say she’s always been a lot earthier and funnier than she is in the media. But still complicated. “Nobody has a bigger heart,” one person said. “Margo was a pill to surf with,” another said. “None of that hippy-dippy bullshit. She’d battle you for any wave, and swore like a longshoreman.” My sense is that Margo had a few demons, who got the better of her at times. But when she had things in hand, she was a fortress, both calm and mighty, especially in the water. And especially during competition. Lynn Boyer, at times, at her best, could take Margo out. Everybody else was fighting for scraps.
Here’s a new video of Margo. Be warned: click and watch and you’ll be hosting the Gandalf of earworms. I get a break now and then, but “Green-Eyed Lady” has been stuck in my head for 48 years.
Next week brings us to Section Seven of History of Surfing, titled “Long Division.” Many chapters within, including the return of longboarding, Curren, Carroll, Thrusters, Brazil, neon, VHS, and the Op Pro—welcome to the ’80s, maties!
Thanks for reading, everybody, and see you next week.
[Photos: Brad Barrett, Tom Servais]