Sarah Gerhardt began surfing the breaks near her Pismo Beach home in Central California in 1988; her freshman year of high school. By her junior year of high school, Sarah was accomplished enough to compete in local and regional surf contests, and she also began pushing herself to surf increasingly larger waves.
After graduating from high school in 1992, Sarah made her first pilgrimage to Oahu’s North Shore to pursue her dreams of surfing large waves. She also enrolled at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to study chemistry. Under the tutelage of legendary big wave rider Ken Bradshaw and her future husband, Mike Gerhardt, Sarah became the first woman to paddle and tow into the massive walls of water on Outer Reefs. Surfing Magazine writer Nick Carroll recognized the talented young woman as a potential surfing superstar, writing about her in the magazine’s intro that winter of 1995 – 1996.
Graduating from Cal Poly in December of 1997, Sarah returned to Hawaii to continue to surf big waves. While living on Oahu, she reconnected with Mike Gerhardt and the two were soon married. The following year, the newlywed couple moved to Santa Cruz in order for Sarah to pursue her graduate degree at the University of California.
In 1998, the couple decided to drive up the coast to see Maverick’s, the giant wave north of Half Moon Bay. They both paddled out and Mike immediately charged the bowl, while Sarah watched the wave break from the shoulder. A few months later she decided she was ready and launched herself down her first Maverick’s wave and into surf history by becoming the first woman to surf the huge wave.
Sarah continues to surf Maverick’s each season, and was named alternate invitee to the Quiksilver Men Who Ride Mountains Contest for 2000, 2001, and 2002. If that isn’t enough, this talented and intelligent woman earned her Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry. In February 2005, Sarah gave birth to her first child, Noah. She made Maverick’s history yet again in February 2006 by becoming the first woman to surf the big wave while pregnant with her second child, Naomi, who was born later that year.
Although not something she talks about a great deal, Sarah’s faith is the guiding force in her life. Sarah also volunteers each summer with the Ride A Wave program, an organization that gives physically and developmentally challenged children and adults water experiences through swimming, paddling and surfing. In addition, Sarah has given motivational speeches at schools, businesses, and sporting events. Says Sarah: “My goal is to inspire and encourage young and old women alike to surf, and to pursue their dreams to charge more.”
Jenny Useldinger has been surfing her whole life. Says Jenny: "My mom surfed up to one week before she had me and I've been in the water ever since!" Growing up in Santa Cruz, California, Jenny moved to the North Shore of Oahu at the age of 18 to pursue her big wave dreams. She has made history by becoming one of the few women to tow in surf at Jaws, in Hawaii. In January 2005, she joined Sarah Gerhardt as one of the few women to surf Maverick’s when she caught a giant wave while Sarah looked on from the shore. The same year she was nominated for the biggest wave ridden by a woman at the 2005 Billabong XXL Awards.
Mike Gerhardt was raised on the shores of Malibu’s beaches, and learned to surf at one of the most crowded breaks in the world: Malibu’s famous Surfrider Beach. He moved to the North Shore of Hawaii in the mid-1990s to pursue his big wave dreams, and soon became a roommate of Ken Bradshaw’s. He was with Sarah during most of her big wave days on the North Shore and the two became good friends. Mike and Sarah reconnected several years when they were both single, and they quickly realized they were meant to be together. They moved to Santa Cruz and began surfing Maverick’s on a regular basis. Sarah credits Mike in helping her to fulfill her dream to surf Maverick’s. Mike continues to charge Maverick’s on some of the biggest days, and was a contestant at the 2005/2006 Maverick’s Contest.
Ken Bradshaw is a true legend in the sport of surfing. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Ken started surfing at the age of 13 on Surfside Beach, Texas in 1965. Ken began surfing as a child and moved to the North Shore of Hawaii in 1972, where he has lived ever since. He mastered big-wave surfing on Oahu's North Shore, not only at Sunset, but also at the legendary Waimea Bay. Ken’s first big win in professional surfing was the ABC Wide World of Sports, Duke Kahanamoku Surfing Classic in December 1982. Ken was one of the first few to master tow-in-surfing—the only way to ride waves above 40 feet successfully.
On January 28, 1998, Ken rode the biggest wave ever ridden in history on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii at an outer reef known as Outside Log Cabins. This wave was considered to be in excess of 85 feet. That same day he also rode another 20 waves between 40 and 65 feet to make this the largest day ever ridden.