Saying goodbye is never easy, and it’s especially hard when it comes to a dear, sweet friend, like Sharon Marshall. There’s solace in knowing she’s now reunited with the love of her life, her husband Mike, but it doesn’t make the ache of loss any less profound.
During her all too short time on this blue planet, Sharon was always there for us. Snapping photos, baking cookies, picking someone up when they were feeling down, or just pleasantly observing the cacophony of surf swirling around her. She never wanted to be the center of attention but loved to be immersed in the purity of the surf life and wherever we were, she’d be there with us.
Sharon and Mike were close friends with Bruce Brown and his family. And while teasing her about “chipping his teeth on her toffy,” Bruce was truly disappointed if a “Marshall package” didn’t show up to his house every once in a while.
In the early ‘80s, Sharon and Mike met a very young Robert “Wingnut” Weaver at Blackies in Newport Beach. They took him under their wing and a lifelong friendship was born.
“She was a tea drinker, and I remember a cold day when she offered me a cup of tea as I got out of the water shivering. I was so cold, so I poured it on my feet. She was pissed, and my feet were now thawed, so I beat it back into the lineup” Wingnut recalls.
The Marshalls were so much a part of the Browns’ and Wingnut’s lives that when Bruce decided to go back to South Africa to film “The Endless Summer 2,” Sharon and Mike asked to ”go along.” They didn’t have “jobs” with the production, so Sharon documented both the film project and the volatile sociopolitical climate of the time with her ever-present camera.
Sharon’s photography was highly personal and has largely gone unseen by the public. She started shooting the scene at the Op Pro in Huntington Beach in the early ’80s. Husband Mike would joke that she was going only to “chase the hard body surfers.”
With an eye for those sensitive moments between the action, she focused her lens on the “moments between.” When she got a good photo, she’d make a print and send it to the subject. Many of the ASP/WSL athletes and their families have Sharon’s photos at home. The day she left us, there were still envelopes of photos on her desk that she had yet to mail.
There were some in surfing that couldn’t wrap their heads around this unassuming woman that was always “there.” It’s hard to explain SAM (Sharon Ann Marshall) to those that didn’t have the opportunity to truly know her, but this might help see into the true heart and soul of Sharon Marshall.
During the early days of the U.S. Open, and well before today’s events with VIP competitor and entourage tents, Sharon was sensitive to the chaos that is a surf contest, especially in Huntington. So, in the shade under the bleachers, she started what she called the “tot stop,” a place for the wives of competitors who came with their young kids in tow. She set out blankets, toys, snacks, and activities for the kids so the moms would have a safe, comfortable place away from the madding crowd.
Also close to Dick Metz and founding partners of the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center themselves, Sharon and Mike were fixtures at the museum. Mike headed the education committee and Sharon never missing a Board of Directors meeting or event. After Mike’s passing, Sharon continued to support and contribute her time and resources to SHACC, especially supporting Surfing Heritage’s recent pivot to digital storytelling. She was dedicated to the art of photography until the end. Always self-effacing, she liked to say “I’m not the smartest person in the room,” yet was surprisingly current and supportive of the latest digital technology.
Sharon was a beautiful, gentle soul that embraced the people she knew and did her best to keep everything simple, but more than anything, she continued to be the best of friends to all us that knew and loved her. There was only one Sharon Marshall. She will be missed.
Photo: Leo Hetzel