Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Peter Townend: Why Midget Mattered

Why Midget Mattered

by Peter Townend
Monday, August 8, 2016

Courtesy of the WSL

It's hard to put into words the impact Bernard 'Midget' Farrelly had on the surfing world, but he was certainly responsible for making Australia one of surfing's great superpowers.

In the early 1960s the World Championship Tour didn't exist, but the Makaha International did. From 1954 onwards, the annual winter event was held on Oahu's west side. That's where world champions were crowned in those early days. The event was steeped in Hawaiian style, with 24-man heats narrowing the field down through the hundreds of entries. 

The vast majority of competitors were local Hawaiians or Californian transplants. In the broad stream media, surfing's first boom was underway with the Gidget craze in America, and Hawaii was still considered the edge of the surfing universe.

Shortboard revolutionary. 
Midget Farrelly came of age riding traditional longboards, but he remained a key player Down Under during the shortboard revolution with his evolutionary performances. - WSL

It was in this environment, in late 1962, that a young Midget Farrelly arrived in Hawaii with a few friends from Australia to give the Makaha competition a go.

When he won the Hawaiian event early in 1963, he quickly became Australia's first face of surfing. Midget's success was a pivotal step in importation of the surfing boom Down Under. Thanks to Midget, Australians would host their own elite tour event as early as 1964.

Groms like myself who grew up in Australia in the '60s were all diehard readers of his column in the Sunday paper. And we were rabid fans of the Farrelly Surf Show on ABC. I can still vividly remember huddling around the one TV set in the house to watch his latest adventures, which included safaris around the world. And, naturally, I had his book, The Surfing Life.

Bells 1974 
Midget Farrelly and Peter Townend talking design at Bells Beach in 1974. - WSL

The first time I crossed paths with Midget I was at my home beach in Greenmount Point in 1970. The Australian Titles were being held and I had made the Queensland team for the first time. I was able to mingle firsthand with all the top surfers, a starry-eyed grommet just soaking it in.

Our Queensland local hero Peter Drouyn (now known as Westerly Windina) won over Midget, Nat Young, Ted Spencer and Keith Paull. That same year, after Midget ran second to Rolf Aurness at the Bells Beach World Titles, a picture came out in Witzig's Surf Magazine. The image showed speed, rhythm and style. Back then, style mattered. I was a 16-year-old Coolangatta teen, inspired.

Cutback at Makaha 
Midget's performance at Makaha in early 1963 helped propel Australian surfing into its future as a dominant force on the international scene. - WSL

During the '73 North Shore Winter season, Midget turned up in Hawaii for the first time in years. He invited me to go over to Makaha with him for a surf. It was my first time on the west side. It was a perfect little offshore day, and of course Midget was still treated like royalty around there. He introduced me to Buffalo Keaulana and all the boys for the first time.

After that we went to a luau at the Aikaus (the famous cemetery house). We were able to swap stories with the family, a moment I will always treasure. It was as real as you can get when it comes to Hawaiian family culture.
Groms like myself who grew up living in Australia in the '60s were all diehard readers of his column in the Sunday paper. And we were rabid fans of the Farrelly Surf Show on the ABC Television network.
It can be argued that Midget was Australia's best competitive surfer of the 1960s, winning Makaha in '63, the inaugural ISA World Title in '64, runner-up to Hemmings in Puerto Rico in '68 and then finally runner-up to Rolf Aurness at Bells in '70. No one had that kind of consistency in that decade.

He was also a master shaper/designer. He was always pushing the envelope. The quality of Midget Farrelly Surfboards was second to none. It quickly became a staple of the Australian surfboard industry.

Despite his accomplishments, his style, and his contribution to design, he was often overlooked by surf historians. When Surfer Magazine's "50 Greatest Surfers of All Time" issue came out in 2009, I was mortified that they'd left him out, and I let the editors know it. 

He's an Australian surfing icon that can't be forgotten. When it came to speed, rhythm and style, Midget was the best. I wanted to surf just like him.

WSL Editor's Note: Peter Townend is recognized as the first world champion of pro surfing's modern era. He won the first world tour in 1976, closely followed in '78 by another Australian, Wayne "Rabbit" Bartholomew. 

Australians would continue to dominate for most of the next decade, with Mark Richards, Simon Anderson, and Cheyne Horan all playing pivotal roles. But each one of them will be the first to tell you that the age of Australian dominance all began with Midget Farrelly.

To read the WSL's latest news and info click here

Related: Below a tribute clip of Midget Farrelly - hang-gliding from Steve Core's 1975 surf film 'Ocean Rhythms'

To purchase 'Ocean Rhythms' on DVD on-line from the Steve Core Store click here

Friday, August 5, 2016

Member of the Senate gets in the Flow

Surfing's Green Senator

Current Tasmanian Greens Senator and surfer, Peter Whish-Wilson called into the Scamander Beach Surf Shop today to pick up his personally signed DVD copy of my '71 surf movie: 'In Natural Flow'.

Tasmanian Greens Senator
Peter Whish-Wilson
Photo opportunities were grasped - not battling the news hungry media scrum on the front steps of Parliament House in Canberra, but on the serene front deck of Dale Matheson's Scamander Beach Surf Shop on Lagoon Esplanade, in sleepy, but idyllic Scamander Beach, Tasmania. No better a location!

Peter is no stranger to these parts and not just a politician on a coastal run lending an ear to the local resident's concerns.

With a long and colourful history of being closely connected to the ocean, Peter is a past president of the North Branch of the Tasmanian Surfrider's Association. 

Over the years he's also been a regular in the water at the many classy surf breaks that surround the wholesome area.

My thanks go to Dale Matheson of the Scamander Beach Surf Shop for the great photo.

Being one of 76 Senators; I don't know how many Senators have pictures of pristine Australian surf breaks proudly hanging on their office walls in their offices inside the Parliament House building - but check the untarnished shot of Scamander Beach [below] that PWW has displayed in his Canberra office.

Being a Greens Senator - I guess that a fantastic ocean inspired nature shot is highly apropos. The windswept photo was taken by Dale Matheson on 2006.

The Senate is one of two houses in the Australian Federal Parliament and shares the power to make laws with the other House of Parliament, the House of Representatives.

Scamander Beach is located on Tasmania's North-East Coast - just 15-minutes south of the East Coast's biggest town, St Helens.

The image of Scamander River Mouth
that Tasmanian Greens' Senator

Peter Whish-Wilson has hanging 
on his office wall in Canberra
[click to enlarge]
If you're heading on a surf trip down Tasmania's East Coast and you need to pick up any surf related items or just want to talk to a highly experienced local surf native about the best spots to check out for the prevailing conditions - then make sure you call into the Scamander Beach Surf Shop or it's sister shop; the Bay Surf Shop in St Helens.

For all Dale's local contact details please click here

Check on the Tasmanian Greens by clicking here

Purchase 'In Natural Flow' by clicking here

Also view at #stevecoresurf on Instagram - click here

Friday, July 8, 2016

Wayne 'Rabbit' Bartholomew from Ocean Rhythms - '75

Wayne 'Rabbit' Bartholomew from Ocean Rhythms

1978 WSL World Surfing Champion; 'Rabbit' Bartholomew brings his unique Gold Coast tube-riding style to the hollow right-handers of Summercloud Bay on the NSW South Coast. Film sequence lifted from Steve Core's 1975 released, 16mm film Ocean Rhythms.

Ocean Rhythms multi-system DVDs are available for world-wide sale on-line at stevecorestore

Ocean Rhythms will be downloadable soon from #greenroomsurfmovies on Instagram - click here.

Also view at #stevecoresurf on Instagram - click here

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Bennett Surfboards turns 60 ...

Bennett Surfboards turns 60

Produced by Velvet Sea - this is a great 5-minute look at iconic Australian Surfboard maker - Bennett Surfboards of Brookvale on Sydney's northern beaches.

A family based business, Bennett Surfboards have been in business since 1956 - that's longer than another other surfboard manufacturer in Australia. 60 years.

Barry's son Greg runs the day-to-day business now.

In the late 1950s surfing exploded in America when Hollywood movies like 'Gidget' where released. In the early '60s boards where being made out of foam and founder, Barry Bennett was on the forefront of the revolution being among the first to blow foam surfboard blanks in Australia.

Born in 1931, Barry started building plywood and balsa surfboards and skis in the 1956 at Waverly in the eastern suburbs of Sydney which quickly became a full-time job. He formed Bennett Surfboards in 1960 and opened a factory dedicated to the manufacture of surfboards and blanks in Brookvale.

During this time a steady stream of surfers who were to become some of Australia’s best surfboard craftsmen were also cutting their teeth in the Bennett factory in Brookvale. Bob McTavish, Geoff McCoy, Nat Young and Midget Farrelly were among many who spent time in the factory honing their skills.

Bennett Surfboards have survived in Brookvale after fellow industry pioneers, Gordon Woods Surfboards, Bill Wallace Surfboards, Dale Surfboards have become history.

Fellow industry icon, Bill Wallace, retired from shaping surfboards in 2012 at the age of 86.

To visit Bennett Surfboards website click here