One Winter’s Story

The inspiring journey of big-wave pioneer and scientist Sarah Gerhardt

A Film By Sally Lundburg & Elizabeth Pepin

Sarah Gerhardt (Livermore) is an unlikely world-class surfer and pioneer.  But her unpredictable rise to surf stardom is one of the many things that make this hour long documentary so fascinating.  Growing up poor Sarah was often without a school lunch, and to make matters even worse, she was often without a friend.  Picked on at school she would return home to painstakingly take care of her handicapped mother who suffered from MS. 

Her father was out at sea for eleven months at a time and her sister had been sent to boarding school.  Sarah, who seemed to have by-passed childhood for a third-class ticket to adulthood, appears imprisoned by her unforgiving circumstances.   But when her mother eventually manages to get a job, and the basketball court and a science teacher offer self-confidence and encouragement, she manages to take the reins of her own life and ride off in another direction (namely big waves).  It is not surprising given her onerous upbringing that Sarah cites the feeling of “freedom” as the primary reason she loves to surf.

The fact that Sarah becomes a fun-loving woman, a Ph.D., and an iconic surfer and role model is inspiring to anyone who watches the film, One Winter’s Story.  But the emotional electricity of the documentary is the raw jolt of honesty found in Sarah’s memories, intimate glimpses into her roller-coaster, off-beat life that is brilliantly edited and deftly depicted against a backdrop of visually engaging and moving cinematography. 

The highlight of the film is when Sarah becomes the first woman in the world to ride Mavericks, one of the world’s biggest waves, and also know for its dangerous rocks and lethal sharks (located in Northern California).  Her courage and talent sky-rocket her into surf-stardom, and there she still remains sparkling as a radiant female ground-breaker and authentic surf pioneer. 

Sarah’s story is remarkable, but the film itself is beautifully crafted and captures not only phenomenal surf footage but the soul of a woman who found her salivation riding the world’s biggest waves when no one else thought it was possible.  This is a story of hardship, struggle, sacrifice and success.  There is deep grieving and enlightened glory.  The film ebbs and flows as you follow Sarah’s life, and like Mavericks; it’s a powerful ride.