Although they indisputably are superb athletes, the 12 women in the televised finals of the Superstars competition in Florida last week evoked little more than a diffident oink from male chauvinists in the stands. The most notable exception was Laura Blears Ching.
The buxom, 23-year-old part-time waitress from Makaha, Hawaii is the world’s top woman surfer. She is also the living antithesis of everything women’s liberation has been fighting for. A string-bikinied beauty with an all-over tan, Mrs. Ching was raised among Waikiki beachboys (including her older brother, world champion surfer Jim Blears) and has little use for females with a cause—on or off the surf. “Girls act like ‘You’ve gotta win, man, or you can’t walk on the beach,’ ” she complains. “Even at the Superstars, the women were out to prove something all the time. I guess that’s the way it is with women’s libbers. They’re so competitive it takes all the fun out.”
A daughter of Lord James Blears, the onetime detested villain and light-heavyweight champion of professional wrestling, Laura was born in fast-frozen Buffalo, N.Y., where the cry “Surf’s up!” meant an icy Lake Erie norther I was on its way. Wearying of the inhospitable clime, Lord James moved his family to a home on the Pacific at Waikiki. By the time she was 4, little Laura was persuading beachboys to paddle her out to the big rollers on their surfboards, where she hopped onto their shoulders for the ride back to shore. A competitor before she was into her teens, at 21 she was the only woman chosen to compete in the men’s division of the Smirnoff World Pro-Am Surfing Championships. “Some of the men laughed when I entered,” she says, “but now I get the same respect they give one another.” Since turning pro last year, she has won $3,500 in a sport that is only beginning to offer worthwhile prize money. Laura recently earned an additional $1,500 posing for a nude spread for Playboy—on her surfboard, naturally—and discourses willingly on the subject of nakedness. “I think it’s beautiful,” she says. “Sometimes I go nude around the house if I feel like it.”
Married to her old beachboy boyfriend Cyrus Meek Halanani Ching (known as “Bon” because of a childhood craving for bonbons), she shares a small blue-frame cottage near the beach at Makaha with her husband and his brother’s family. Bon is a carpenter, and the Chings plan eventually to build their own house. When it’s done, says Bon, they’re going to fill it with “at least 10 kids.” (“Not 10, man,” objects Laura, “but lots.”)
For the moment, the living is easy, and they both work only when they have to. When the surf’s up the entire clan is off to sea. Has she been affected by her elevation to Superstar? “No way,” she laughs. “If something good happens, great. If not, that’s okay too. Me and my old man are happy and we have a good time. That’s just the way it is.”