New Jersey’s Linda Davoli was among the first to move East Coast women into the professional surfing spotlight. She began surfing at age 11 and became the first female East Coast surfer to take a national title when she won the Girl’s division of the 1973 U.S. Surfing Championship.
Davoli moved to Hawaii in 1975, and two years later she competed in the debut women’s world circuit, finishing fifth for the season. She would rank in the top-five of the International Professional Surfers (IPS) ratings for three years straight in the late 1970s. She rode for Australian Terry Fitzgerald’s Hot Buttered Surfboards, while appearing in numerous surf magazine ads all around the world. Davoli was in the lead on the 1980 IPS tour when she was forced to drop out due to injury. That same year, she became the first woman to beat a man in one-on-one competition, doing so several times at the OM Bali Pro.
When ABC TV’s American Sportsman was producing their 1980 episode on traveling surfers, network executives opted to feature the two reigning U.S. Surfing Champions: Linda Davoli and Rick Rasmussen. The duo was filmed riding the dreamlike lefts of Grajagan (G-Land) on the Indonesian island of Java, along with surfer and film and television actor Gregory Harrison and surfer/producer Tony Caramanico. The Emmy Award-winning show quickly became one of the most unique visual epics in surfing history, offering the first portrayal of the traveling surfer’s lifestyle — including its many dangers — to millions of TV viewers.
Davoli was featured in a handful of surf movies, including Super Session (1975) and Bali High (1981). In 1981, Surfer described her as “very possibly the finest women’s surfer in the world.”
In 2001, Davoli took the Senior Women’s division at the Eastern Surfing Championship, 25 years after winning her first East Coast title. She was inducted into the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame in 2002.
Photos by Alex Williams , Dick ”Mez’ Meseroll, and courtesy Linda Davoli