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Surfer Girl' goes from icon to mentor and mother



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SANTA ANA, Calif. - What's the value of the most respected and pivotal figure in women's surfing mentoring your future surfing stars? Huge, of course.

Four-time world champion Lisa Andersen is Roxy surfwear's new brand ambassador. It's a job basically created for her. It allows her to have a say in new surfwear, but, more important, it gives her a chance to help Roxy-sponsored surfers stay focused on tour and shape the minds and bodies of young surfing talent.

Andersen, 36, took the job because it was a new challenge. And getting the opportunity to personally tutor the next generation of women surfers has led her back to Huntington Beach, Calif., where - the now-famous story goes - she first arrived as a teenage runaway from Florida in pursuit of becoming the women's world champion. Even if she wasn't really sure there was such a thing.

She's the single mother of two now, retired from pro surfing except for an appearance here or there. Still tough. Still bright. Still surfs better than you. And her new job is loaded with possibilities.

"There's a lot for me to do. It's another challenge for me," Andersen said. "It keeps me involved with my friends, but it allows me to consult on product, and I love that because it's so creative."

She also has become a broadcaster, commentating on various contests for pro surfing Internet sites and "podcasts."

Andersen says her goals are as much personal as corporate. "It's sort of my job to give back to the sport now. It's time to turn around and show this is what can happen to you after pro surfing."

What Andersen seems to like best is working with the amateurs. Many of them are very good but very young. Some don't even know Andersen's legendary place in the sport. Nevertheless, her personal approach has power.

"They need good role models. I'm in the position to tell them what it's like and tell them it's not easy. It kind of reassures them that they're not alone," she says. "I make sure they can ask me anything, but mainly we go surf together. Some of them are shy, and I tell them I'm probably more shy than they are."

She laughs at the irony. "I can't get my kids to make their bed in the morning, but I can help a girl win a contest."

The new role has helped balance out the problems Andersen had at the end of her own career, where motherhood and nerve damage in her back ended a run of four world championships.

"I always wanted to leave the tour on a high note. I didn't get to do that. But it took me some time to realize that I had to think of another way," she says. "And it did take me some time to let go, but I look forward to coming in here every day. I still feel like a 20-year-old discovering the world, trying to make it a better place for other people. And I'm still in the water."

She's back where her career started, paddling out at the pier, where double-takes from fellow surfers are common.

"I get a lot of smiles. People are like, What brings you here?' orGood to see you.' I'm full circle back in Huntington, starting over. Come out and see me."

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(c) 2005, The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.). Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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