Mimi Munro was born in 1952 in Daytona Beach, Florida, but raised in Ormond Beach, just to the north. By the time she was 10, she was surfing with friends. “They said, ‘Hey, Mimi! Come try this,’ and that was that,” Munro would later recall about learning to surf. “The board was so big you couldn’t help but stand on it.” Later, Munro would steal her older brother’s surfboard before he got home from school, and sneak in a few waves.
When she entered her first contest, Munro still didn’t have her own surfboard so she had to borrow one. That all changed after she won the Florida State Surfing Championships. Daytona Beach Surf Shop set her up — and the rest is decorated history. While surfing in the East Coast Surfing Championships, she met Dick Catri, the coach and captain of the legendary Hobie Surf Team, who recruited her to join his squad. She was only 13.
Two years later, Munro was Florida’s State Champion, and in 1965 and ’66, she won the East Coast Surfing Championships. By the time she showed up for the 1966 World Surfing Championships, Munro was the best female noserider in the world. At just 14, she took home third place.
Being one of the highest profile female surfers in the world, however, had its price. By 1968, Munro grew tired of being bullied by classmates, who called her a “tomboy.” She decided to walk away from the sport. While Munro may have stepped out of the limelight, she left a legacy in the waves of Ormond Beach that would endure — in the coming decades, the town gave rise to the legendary Frieda Zamba and Lisa Andersen, who both became 4x Professional World Surfing Champions.
By the early 1990s, Munro, now a parent of four, was ready to get back in the water. “I had dreams about surfing when the kids were older,” Munro once recalled. In those dreams she’d be checking the waves, but could never get to the water before waking up. “Then, one night I did get to water,” she said. “So, I decided it was time to go back.” She called her old coach Dick Catri and told him to set her up with a board.
At age 49, Munro won the women’s pro longboard division at the Cocoa Beach Easter Surfing Festival. The competitive bug was back. Through the rest of the 90s and into the 2000s, she competed in many East Coast events, including the 2006 East Coast Wahines Championships in North Carolina. But what made her comeback so special was her passion for nurturing the next crop of young women in the surf, through her Mimi Munro Surf Camps in Florida, which she continues to run today.
Photos by Tom Dugan / ESM, Dick “Mez” Meseroll / ESM, Mark Hill, Roger Scruggs, courtesy Munro