Layne Beachley’s Early Biography
By the age of 20 in 1990, she was ranked number six in the world and eight years later she was to achieve her ultimate dream and was crowned the World’s ASP World Championship.
Layne was born prematurely in May of 1972 and spent several weeks in a humidify crib, fighting just to survive. It’s a foreshadowing of the kind of fighter she was destined to be.
Layne grew up on the beachside peninsular in the suburb of Manly, Sydney Australia. Her birth name was Tania Maris Gardner, her mother was 17 at the time she gave birth to Layne and was unmarried. She later on found out that she was conceived after her biological father raped her mother while on a date. Layne was eventually adopted by family friends, Valerie and Neal Beachley—she has kept her adopted parents’ surname. Sadly, when Layne was just six years old in 1979, her adopted mother, Valerie, passed away due to a post-operative brain hemorrhage.
Layne discovered surfing at the young age of four through her adopted father, Neil, who was a lifeguard on Manly Beach. She took to the sport quickly and would later on colorfully recount stories about riding her brother’s foamy (foam surfboard) whenever she gets interviewed.
At the age of eight, Layne learnt that she had been adopted. Upon hearing the truth, she decided she was going to prove her worth by becoming the best in the world at something, not knowing at the time what that something was.
She thrived on competitive sport since she was young, particularly in tennis and soccer, before the surfing bug bit and completely took over her life.
At 14, Layne decided to enter into her first surfing competition and at the young age of 15, she was competing against men and winning surfing heats.
Layne tells audiences she grew up in a male–dominated sport and they would bully her and give her no ground. This eventually taught her to be tough. She would draw strength from those experiences as she embarked on her journey towards being a professional surfer.
Incredible Surfing Facts
At the age of 18, Layne’s skill in surfing was beginning to be noticed by another successful female surfer by the name of Pam Burridge. Pam Burridge later became Layne's mentor and helped her become professional when she left school.
The incredible fact about Layne Beachley’s talent and her rise in women’s world surfing is that she had little or no amateur career before jumping right into the “shark tank” in her first year of professional surfing during the ASP Women’s World Tour in 1989. That year, Layne, 18 years old, finished at 48th rank. By the age of 20 in 1992, she made it to number six in the world of women’s surfing.
However, harsh training and four jobs all at the same time to earn her own keep took their toll on Layne’s body and she developed chronic fatigue syndrome. It resulted in her premature retirement from competitive surfing. In 1996, she returned to surfing and claimed third place in the world championships only to again be struck by chronic fatigue. However, in 1998, when Layne was 26 years old, her persistence paid off and she achieved her dream–of–a–lifetime, the World Title, ASP Woman Surfer of the Year.
Layne’s drive and relentless training schedule gave her a perfect foundation for big-wave riding and she soon became the most dominant woman surfer that the world has ever seen. She was touted as the most powerful natural footer woman surfer on both competitive and cultural level during her 20–year career.
Her success was never a straight line as it seemed to be plagued with inconsistencies. Soon after attaining a commanding event win, she experienced a series of many losses. Through it all, Layne kept training and at Sunset beach in Hawaii—amongst the big waves—she was able to further improve and hone her skills and test her abilities to become the greatest woman surfer to date that the world has ever witnessed.
If Layne Beachley’s surfing prowess and achievements would be compared with anyone, Kelly Slater—an 11–time ASP World Champion—would fit the bill. From the moment Layne entered competitive and professional surfing circuit, she was hell-bent on success, which was intensified when she first tasted victory.
Quotes on Reaching One’s Dreams
Layne later would tell surf reporters, “To dream takes courage…to set yourself apart from the masses by allowing yourself to set a goal, no matter how unrealistic it may seem.”
Between 1999 and 2003, Layne was crowned ASP Women’s World Surfing Champion of the Year five times and in 2006, she added a seventh ASP World Title Championship while smashing the previously held number of world titles by Lisa Andersen and Frieda Zamba (4 titles).
During this time, between 1999 and 2003, Layne Beachley proved driven to not only just make a name for herself but also was determined to popularize women’s surfing in the mainstream public and its acceptance as more than a male dominated sport.
She challenged society’s perception about women’s ability to take on big waves and endure intense physical training routine the sport calls for. She raised awareness through astute self-promotion and fearless performances surfing big waves. Layne Beachley was able create for herself a complete package that couldn’t go unnoticed by the male–dominated surfing industry that was eager to grow market share with women. Because of her resilience, she gained global name recognition.
Coaching Athletes through Aim for the Stars Foundation
In 2003, Layne officially founded the Aim for the Stars Foundation with the desire to prevent other young women from having to endure the same financial hardships she had to face on her road to becoming a world champion. The goal of her foundation is to encourage, motivate, and provide financial and mentoring assistance for all aspiring women regardless of discipline. Its motto is, “Dare to Dream, Pursue Your Passion and Aspire to Achieve.” To date, her foundation has given sponsorship to over 170 girls in areas, such as music, science, culture, arts, and sport.
Layne was named by The Australian Financial Review and Westpac as one of 100 Women of Influence in the world. Layne later served as an ambassador and assisted the 2009 World of Difference program, enabling four Australians to spend a year working for charity of their choice while still earning a living.
In 2006, Layne returned to even more competitive female world surfing circuit with another win, marking her 7th world title. In doing so, she etched her name onto the list of the world’s best surfers ever!
Later in 2006 at the height of her surfing career, Layne promoted and helped the richest women's surfing event called the Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic, which promotes itself as being one of the most prestigious and down–to–earth events on the ASP Women's World Tour with a handsome $100,000 winner’s prize.
In 2007, Layne was smashed by a monster wave that badly damaged a vertebra in her neck and caused her partial paralysis for weeks. This near career-ending neck injury and the rise of younger surfers, such as Stephanie Gilmore, saw Layne slip in rankings to fifth in 2007 and fourth in 2008. After 20 years of competitive surfing, she announced her professional retirement from the sport. Saying to a reporter, “I’m still competitive by nature but after seeing how well the girls are surfing at the Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic, I will admit that I feel I have made the decision at the right time as I’m no longer passionate enough to push myself to remain a contender.”
Layne Talks about Her Chronic Fatigue and Depression in Her Book
In 2008, Layne released her autobiography with the assistance of Michael Gordon, titled “Beneath the Waves” in which she publicly acknowledged her personal battles with chronic fatigue and depression, as well as learning she was conceived after her natural mother was raped by her biological father on a date, and connecting it all to her accomplishing the heights and achievements she has made to this day.
True to Layne’s active and extreme nature, in May of 2009, she was towed into what many consider as the largest wave ever surfed by a woman in Australia at the surfing location called “Ours" off phantom reef. This wave is known as one of Australia’s most unclear right hand meat grinders (surfing terms) earning the feat an entry into Billabong XXL Ride of the Year.
Starting Her Own Clothing Line: Beachley Athletic
However, in 2009, in her frustration for the lack of commercial support for females, Layne decided to break ties with her long-time supporter, Billabong. She began to design, create, and market her own clothing company, which she named Beachley Athletic. That same year, she went ahead with the ASP and created her own world tour surfing event in the Sydney northern peninsular beach of Dee Why.
Her boldness silenced critics and attracted Commonwealth Bank as the primary backer, founding the $100,000 Commonwealth Beachley Classic. This event is the largest prize purse in the world surfing tour.
In October 2010, Layne married Kirk Pengilly, a member of the rock band INXS.
Layne Beachley Joins Australian Athletes in the Olympics
Last year's London Olympics was memorable for Layne as she joins her country's team not as one of the athletes but as the fourth Athlete Liaison Officer. According to Hanson Media Group report, "Beachley will provide support and guidance for individual athletes and teams by sharing her experiences from an illustrious sporting career." (Source: Hanson Media Group)
B'INSPIRED Program Helps Self-Confidence and Self-Assurance
These days, Layne’s commitments ensure her diary is filled with media, motivational speaking, whilst also promoting her own clothing line, world surfing event, Aim for the Stars Foundation and other foundations she is ambassador for. As if that weren’t enough, she has also recently launched the Layne Beachley B'INSPIRED program, which is established for and has the main focus of encouraging children to realize their own potential by building their self-confidence and self-assurance within their first year of high school.
Willing to learn, dedicated to success, never afraid to take on something frightening, Layne's positive attitude and hard work ethic is a constant reminder that there are no boundaries when it comes to realizing one’s potential. She is definitely worthy of earning the right to be called extraordinary!
Layne Beachley Interview
- ASP (Association of Professional Surfer’s) Women's World Tour Winner of the following tournaments:
- 1993 - Diet Coke Women's Classic - Australia
- 1994 - Quit Women's Classic - Australia
- 1995 - Rip Curl Pro - France
- 1996 - Cleanwater Classic – Australia, Wahine/Airtouch Pro - United States, Wahine Women's US Open of Surfing - United States, OP Pro – Hawaii, Quiksilver Roxy Women's Pro - Hawaii
- 1997 - Quiksilver Roxy Women's Pro - Hawaii
- 1998 - Sunsmart Classic - Australia, Diet Coke Surf Classic – Australia, Tokushima ProTokushima - Australia, Kahlua Open - United States, Rip Curl Pro France – France, Sunsmart Classic – Australia, Diet Coke Surf Classic – Australia, Newquay Pro – England, Roxy Pro Sunset Beach - Hawaii
- 2000 - Billabong Pro – Australia, Elleven Pro Women's - United States, Rip Curl Pro France – France, Quiksilver Roxy Pro - Hawaii
- 2001 - Billabong Pro Tahiti - French Polynesia
- 2002 - Roxy Pro France - France
- 2003 - Roxy Pro Gold Coast – Australia, Billabong Pro - Hawaii
- 2004 - Roxy Pro - Hawaii
- 2006 - Billabong Girls Pro - Brazil