My hero: Susan Sontag by Cori Schumacher


My Hero, a new (semi) regular feature, best played with Dave Grohl singing softly in your head is back with a belter. The pro surfer, industry sage and activist Cori Schumacher picks the late American intellectual Susan Sontag and here she tells us why.

“This was an incredibly difficult choice! If I could create a Frankenstein hero it would have Vandana Shiva’s encompassing activism and tenacity, Gloria Steinem and Audre Lorde in a fusion of their feminisms, Hannah Arendt’s complexity of vision and thought, and Frida Kahlo, Anne Sexton, and Anais Nin’s ability to delve into the depths of their own souls and bear what they found there to the public through their art.

Instead, if I must embrace only one, I must embrace Susan Sontag. She was many things during her life: a writer, a reader, a film and play director, an activist, a truth-seeker. Above all, she was a lover of knowledge and experience and an observer who could not remain simply an observer. Reading Sontag’s writings, within which one can experience her learning as she wrote while learning about how she lived her life, have been great sources of inspiration for me.

She did not shy away from controversial topics nor did she mind exploring the paradox, pain, and beauty of being human.

She understood that it is through language that we breathe, whether that is in the writing or the reading, the telling or the listening. Susan found comfort in beauty and lived for those experiences that broadened her understanding of the world. Forever open and learning and willing to share her thoughts on everything from literature to politics.

The thing I love most about Susan is that she holds reading in the highest regard. I am learning from reading her even as I find pieces of myself in her pages, those pieces of me that desire to do better. I suppose this is what a hero is for me: someone that I can identify with just a little but who has pushed far beyond where I am. The pieces I identify with are like breadcrumbs leading me into and through myself, through my fears, and out into the world, searching at first for where they left off and then beginning the work of building atop their foundations with the voice that I discovered I had along the way.”

For more info visit The Susan Sontag Foundation, which awards prizes for translations of literature, at 

Read Cori Schumacher’s Pro Chat interview here and her Beyond Gidget feature on overselling sexiness in women’s surfing here. She blogs at

To read the past My Hero interviews with Laura Enever, Keala Kennelly and Jenna Selby click here

Cori Schumacher by Chris Grant/


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