Renee Eissler

Growing up in Daytona Beach Shores, Florida, Renee Eissler would not be satisfied to sit back and watch the guys surf. It was the mid-1960s, and with surfboard sources limited, she ordered a Hansen and had it shipped from California. In those early years of surfing, she was the only girl riding Daytona’s waves. 

Her love for the sport grew quickly, and it helped instill in her a desire to travel the world in search of the biggest waves she could ride. Eissler’s talent was eventually recognized by George Miller of Daytona Surf Shop. He invited Eissler and her friend, Linda Baron Grover, to join his competition team. Eissler was soon recruited by Dick Catri for his legendary Surfboards Hawaii team. She traveled to competitions up and down the East Coast — and she received plenty of media attention, with mentions in major publications, including Sports Illustrated and LIFE.  

In 1966, Eissler qualified for the World Surfing Championship in California. Although she only placed 9th in her division, her experience connecting with athletes from across the globe fueled a desire to venture beyond America’s shores. She qualified for a scholastic sea voyage in 1968 aboard Holland America’s MS Ryndam. The ship cruised everywhere from South Africa to Portugal, Brazil, the Caribbean and beyond — and Eissler made sure to ride the waves wherever the Ryndam dropped anchor.  

When her world tour was over, Eissler moved to Oahu and finished up college at the University of Hawaii, earning a degree in art with a minor in Hawaiian surfing. The surfing specialization gave her the opportunity to travel the archipelago and try out some of the world’s most famous breaks. 

After graduation, she signed on to the Peace Corps, which sent her to Brazil and the Virgin Islands. These locales were considered off the beaten path during Eissler’s years of service, and both offered plenty of surfing opportunities. For Eissler, surfing was never just a career — it was her ticket to explore new places and cultures.