Showing posts with label Ocean Rhythms. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ocean Rhythms. Show all posts

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

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Event: Seventies Sessions

PT's Seventies Sessions
A no pressure, no judges, fun event

My good friend, former '76 World Surf Champion, Peter Townend [PT], is putting on what he calls the Seventies Sessions Surfing event this weekend in his home beach of Huntington Beach.

In the true spirit of the decade of the Seventies, this weekend in Huntington Beach as part of the new 'Surf City Days' weekend the inaugural 'Seventies Sessions' event will take place.

In a celebration of the surfboard culture that swept the globe in the Seventies, heavily impacting in Huntington Beach, this event was inspired by the Golden Breed Expression Sessions on Hawaii's North Shore in the early Seventies. These events were less about competition, they had no judges or scoring system, no winners and losers, but instead were focused clearly on the creative individual expression of wave riding.

The 'Seventies Sessions' will be no different says PT, with a congregation of forty-eight [48] participants gathering in front of the Waterfront Hilton to surf from 8:00a.m. until 1:00p.m. on Saturday September, 17th. Then retire back across the street to the Hilton Hotel's 'West Coast Club' to drink a few beers and 'Talk Story' on those who surfed best and the stories behind the boards they brought to ride.

Here's the unique hook; participants are required to bring their own boards and those baords must have been made under a Huntington Beach surfboard maker's label during the time period of the Seventies.

Photo #1 - PT riding his hollow W.A.V.E.
at Tea Tree Bay Noosa, 1974.
Photo: Steve Core
Some of those classic '70s Huntington surfboard brands are still around like Check Dent, Randy Lewis, The Greek and Robert August, some have left town like Infinity and Walden, while others have become extinct like Plastic Fantastic, RC, Hawk, David Nuuhiwa/Dyno, Carl Hayward, Bronzed Aussies, Wayne Brown, Corky Carroll Spacesticks, Sunline, Creative Designs and Gordie.

RELATED: Huntington Surfboard Pioneer 'Gordie' passes away.

The format is much the same as the original North Shore, Hawaii event, with four one hour heats of twelve and one final one hour heat 'Free For All' with everyone invited to participate - to express themselves on their vintage weapon of choice.
PT, late afternoon backside turn
at Gas Chambers/Rocky Point,
North Shore, Hawaii.
December '77
Photo: Steve Core

Event producer and organiser Peter 'PT' Townend of The ActivEmpire [ATE] says; “I participated in the last of the very original Golden Breed Expression Sessions on Hawaii's North Shore and that's where the inspiration for this event is coming to me from - only this weekend our event will adapt a localised Huntington Beach flavour”.

Of further interest, PT also posted a couple of old surfing photos of him [taken by me] on his Facebook site this week. I had not seen these photos in many years and they come to us from courtesy of the extensive PT Collection.

Photo #1 above: We were chasing some cyclone surf and headed up North to Noosa from the Gold Coast. Ended up with some nice clean surf at Tea Tree Bay, Noosa. I took this shot from sitting on my surfboard with my Nikons II waterproof film camera in 1974. PT is riding is hollow W.A.V.E surfboard. This is the same board that he rode in the "Pipeline Rights' sequence in my 1975 16mm film 'Ocean Rhythms'.

Photo #2 [left] Originally a Kodachrome slide, I snapped this shot very late one overcast afternoon at Gas Chambers/Rocky Point in Hawaii a few days before Christmas in December '77. PT said this week, that this is just about his favourite backside shot of himself ever.
The view down over Huntington Beach from
the rooms at the Waterfront Hilton. Nice.

Thanks for sharing PT and we should have some photos of the Seventies Sessions to post next week.


Ocean Rhythms is available on DVD
Some Ocean Rhythms stockists are: Saltwater Dreaming Phuket - Heritage Surf, ManlyJackson Surfboards, Caringbah, - Express Surfboards, Taren Point

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