(1963 - living) U.S.A.
When former professional surfer Robbins Thompson went on NBC's Dateline to talk about an infamous old pal, alleged spree killer Andrew Cunanan, waves of homophobia hammered him for days afterward at San Diego's beaches. Former top-5 pro Robbins Thompson, in 1995 left the sport in disgust after his sexuality became known and he started hearing taunts in the water and having the word "fag" painted on his car.
Relationships with other surfers became an impossibility, so he isolated himself.
"If I spent too much time with fellow surfers, accusations would start to fly. There were a couple of times when possible relationships [with other gay surfers] ended too quickly because of fear of being caught."
As it is for many athletes in professional sports, success is measured not only by performance but also by securing sponsorships. Multimillion-dollar companies often turn to surfers when marketing their products for the sun-and-sand set. Steven Clark, team and promotions manager for sportswear manufacturer Gotcha International, admits that an openly gay surfer would have a difficult time finding sponsors.
"Professional surfing is definitely a hetero sport," Clark says. "That's just the way it is. I know I'm being hypocritical when I say this, because I grew up in Laguna Beach [a California city with a large gay population] and I have gay friends. But from a business standpoint, sponsoring a gay surfer would not make sense right now."