Australian Women's Register

An initiative of The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) in conjunction with The University of Melbourne

Skip to content


  • She's Game: Women Making Australian Sporting History

Use Trove to find more resources by/about this Woman

  • Trove

O'Donnell, Phyllis (c. 1937 - )

c. 1937
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Surfboard Rider


In 1964, at the age of twenty-seven, Phyllis O'Donnell won the first ever world championship in women's surfing. For her efforts, apart from the glory, she won $250, a surfboard and numerous packets of cigarettes.

When she entered the sport, it was dominated by men,some of whom, she recalls, would take aim at her while she was paddling out to catch waves. She is delighted how far the sport has come and how the position of women in it has improved. 'The girls, especially on the pro circuit, are absolutely fantastic.'

The Ma Bendall/Phyllis O'Donnell Memorial Interclub Contest with other women's clubs is competed for once a year.



Phyllis O'Donnell won the inaugural women's World Championship Surfing Title at Manly Beach

Sources used to compile this entry: The Sports Factor, Surfing into the Olympics, with Mick O'Regan, Australian Broadcasting Commission, September 22, 2006,; Jim Mendoza, 'First Female Surf Champ Looks Back', KGMB9 - Hawaii's local news, [accessed 2007-01-02].

Nikki Henningham

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

© Copyright in The Australian Women's Register is owned by the Australian Women's Archives Project
and vested in each of the authors in respect of their contributions from 2000

The Australian Women's Register is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

The Australian Women's Register is published quarterly by the Australian Women's Archives Project
ISSN 2207-3124