Four-time world champ Lisa Andersen tells SURFING about her new book
"You can make a movie about her life." If there's any top surfer more worthy of that distinction, it's runaway-turned-world-champ Lisa Andersen. The surfer who almost singlehandedly created an entire industry when she got sick of wearing Tom Carroll's boardshorts and wanted some tailor-made trunks for herself. The surfer who effortlessly racked up four world titles in a row and still possessed the raw talent to win four more. The surfer who's still figuring out her new role as Roxy ambassador/mentor, but loving the transition into civilian life nonetheless. Despite all of this, and the script on her life that floated through Hollywood circles for some years, Andersen decided a while back that she wouldn't leave her life story to the whims of Tinseltown. Instead, she chose the insightful, legendary surf scribe and SURFING global editor Nick Carroll to bust out the tape recorder tell it all in book form. The end result, Fearlessness, is an inspiring, gripping and brutally honest depiction of one of the greatest surfers of all time. Combine Carroll's words with intimate photos from her childhood and throughout her career, and you have a story that every surfer – and dreamer – should read. And since the book has just officially hit the shelves, we figured it was time to catch up with LA to see how it's all going.
SURFING MAGAZINE: Tell us about the process. What gave you the idea to do a book about your life?
LISA ANDERSEN: Well, for a while there had been this movie script on my life floating around. And while that sounds cool at first, the older you get, the more you realize it might not be the best way to portray your life. There's a lot of artistic license in movies. [laughs] So, obviously everyone wants to have a book on their lives, so a couple of years ago we started that process for mine.
Was Nick Carroll an obvious choice to write it?
He should have been, but for some reason, I was going through this list of names and Nick wasn't on it. I kept going, "No, no, no, NO WAY, no…" but then Mitch [Varnes] was, like, "What about Nick?" And we were both, like, "Perfect." I've always been a fan of his writing and his intelligence, and I'm also good friends with his brother. So, I wanted to do this with someone I was comfortable with. I sent Nick some funny little email, asking if he wanted to work on a project that was all about me, and it took off from there.
Was it a lot harder than you expected, having to revisit every little corner of your life?
Absolutely. As you'll see in the book, it's not like an ASP press release or something. It doesn't go into much detail about my competitive career. Instead, it's all the good "goss." [laughs] It's about my relationships and decisions and dramas. In fact, looking at it now, I probably would've added a little more competitive stuff just to balance it out. But it is what it is. It's all out there now. And it was hard. You go through so many things when you're a 16-year-old runaway, and after you go through them, you bury those memories. Nick doesn't go into gory detail, but there was definitely some abuse. So, to bring them back up again can be painful – both to me and my family. I know I hurt some loved ones in this book – my mom, especially, even though she blames herself. But it's the truth. And in a book like this, you have to tell the truth.
What about your dad? Have you talked to him since the book came out?
You know, he wouldn't talk when we were writing it and I haven't heard a word from him since. But that's OK with me. Emotionally, I'm past that now.
And your daughter, Erica? I guess an honest book about your life is better for her than a souped-up movie.
Erica's had the book in her room for a while, but I'm not sure if she's read it. We're so close though. She knows everything in there anyway. [laughs]
So, now your wrist is about to get sore for the next month.
Yup. I don't know why I keep raising my hand, but I'm taking on everything. We have book signings up and down the west coast for the next 10 days or so, then it's off to Florida and New York. We're having a big launch party in New York on November 12 in conjunction with The Joyful Heart Foundation. It's an organization founded by CSI NY actress Mariska Hargitay for abused women. Their main motto is "Fearlessness," which is the title of the book. And there's obviously a good connection there. From New York, it's off to Hawaii where I'll be doing a number of signings there, as well. Being a part of the Roxy family has been so great with all of this, too. They've given me so much support throughout the project, and have so many built-in events where they're incorporating the book. So, I couldn't be with a better team.
Ultimately, are you hoping this book inspires the next generation of female surfers? Letting them know that they're not alone if they've had a tough upbringing?
Absolutely. It's definitely a story of following your beliefs and your dreams and your heart and all that. During a Q and A at Barnes and Noble the other night, I had a couple of mother/daughter groups throwing questions at me about everything. I told them, "Look at how much has changed since I started. There were hardly any girls or support for girls when I started and getting my parents to believe in me was one of my biggest problems. Now, look at the schools – they include surfing in the curriculum. There's all-girls surf camps. And – above everything — you guys are sitting here right now in front of me with your daughters, listening to my life story. You're getting them out there and involved and a part of it." That was so cool to see. It told me that maybe I have helped make a difference.
[Fearlessness, written by Nick Carroll and published by Chronicle Books, is out now. Support your local book store or surf shop and check it out.]