By: Sharon Aron Baron
Throughout the summer, champion women surfers along with their boards and trophies will be featured in an exhibit in Jacksonville Beach.
One of those champions is Tamarac resident Holly Rubin who in 1969 became one of their first female surfing celebrities, even taking on the guys in competitions while living in South Jacksonville Beach during the late 1960’s-early 1970’s.
Born in Hollywood, Rubin was introduced to surfing at the age of eight while living in Fort Pierce. One day she borrowed a surfboard from a stranger who was sitting on the beach resting.
“I proceeded to ask him if I could try his board out and promised I wouldn’t damage it,” said Rubin. “Fortunately, the boy agreed and that was just the beginning.”
Rubin saved up $50 and found a used surfboard in a garage sale that was dinged up and too large for her. “It was so heavy that I had to drag it around just to get it from one surfing spot to another.”
After her parents moved to Jacksonville Beach, she sold the surfboard and bought one in better condition.
There were only a couple of girls that surfed the Jacksonville beaches as often as Rubin did in the middle to late 60’s, but none took their skills to a competitive level. Because of this, most of the competitions she entered were against boys her age.
“I was mainly surfing against boys on the competitive side, and it was fun. I was kind of just like a tomboy back then and it really didn’t bother me. I don’t know how they felt about it,” Rubin says laughing.
With mentors including surfing champion Terry Deloach, Rubin quickly became the best girl in the area.
“I took every single one of my surfing contests seriously. My heart would beat so loud on my board when I began to paddle out, that I often thought someone else would hear it. The night before each contest I would listen to a cassette tape I made on how to stay focused on the wave and how I should ‘work it’ in order to win.”
Rubin’s surfer friends were anybody she could find. Since she was under 16 years old, there weren’t many people that wanted to drag a young girl along. It wasn’t long before she earned the respect of the local surfers, including those at the Jacksonville Beach Pier who would trust her when she was paddling to catch the best waves.
Rubin’s competitive career spanned from the age of 15 through 17, although she surfed many years before that. At the age of 17, Rubin became pregnant with her son, Monte, then moved on to begin a successful career.
At the age of 20 she owned her own Commercial Real Estate Office. Following that, she worked for Citicorp/Citybank, earning eight promotions during her 13 years there. She also was vice-president with JM Family Enterprises and was at the prime of her life and career when she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system. Rubin left her career behind to manage her disease from home.
Rubin soon created a new path for herself and helped found “Deliver the Dream,” a nonprofit organization which helps seriously ill children and families with all types of diseases. In 2008, she received the “Humanitarian of the Year Award” for South Florida. She has also been on the Board of Trustees for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in South Florida for several years and has been an ambassador helping lead the way to help end the devastating effects of Multiple Sclerosis.
A Tamarac resident for seven years, Holly stays busy writing a book called “Making Waves in Corporate America” which is an autobiography that combines lessons from life and surfing. Rubin says you can use many things you’ve learned from a sport like surfing to succeed even further in life.
“I am very happy and blessed that it is a part of my life, and the people in it will always be in my life forever.”
You can see Holly Rubin as well as other champion women surfers in the new exhibit in Jacksonville Beach called “Mermaids of the First Beach” through August 25. Read more at Beaches Museum and History Park