California Dreamland Visionary
Sarah Gerhardt, PhD – Surfer & Physical Chemist
In a time when everyone has access to everything, it’s remarkable and thrilling to find a true pioneer like Dr. Sarah Gerhardt. That she’s an expert and instructor in the typically male field of physical chemistry is one thing; being the first woman to surf Northern California’s legendary Mavericks, the offshore reef south of San Francisco that produces some of the biggest, baddest, most terrifying waves in the world, puts Dr. Gerhardt in a truly remarkable league of her own.
Growing up along California’s Central Coast, Dr. Gerhardt carved her first waves in the 8th grade. Tall and strong, she’d found the sport that would become a part of her daily life, and would take her on a worldwide journey to surf big waves in places like Hawaii and Peru. Dr. Gerhardt’s athleticism on monster waves didn’t go unnoticed: in 2000 Sports Illustrated named her the “Ultimate Ripper,” and she was named as one of the Outdoor Life Network’s “25 Most Courageous People.” Waves aren’t Dr. Gerhardt’s only love; she is also fascinated by science and chemistry, and received a doctorate in physical chemistry from U.C. Santa Cruz in 2003. Today, Gerhardt combines both passions: She now teaches Chemistry at Monterey’s Cabrillo College, and lives nearby with her husband, fellow big wave surfer Mike Gerhardt, and their children.