Kim Mearig: Santa Barbara Surfing World Champion

1983 World champion female surfer Kim Mearig grew up surfing Rincon, riding boards shaped by local Santa Barbara shaper Al Merrick, and surfing alongside Tom Curren. Mearig was recognized as a graceful regular-foot surfer. According to surf writer Bob Yehling, she is "peaceful, fashionable, and athletic—the California beach lady about whom dreams and movies are built." She began riding for Al Merrick’s Channel Islands label at the age of 14.

Kim Mearig

Santa Barbara Surfer Kim Mearig

Mearig was born in Apple Valley, California, in 1963. Her family relocated to Santa Barbara, where she later learned to surf. Al Merrick and surfer Tom Curren are said to have encouraged her to compete. Both Curren and Mearig possessed a wide variety of showy, high-performance surfing tricks, but they didn't forego any of the poise or composure characteristic of Santa Barbara surfers.

Mearig quickly entered the annals of Santa Barbara surfing history when she won the 1981 US Surfing Championships. She became pro the following year, and disappointedly placed 18th in the overall rankings. Her championship win was a little underwhelming because the 10th and last event of the season was called off at the last minute with Mearig leading Frieda Zamba of Florida. But she made up for this in the middle of the 1983 season, winning three of four events at one time!

Mearig was a friendly, helpful, and inspiring world champion. She was something of a surfing fashion icon, whose surfboards and wetsuits stood out in a crowd in pastel shades of light yellow, pink, and blue. She had a reputation for being assertive in the line up... When asked if she had any regrets, she mentioned that she had been a fairly frequent drop-in (a surfer who drops in front of an already-riding surfer and steals the wave), and she apologized "to all the people in the line up who I've yelled at." 

Kim Mearig at Santa Clara River Mouth, 1981

Photo courtesy of Jimmy Metyko

Mearig was known and respected for her flowing wave-riding style. According to Surfer magazine, "She utilizes her legs and hands to create the closest thing to a wave-dance a surf contest will ever see." But the style in those days for female pros was aggressive "ride-like-a-man" surfing, and in 1984 Mearig came in second to the faster-turning Zamba. She finished sixth in 1985 and 1986, bounced back for a runner-up finish in 1987 (to South African Wendy Botha), then placed fifth in 1989 and 1990. She retired from competition in 1991. Altogether, Mearig won six career world tour events; she also won the Surfer Magazine Readers Poll Award in 1984.

Kim Mearig's Championship Wins:

  • 1983 OP Pro
  • 1983 ASP Women's World Champion
  • 1985, 1988 ASP Tour Runner-up
  • 1983 Surfer Poll Winner
  • 1993 OP Pro

Mearig appeared in a few surf movies, including The Women and the Waves (1987), Shock Waves (1987), and Off the Wall II (1982). (2012). In 2002, she was given a star on the Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame.

Mearig is married, resides in Santa Barbara, and has two kids.