One of the first competitors in the women's pro tour, Betty has continued promoting surfing from behind the scenes. HI Surf Advisory caught up with this tireless warrior between water videography sessions of an HLF contest at Kuhio Beach (9/5/98).
HSA: Let's talk story.
BD: Hello, hello!
HSA: We were talking about your career as a pro surfer. Tell me about that.
BD: Well I started contest surfing in California, in, god I don't even know what year it was, and I probably wouldn't say anyway. I was like the California champion in WISA back then, and because I was champion that year, they invited me to come to Hawaii to surf in the big competitions against Lynn (Boyer) and Margo (Oberg) and Rell (Sunn) and everyone. But I was stoked. I was lucky, came over, entered just a couple of events, like the Smirnoff Pro which is like ten foot Sunset. Got third place, so that was pretty good. I just competed like half the tour the whole time after that.
HSA: So how long was your pro career then? A couple years?
BD: No, I competed a long time--about a ten year stretch. But I never got really high; I was rated about tenth in the world a few years, but that's as high as I got. You gotta be higher.
HSA: Way back then, it really wasn't lucrative. You couldn't really survive on women's pro surfing, huh?
BD: No, you couldn't survive at all in pro surfing unless you were winning the contests. There were no sponsors; there's no way we'd be on the cover of a magazine. Anything like that, so the girls today are pretty lucky.
HSA: They got two magazines, huh, Wahine and Surfer Girl?
BD: I think there's actually more than that around the world. There's one in Australia, and a bunch of inserts. Things are looking pretty good for the girls nowadays.
HSA: I think what the girls don't appreciate is there's a lot of people like you who've been pushing women's surfing for decades already, behind the scenes doing promotional things like video. Tell us about your video projects.
BD: You know what, I think it was just part of my destiny, doing what I'm doing, promoting the women, filming the women and helping out as much as possible. Because, early on, I realized there was just not enough coverage. I was in the position, you know, now as I was then, tenth in the world, I would have a lot going on. So I knew there was a need for it, and I worked really hard at it. I'm kinda missing my time--I missed the time of the pro surfing for women I think. I might've even missed my time to make money doing what I'm doing, but I still think it's fun, there's a purpose for it and I love it.
HSA: So, what kind of projects do you have? I know you have that Undercurrents show? Do you still have that? Are you working on anything else?
BD: Actually, my show is called Banzai Sports now; Undercurrents I didn't think it was a good name, but... I'm still working on that, it features women athletes, but I'm also doing a video right now called Soaking Wet, which is all women surfers. It's about 55 minutes, not quite done with doing credits, but it's going to be an awesome video. It's going to have footage of all kinds of girls: big girls, old girls, young girls, doing all type of surfing, stand up surfing that is, and it's going to be pretty epic.
HSA: Eh, what about us bodyboarders, man?
BD: Well, I did three women's bodyboardings videos already. And now I'm doing the surfing one. It's kind of a dream come true.
HSA: That's about it, I guess... what else?
BD: I'm going to win more contests you know, so don't give up on me yet!
HSA: Eh, watch out Rochelle (Ballard), eh?
BD: Hey, maybe we'll have women's masters division.
HSA: Hey, the men's masters are very popular. Who knows with the women...
BD: Well, I don't know if there's a big enough contingent of the master women division, but I hope so. Man I hope I don't miss that too by my time frame in life, you know. If not, I'm surfing against Rochelle.
HSA: OK, thanks. Oh, wait wait! One last question. How'd you get the nickname "Banzai"?
BD: You know what, I made it up myself for a radio job that I was doing, so it rhymed. And then I had to like kinda, I had to kinda live up to it, so I went surf Pipe a lot.
HSA: Alright, thanks Betty!