A Definitive History of Surfing's Culture and Heroes
By Malcolm Gault-Williams
This Chapter Updated: 1 March 2008
( "Endless Summer" poster courtesy of John Van Hammersveld )
Aloha! And welcome to this chapter of LEGENDARY SURFERS. The surfing year 1964 was dominated by the first international surfing contest held at Manly Beach, Australia -- attended by the largest numbers of spectators the sport has ever seen. Significant also was the rise of Australia's first international champion surfer Midget Farrelly and Hawaii's Joey Cabell. 1964 was the year when Da Bull and Mike Stange opened up Outside Pipeline, and Bruce Brown's masterpiece The Endless Summer gave surfers and non-surfers alike a view on what surf bounty the planet provides us every day...
“In ‘63 when I won the contest at Makaha (then recognised as the
unofficial world title), people’s attention focused away from the [Australian]
surf club and onto the actual riding of the wave with a surfboard...”
“Whatever that [1963 Australian] world contest did for me doesn’t
matter. It just does not matter. What happened was that it took surfing
from the back stalls [in Australia] to the front stage in one fell swoop.”
“It was unbelievable -- we even outdrew the Beatles.”
“Those people at that contest [1964 Makaha International] -- Doyle,
Curren, LJ, Joey, Dewey and even some guys I still know today like Donald
Takayama -- were special people because they were guys who went out and
did it for reasons that weren’t written down somewhere. They were really
The year 1964 contained key elements that would determine the course of the remainder of the decade. The U.S. involvement in the civil war in Vietnam escalated to the point of no return; the Ranger VII space probe returned close-up photographs of the surface of the moon from moon orbit; race riots in a number of cities were sparked in reaction to enforcement of civil rights laws; Martin Luther King, Jr. received the Nobel Peace Prize; and dances that were varieties of the Twist -- the Watusi, Frug, Monkey, Funky Chicken and others -- drew many young people to discotheques popularized by go-go girls.
Surfing was taking off all over the world. Surf music was popular. More importantly for the emergent culture, “Surfing films and magazines spread the good word,” wrote Nat Young, “about Baja in Mexico, Jefferys Bay in South Africa, Rincon and Steamer Lane in California, Waimea and Sunset in Hawaii, Bells Beach and Byron Bay in Australia.”
Beginning the year, in February, a three-day spell of strong east
winds created a freak day of 18-foot surf at Sandy Beach. “A photo of Leroy
Achoy taken this day,” noted Surfer magazine in 1992, “is still
used on Bank of Hawaii checks.” That summer, Midget Farrelly won
the International Championship at Manly, Australia. Also, The Endless
Summer was first shown and would quickly make an impact on the sport
to both surfers and non-surfers alike. In the fall, Joey Cabell won the
Makaha International and Da Bull first rode Outside
Pipeline. It was a momentous time.
Australian Surfing Emerges
Although equipment and riding styles stayed the same for a long time
in the early decades of Austalian surfing, Australian surfers started to
make an impact on world surfing beginning in the early 1960s. Their influence
continues to present day.
First 50 Years of Surfing in Oz
Before surfing, Australia had its wave riding roots in bodysurfing, dating all the way to the beginning years of the Twentieth Century. It’s false start with surfing started a decade later, in 1912, after a visit to the Hawaiian Islands by Australian C.D. Patterson. He returned to Manly Beach, outside Sydney, with a Hawaiian redwood surfboard. The thing was that neither he nor anyone around knew how to ride the thing.
Really, Australian surfing got its start after Duke Kahanamoku came to Australia in 1914-15 and gave surfing demonstrations at Freshwater Beach. At one point, he made a tandem demonstration, choosing a 15-year-old girl named Isabel Latham. She went on to become the country’s first women’s surfing champion.
As time went on, the Australian surf lifesaving movement harbored a special place for surfers as an organized sport that was joined at the hip with lifeguarding.
In 1926, C.J. “Snowy” McAllister emerged as Australia’s first great surfer, winning the men’s surfing championship that year and the year following. In 1928, at the Australian championships at Newcastle, Snowy’s headstand surfing during the final heat made local headlines after the move locks him in for his third straight title win. Australia saw other champions to follow, like:Frank Adler in 1934, riding a Tom Blake style hollowboard.
That same year, Dr. G. A. “Saxon” Crackenthorp invented the first “surf ski.” It was an 8’ long by 28” wide by 6” thick plank of cedar designed to have its rider sit on the deck to propel and steer with a paddle.
After Duke’s introduction of stand-up surfing to Australia, the next major surfing milestone in the Land Down Under occurred during the Melbourne Olympic games when American lifeguard-surfers Tommy Zahn, Greg Noll, Mike Bright and Bob Burnside brought their Malibu Boards with them, demonstrating the union of balsa and fiberglass to a country still riding Blake-style hollowboards. Riding between Avalon and Torquay, the Americans got the attention of surfers in the area, inspiring the sudden switch from hollowboards to balsa/fiberglassed Malibu-style boards.
Shortly thereafter, that year, Roger “The Duck” Keiran became the first Aussie to start building boards after the Malibu Chip model – some of which were left behind by the visiting Americans. Quick evolution was soon to follow, as documented in a brief rundown of Australian history written by Ryan Smith for a 2000 issue of Longboard magazine:
“1958. Filmmaker Bud Browne travels from California to Australia to shoot the happenings of the growing surf boom. Browne meets a local surfer, Bob Evans, who agrees to show some of Browne’s movies at select theaters. The foreign footage of the popular hot-dog style now en vogue in Hawaii and California wows the crowds, and soon everyone in Oz is trying to imitate it.”
Ryan Smith continued:
“1958. The first shipment of custom-ordered balsa wood blanks from Equador lands in Australia… Some of the early manufacturers to specialize in balsa are Barry Bennett, Bill Clymer, Joe Larkin, Bill Wallace and Gordon Woods. The next year, over 1500 Malibu-style balsa boards are produced…
“1959. American Bob Cooper – a one-time employee of Dale Velzy – arrives in Australia to blow foam for Sydney board-builder Barry Bennett, and eventually settles in Manly. While a part of the local scene, Cooper recognizes the raw talent of one of the young surfers, Bernard ‘Midget’ Farrelly. Cooper encourages Farrelly to refine his skills, and is instrumental in bringing the California beach style of dress to Midget, and then Australia.
“1961. Midget Farrelly, Charlie Cardiff, Dave Jackman, Bob Pike, Owne Pillan, Mike Hickey, Mick McCann, Tank Henry, Gordon Simpson, Nipper Williams and Graham Treloar head to Hawaii aboard the Oriana, becoming the first Australians to surf The Islands. Some of the Aussies enter the 9th International Surfing Championships at Makaha, but lack of Hawaiian experience keeps any of them from doing well in the contest.
“1961. A few surfing members of a Torquay boating crew discover the wrapping, perfect waves of Bell’s Beach in Victoria.”
The poor showing of the Aussies in the 1961 Makaha Championships changed radically the next year:
“1962. Midget Farrelly wins the 10th International Surfing Championship at Makaha is small surf, becoming the first Australian to win a major surfing event, and is considered the Australian champ.
“1962. In September, Bob Evans releases the first issue of Surfing World, two years after John Severson prints The Surfer in California.
“1962. Cutting-edge shaper/surfer Bob McTavish and David Chidgey stow away to The Islands aboard the Orsava with help from some other Hawaii-bound surfers. After weeks of dodging the ship’s crew and hours of waiting while the Orsava docks, the two finally sneak off to experience Hawaii; unfortunately, the pair get deported back to Sydney after word of their disappearance makes newspaper headlines.
“1963. The Australian Surf-Riders Association becomes the umbrella organization for a series of smaller, local clubs along the coastlines.
“1964. The first official World Contest is held at Manly Beach, and
are organized by Bob Evans. Close to 65,000 spectators – the largest gathering
in surfing history – flock the sand and see Midget Farrelly hot-dog his
way to the men’s world title.”
Surfers vs. Surf Clubs
“To get it right,” Australia’s first world champion Bernard ‘Midget’ Farrelly clarified, “a few things happened in surfing simultaneously to make it suddenly popular around the time of the contest. It came from nowhere almost.
“Prior to ‘63 there were surf clubs and a few breakaway surfers who’d left the surf clubs and they’d gone surfing and had a little bit of fun, but they were sort of just a fringe group. At that stage the surf club was seen as the institution at the beach. The real hard core surf club guys were living one of the only alternative lifestyles that was available to them.”
“The clubs were an intriguing phenomenon,” wrote John Grissim in Pure Stoke. “By the mid-50s they had evolved into elaborate organizations with their own clubhouses, social functions, fund-raising, and an elite membership of enthusiastic watermen who trained hard for position on club teams which would compete against each other in regional and national surf carnivals. During these much ballyhooed events squads of ‘clubbies’ wearing uniform bathing caps, Speedo trunks, and club jerseys would parade barefoot by beach reviewing stands carrying flags, then test their mettle in such skills as paddleboarding, belt-and-line retrieving, and launching rescue dories through big surf. The whole ritual was paramilitary in character, shot through with patriotic overtones and steeped in the tradition of clean living, discipline, and good order (except during parties when the suds flowed). For many a young man in Australia, membership in these ranks was a cherished goal.
“In ‘63 when I won the contest at Makaha (then recognised as the unofficial world title),” Midget Farrelly recalled, “people’s attention focused away from the surf club and onto the actual riding of the wave with a surfboard, which more or less didn’t exist in people’s minds before that.
“They saw surf club life -- the paddling, the swimming, the boats -- as it. But the focus turned away to a sport that ‘Joe Blows’ might be interested in -- surfing.”
“Yet, the authorities still looked on surfing with skepticism,” emphasized Nat Young, a later Australian champion. “The conflict between surf club members and surfboard riders was intensified by the introduction of a system which allotted different parts of each beach to the different surfers. The local municipal councils had strong connections with the surf life saving movement and forced board riders to register their boards and pay a fee; the lifesavers were instructed to police the system. Surfers who rode waves in the ‘wrong’ area ran the risk of having their boards confiscated; this led to real confrontation when some riders refused to let surf club members take their boards. There were also a few isolated brawls between surfies and ‘rockers,’ who were basically bike riders from the landlocked western suburbs; media publicity about the conflicts helped give surfies a bad name. This got even worse when two of Australia’s finest surfers, Bob McTavish and David Chidgy, stowed away on the Orsova while saying goodbye to some other Hawaiian-bound surfers. With so much flak hitting them the surfers decided to form their own association, and in 1963 clubs were created all along the east coast and banded together in the Australian Surfriders’ Association.”
“Because surfboards were down to 10 feet,” Midget Farrelly pointed out, “readily available and cost about a week’s wages then -- sort of still do for some -- suddenly a door opened and surfing reached the masses and that contest signalled the major point of that occurrence... a lot of people took up surfing and it boomed.”
“Just prior to the world contest,” Midget continued, “surfing had become so popular that the people who had always had control of the beach -- the surf club, the beach inspectors, the council -- they saw us as an aberration and wanted to control the sport.
“You know, ‘Why weren’t we in the club?’ ‘Why weren’t we members of something?’ ‘How come we were just people out there doing it purely for selfish reasons?’
“And to a certain extent we suffered because we were free and the authorities of the time went out of their way to curtail what we were doing. They tried to make us register our surfboards. [Then] They tried to ban us altogether...
“Having to register your board is an embarrassment! Imagine someone coming from another country and he can’t go surfing because his board’s not registered! (laughs) Our image to the rest of the public was very strong... they saw us as glamorous.”
“The surf clubs were behaving out of jealousy and frustration and we needed to defend ourselves and that’s basically what we did. We had an event that shook up the surfing world [the 1964 world championships at Manly].”
“In the previous decade or so,” Mike Doyle wrote in Morning Glass, “surfing in Australia had grown to a level of importance it has never reached in the United States, and the Australians took their role as hosts for the contest very seriously. Australia is a water-conscious country; almost everybody there lives along the coast, everybody swims, and almost everybody surfs or at least bodysurfs. The Australians were very proud of their watermen, and hosting a world surfing contest was an opportunity for them to show the rest of the world what Australia was all about. An American equivalent might be a baseball world series, but with every baseball-playing country in the world invited to compete.”
“When Hawaii and California saw us have the first world championship here,” Midget said, “can you imagine what they thought? They went, ‘Can you believe these Australians!’ The very next year the Peruvians went, ‘We’re having a world title!’ and it was wonderful, we were all off to Peru.
“Whatever that world contest did for me doesn’t matter. It just does
not matter. What happened was that it took surfing from the back stalls
[in Australia] to the front stage in one fell swoop.”
World Championships at Manly
Midget Farrelly followed his Makaha win of Fall 1963 with another dramatic win at Manly Beach, N.S.W., Australia, on May 17, 1964. It was the first year Australia hosted an international surfing event and -- counting Makaha -- the second time an Australian won a world surfing title.
“It’s difficult to explain to people the excitement that event caused,” wrote Mike Doyle, one of the contestants. “Today there are major surf contests held almost every week somewhere in the world, but at that time, there was only the Makaha, held once a year in Hawaii. So when the Australians announced they would be hosting a world championship, we were thrilled. This was going to be the first truly international surf contest.”
The 1st Australian International Championship was organized by Bob Evans and sponsored by Ampol Oil, a major Australian corporation. “They not only covered the costs of organizing the event,” Doyle pointed out, “but they paid for the hotel accommodations for all the foreign competitors. The contest was covered live by three Australian television stations that had helicopters hovering above the water.”
“Because of the judging problems which had been experienced in Hawaii
a judge was flown in from each participating country,” wrote Young, “and
this helped make the contest a fantastic success.”
Phil Edwards, Judge
“‘Bloody good!’ they would yell,” Phil Edwards, an American judge at Manly, wrote of the scene at Manly that First World Contest, “and ‘Crack the corner!’ they would yell -- meaning, by translation, Shoot the Curl.”
“I had climbed off the plane and been met by a band of local surfers,” Edwards recalled. We had adjourned to a kind of garage-like building somewhere downtown; there was a keg of Australian superbeer sitting in the middle of the room. The Aussie beer is about twice -- maybe three times -- more powerful than American beer. And it was warm, which delivers the message considerably quicker.
“In about one hour I had no idea where I was.
“‘Edwards,’ they would say, ‘how do you like the Australian surf?
“So far I had seen the airport and this garage. ‘How do you like it?’ I would say. And they would clap me on the back and shout, ‘I knew you’d agree! It’s bloody marvelous, that’s what it is.’
“And it was, at that, a cross between southern California and Hawaii
-- and on contest day the line of people stretched for more than a mile
along the Sydney waterfront.”
May 17, 1964
“On the first day there was a crowd of 65,000 watching,” wrote Young, “the biggest crowd ever assembled in the history of surfing... Midget Farrelly won, proving that what had happened in Hawaii two years earlier was no fluke.”
In the final, Midget was up against Californians Joey Cabell, Mike Doyle and Little John Richards, and Aussies Mick Dooley and Bobby Brown.
“They were all excellent surfers,” Midget credited, acknowledging that even though Joey Cabell made an impressive showing by coming in third after he hadn’t surfed for six months previous; only snow skiing, “...Doyle would have been the winner. Cabell dropped in... but Cabell couldn’t ‘walk‘ anyway... if you can’t ‘walk’ you can’t surf. See a longboard has two extremes. It’s what you do on the front of the board and what you do on the back of the board. Cabell couldn’t walk. He shuffled. You must step one foot ahead of the other.
“If you think about it you’d have to take at least three steps to get from the back to the front of a 10 foot board. If you’re fading a left, snapping a top turn and you’re going to follow that with a hang ten then you’ve got to run at least three steps to the front.
“Cabell didn’t. He turned from the middle of the board and shuffled to the nose. But he had great ability, a natural athlete -- but he didn’t ‘walk.’“
Addressing the boards of the day, Midget rhetorically asked:
“Why ride a longboard on a wave that you’d be better off riding a shortboard on? The real answer is that a longboard always went good from one foot to head high.
“Over head high they become uncontrollable! The design was so bad then, I mean, look at all the old movies of guys riding longboards at Sunset and Waimea, it’s a joke. How did they do it?
“That contest in 1964 was a pure state-of-the-art small wave surfboard riding event. The head judge was Phil Edwards, who at the time had the ultimate repertoire.”
“So what it came down to that day was Doyle could have won because he had all the manoeuvres and could walk. L.J. Richards could have won because he was an excellent walker. Dooley could do it and so could Bobby Brown, so they could have won.
“I knew the full repertoire. And it’s sort of like I knew what I had to do to win. If you do get those waves and then you do what has to be done then all the buttons are pushed.”
Later on in the year, Bob Evans wrote in the brand new Australian surf mag Surfing World, that Midget’s approach was “functional and to use only the critical part of the swell then, demonstrating mimimum effort, to manoeuvre only as much as these rather unchallenging waves suggested.”
“I think it’s accurate for how he saw it,” Midget acknowledged thirty years later. “Once again, Bob was a guy who couldn’t ‘walk‘ a board. He grew up through the hollow board period where you stood on the tail with your knees locked and your arms in the crucifix position and you looked graceful.”
“Manly at two to four feet is not about taking the drop and surviving the hold down!” Midget laughed at the image. “Riding a two to four foot wave on a 10’6” longboard is almost about a dance.
“There are a set of manoeuvres that form a repertoire and if you get the right wave, and your board works, and you’re good, you can perform all those manoeuvres in harmony and pull off a perfect score.”
Midget won the contest in the final minute, catching a good one on the inside.
Thirty years after winning the title, Midget had high praise for Mike “Ironman” Doyle, “probably the best waterman surfing’s ever seen... He could ride any ocean...
“I’ve seen Doyle ride one foot waves on a longboard. I’ve seen Doyle ride closeout Waimea on a gun. I’ve seen Doyle win tandem. Doyle could bodysurf Pipeline. I know Doyle can paddle and I know Doyle can swim. Now, if you think about what that all means it’s that he’s complete.
“Even Eddie Aikau [later on in the decade and on into the 1970s], who could ride giant Waimea, bodysurf anything, wasn’t that great on a shortboard, didn’t do tandem and may have not been a paddler. You can take any world champion since 1964 and it’s the same. I mean, it’s going to be a long time until you see another Doyle...
“You have to look at the bodysurfing, the paddling, the swimming. Doyle was a lifeguard. It’s really hard for young guys [in the 1990s] to accept what I’m saying, but I wouldn’t even claim to be 25 percent of what Doyle was. No one had the versatility that Doyle had.”
“After the main competition was over,” Doyle wrote, “Linda Benson (the top woman surfer in the world at that time) and I put on a tandem demonstration that was covered on national television. Many Australians had never seen tandem surfing before, and they were fascinated by the grace of the sport. In fact several Australians told us later they thought our tandem demonstrations had been the highlight of the contest.”
Asked what he remembered most about May 17, 1964, Midget Farelly responded: “Probably the crowd, the huge number of people. Conservatively 60,000. At the other end of the scale 80,000 -- it was a lot of people.
“We didn’t have a lot of sports then. The prominent sports were cricket, football, swimming, some athletics and tennis. The population of Australia was pretty small at that time and there wasn’t that much to do... people were interested in anything new and surfing was a new sport.”
Asked about what Manly Beach was like in 1964, Midget said, “It wasn’t much different. It was a little more dowdier, it looks heaps better now, but it was sort of a centre of surfing because the beaches north of here hadn’t filled out with little groups of surfers. They weren’t there.
“The surfing population was still relatively small and whereas today every beach has its locals who know it back to front -- that wasn’t the case then.
“The water was still relatively clean then. The North Head sewerage works hadn’t really polluted it that badly. The population of Sydney was smaller, it was a reasonably good place to be in 1964.”
“In a country that was said to have a lot of cultural cringe,” Midget said of the Manly win, “it provided pride.
“You had to be around to see the magnitude of what that event was. For me it was just part of my surfing, but it gave a lot of Australians an enormous sense of pride in what they were when it came to surfing.
“In those days politicians and the Church told you what to do and when a sport like surfing came along, it was a freedom, a great freedom, and we jumped into it and we made it our lives. A lot of people identified with that and they saw it as the start of a completely new thing.
“Surfing was all new. Nobody knew what it’s limitations were. It
was like a pretty girl with no reputation. Like, ‘Nobody knows -- anything
Bernard “Midget” Farrelly, Australia’s 1st World Champ
The son of a Manly, New South Wales, cab driver, Bernard “Midget” Farrelly was “a good-looking, articulate, law-abiding athlete whose rapid rise in the surfing contest ranks was unprecedented,” wrote John Grissim in Pure Stoke.
“As a youngster,” Nat Young added, “Farrelly had lived for short periods in Canada and New Zealand before his folks decided to settle in Sydney. His nickname came when people saw him riding a plywood board at Manly; he was mighty small for his age. His uncle, Bondi boardman Ray Hookham, encouraged him in the early days, and he learnt by watching Nipper Williams and Mick Dooley as well.”
Midget had started surfing in 1955, at age 12. By age 14, he was, as he put it, “surfing at Freshwater with a lot of older guys.” He would go on to become a “precision” surfer through the 1960s, the head of the “functional” school of surfing, author of 1966’s The Surfing Life, world champion in 1964, and runner-up in 1968 and 1970.
“... and we saw some Bud Browne movies at the local surf clubs,” Midget continued, talking of when he was 14, circa 1957-58, “and that footage was what inspired us to go to Hawaii -- my first trip there was in ‘60-’61 -- where I actually met Peter Cole, Ricky Grigg, George Downing, Wally Froiseth and the rest of ‘em. I saw that they were around surfing, but working as teachers, firemen, that kind of thing; always with access to waves, living on the North Shore, always tuned in. What a rich, beautiful scene! I stayed with Marge Calhoun for a couple of months. I slept on the floor at Jose Angel‘s house. And those people, when I see them today in Bud’s movie, I’m still overwhelmed by the strength of character, by the pleasure in their faces. There was just something so uncorrupted about their involvement with surfing, something so honest. And so that era, and those people, set a pattern for me that I’ve never really moved away from.”
Like all surfers, Midget watched his heroes closely in order to improve his own surfing. “I knew that there were a whole lot of people out there that were better than me in the water,” said Midget, “...and that whenever I got around them there was something I was going to learn from them.
“I guess what was really important to me about it was that the point had been reached where I was able to compete in the water with the people I’d seen in movies and magazines and that I had respect for as water people. There were a lot of girls surfing then who were very good too and to be with those people was great. People who had made a life for themselves doing something attractive visually.
“To have been an Australian who could surf and who could win and then who could go to other countries on an equal footing, I think that was a wonderful thing.”
Asked who inspired him, Midget responded:
“I saw Mickey Munoz‘s Quasimoto. I saw Mike Doyle‘s arches and cutbacks. I saw Phil Edwards‘ walk, his parallel nose ride and his drop knee. I saw Dewey Weber‘s flashing red board and boardshorts. I saw his head dip with his hands tucked behind his back. I saw L.J. Richards walking through whitewater on a 10 foot board and it was all beautiful skill being developed and all of them had something that I thought was wonderful.
“That goes for watching Curren (Tom’s dad Pat) at Waimea. Basically Curren was the only person who could ride Waimea accurately in those days. Pick the big wave, thread the top of it and make it across a difficult section. It was a period where there was a hell of a lot to be learnt.”
“When he returned to Australia as the accepted world champion,” Young
wrote of Midget, “he became a symbol of a new generation of surfers who
were more interested in surfing than surf clubs. Patrol duty and training
for the bronze medallion began to conflict with chasing waves (and girls)
and doing the stomp.”
Joey Cabell in Australia
By 1964, Joey Cabell had won the Malibu Invitational (1963) for his surfing, and the Rocky Mountain Division Class “C” for his skiing. He had opened a second Chart House restaurant and the Army had given him a 4F draft rating because of ski-related back problems. His image was a clean one and this drew the media and the Establishment to him. A California State Senate Resolution, “RELATING TO CONGRATULATING WORLD SURFING CHAMPION JOEY CABELL,” was read into the record on March 9, 1964.
“Some observers thought Joey had outsurfed both Midget and me,” recalled Mike Doyle, “but was given third place because he’d been too aggressive, dropping in too many times in front of other surfers. The Australians had emphasized that this contest was going to strengthen the international brotherhood of surfing, and I suppose the judges felt Joey’s aggressiveness had to be penalized.”
“In the six-man final of the Australian world contest,” wrote Matt Warshaw, “in reasonably good 2-4’ surf, Cabell shed his gentlemanly reputation and aced his opponents without mercy, dropping in time and again on waves that were already being ridden. There was a new ‘sportsmanship‘ or ‘interference’ rule, and Cabell didn’t understand how it worked, or thought it wouldn’t be enforced, or thought he could take the one-point-per-wave deduction and still win. Edwards, as the final authority in the judge’s stand, brought the full weight of the sportsmanship rule to bear. ‘There was a big thing on the judges’ stand,’ Edwards told Surfer magazine in 1989, ‘where they were going to give it to Joey. I came out really strong for Midget, for sportsmanship reasons.’ The results were announced: first place, Midget Farrelly; second, Mike Doyle; third, Cabell.”
“It’s not certain that Cabell would have won the contest if he hadn’t been penalized,” Warshaw continued. “The American surf magazines at the time all considered the results legitimate. Doyle’s world contest report for Surf Guide said the contest ‘was judged fairly and there were no complaints about who should have won.’ Today Doyle thinks Cabell would have gotten second -- maybe first. Nat Young‘s eternal feud with Farrelly stands as a mitigating factor, but Young has always said it was Cabell’s contest. ‘There were maybe 30 of my friends from the Collaroy Surfer’s Association on the beach,’ Young says today, ‘and there was no doubt among the group, no doubt, that Cabell won.’“
“Cabell thinks he should have won in ‘64,” Warshaw went on, “but says, ‘Phil was doing his job,’ and that he never held Edwards responsible for the lost world title. But his ambivalence comes through a few seconds later. ‘I might have been a little too aggressive for Phil’s taste: he was so laid back, you know. In fact, I’m sure that was it. I was just a little more aggressive than Phil could handle.’“
After the Manly Beach contest was over and most of the international guests had gone home, some stayed to taste Australian free surfing. Max Wetteland, the South African champion, and Gordon Burgess, representing Great Britain, hung out on the Sydney beaches for a few weeks.
Joey Cabell and Linda Benson -- then undisputed best woman surfer in the world -- took a safari up the coast. “What Joey did with the waves at Angourie for the witnessing entourage of Australian surfers,” wrote Nat Young who was 16 at the time and missed seeing Cabell’s free surfing because of school, “was the most significant input into local surfing up to that time; he really showed us the possibilities of what could be done on Australian waves. For the first time we saw how to make turns by bending the knees and pushing the board to make it jump around a section. He showed us how to shoot the curl and opened up the gate to riding it instead of shutting our eyes and putting our head in it.”
Bob McTavish was there and saw Joey work his magic on the winding
6’ tubes at Angourie. According to Young, “he told everyone that Cabell
had just set the new standard.”
Australia After Manly
Australia’s hosting of its first international surfing championship forever changed the nature of wave riding in the Land Down Under.
“What was happening in Australia,” wrote Nat Young, “was almost precisely what had happened in California earlier on. Surfing had become a cult. In September 1964, Bob Evans put out his first issue of Surfing World. Dave Jackman was taking on Australia’s biggest waves and conquered the much-feared Queenscliff bombora. The Atlantics had a smash hit with a number they called Bombora; soon surf music took over the local charts, the Australian group the Joy Boys recorded six surfing hits, and the Chantays and the Beach Boys invaded the record stores. Robert Helpmann, the ballet dancer, released Surfer Doll and Surf Dance; Barry Crocker recorded I Can’t Do The Stomp and who could ever forget Little Patti and My Blonde Headed Stompy Wompie Real Gone Surfer Boy? In the national stomping championships 45,000 kids stomped the afternoon away. Stomps were held at most surf clubs on Saturday and Sunday afternoons until some of the club foundations actually crumpled under the pressure, and an old theatre was hurriedly converted into Surf City for stompers.”
“When the second wave of surfers came along,” Midget Farelly declared, “with a different kind of behavior, I determined very early in the piece that I didn’t want to be like them.”
“Everything changed after ‘64,” continued Midget, “after the world
contest at Manly. Australian surfing had been a fairly purist pastime up
until that time, but just as the Dana Point Mafia had its influence in
America, and turned surfing into something other than what it really was,
the same thing was happening here. A fellow called Bob Evans was having
as much influence as he could, with his films and his magazine -- he was
more or less like John Severson, he had a magazine (Surfing World) that
supported his films, and both supported his lifestyle, which was based
around free trips, free cars, so on and so on. And his importance in the
surfing world was in large part dependent on annually creating new heroes.
And when the people I knew and respected saw what was happening, they said,
‘Hey, we’re out of here, we don’t want to know about this.’ After that,
whenever I was competing in a contest somewhere, I always thought about
guys like Dave Jackman, Bob Pike, Pat Curren,
Jose [Angel] -- how they’d never really made a change into that new world,
and how much I respected them for that.”
1st to 2nd Generation of Aussie Surfers
“So I’d grown up among the first full generation of Australian surfers,” Midget Farrelly continued, “and here comes the second wave, Australian and American, the manufactured heroes -- and they shocked me. They saw the spotlight, the possibility of income, and it just did the job on ‘em. Not all, but a lot. These were the first commercial surfers, and suddenly I was in the middle of this... I don’t know, this Coca-Cola world. This cardboard Coca-Cola culture. Surfers all of a sudden were opportunistic -- they wanted so much more than what they had. Like I remember standing on the beach with Don Hansen in 1964, and a plane flew by, and Don said, ‘See that jet, Midget? That’s me, I’m going to be flying around in a jet someday.’ And I said, ‘Hell with that, Don. I’m going to be down here riding waves in the sunshine.’ I was 18 or 19, but I already knew where the good stuff was.”
“I suppose it comes down to the individual,” reflected Midget, “and
his or her values. But certainly with money in the picture the thing is
going to attract people who wouldn’t otherwise be interested. And, again,
going back to the Bud Browne movies, what you
see there, really, is a group of beautifully adjusted people. I really
don’t think more money could have made life much better for them than it
already was. The guys who had money, and lots of it, had problems. The
people I admired -- well, when I began to meet people who had a lot of
money, those people weren’t anything like the people I admired. I was 16
when I first went to Hawaii, and I remember Buzzy
Trent looked at me and said, ‘Midget, it doesn’t matter what happens
in life, as long as you have a vegetable garden.’ The money goes. It always
does. It’s how you feel about what you’ve done and what you’re doing that
”The Endless Summer”
“Surf music, beach blanket movies and related popular culture spinoffs all had varying degrees of influence on the non-surfing public at large,” wrote Leonard Lueras in Surfing, The Ultimate Pleasure. “But ironically -- and in a strange twist of cinematic fate -- the most powerful pro-surfing medium of the Surfing Sixties was a 91-minute long, privately-produced surf movie that quietly challenged, and beat, Hollywood at its commercial and glamorous game.”
Lueras referred to The Endless Summer, Bruce Brown‘s most noted surf movie. It began as just another surf flick, put together with a bigger budget than was the norm. But it struck a chord in surfers the way no other surf movie had before. And after it stoked surfers, it would go on to stoke non-surfers as well.
First released a month after Manly, The Endless Summer, Leonard Lueras wrote in 1984, “generated a positive image and publicity windfall for the sport that is still remembered and felt twenty years later... arguably the most important and influential statement made about surfing in this century.”
“When The Endless Summer was first screened during the summer of 1964,” pointed out Lueras, “surfing’s public image was anything but healthy. The national press, which in those fragile times was ultra-conservative and squeamish about anything new and ‘hip,’ regularly painted a mental mural of surfing and surfers that dwelled on buzz words such as ‘beach bum,’ ‘anti-social‘ and ‘drug-induced.’“
Time magazine, very influential in helping mold public opinion in the mid-1960s, began a January 1964 news feature titled “Shooting the Tube” by linking surfing with drugs:
“Riding a board through the surf is a little like going on hashish. The addicts -- and there are 18,000 of them in the U.S. -- have their own fashions in everything from haircuts (long, but not too long) to swimsuits (cotton, a size too small). They speak a lingo of words like ‘hook‘ (the lip of a breaking wave) and ‘tube‘ (the cavern under the hook) and ‘wipe out‘ (a spill into the boiling froth). They listen to apostles, who preach: ‘When the surf is good, you’ve got to go and get it. Work is secondary. Once you’re about 30, then it’s time to take a solid job.’“
“That sort of negative word-play in an international news magazine was bad enough,” underscored Lueras, “but an even more despicable image bummer surfaced during 1964 when the media played up a story about a pathetic cat burglar known as Jack ‘Murph the Surf’ Murphy. Murphy had nothing to do with surfing or surfers, but his nickname made bold and memorable headlines that year after he and others were arrested and convicted for stealing a 563.35 karat ‘Star of India‘ sapphire and 21 other precious gems from New York’s Museum of Natural History. The real surfing Murphy was an innocuous little cartoon gremmie created for Surfer magazine by California surfer-artist Rick Griffin, but for years later, whenever surfing was mentioned in non-surfing circles, people invariably smiled and recalled the sad spectacle that was ‘Murph the Surf,’ jewelry thief.”
“Even Tom Wolfe,” continued Lueras, “that dapper ‘new journalist’ who earns his living by flitting like a correspondent bee from groovy this to culturally aberrant that, contributed to surfing’s less than wholesome, early sixties image. Wolfe did this by composing a well-read story, The Pump House Gang, about La Jolla, California’s hard-partying and indiscreet Mac Meda Destruction Company.”
“I met a group of surfers, the Pump House Gang,” Wolfe wrote in a dispatch for the New York World Journal. “They attended the Watts Riots as if it were the Rose Bowl game in Pasadena. They came to watch ‘the drunk niggers’ and were reprimanded by the same for their rowdiness.”
“After recounting surfing expressions and maneuvers that are idiomatically incorrect and physically impossible... New Yorker Wolfe predicted the eventual demise of surf chic. He boldly prophesied that California’s coastline would one day ‘be littered with the bodies of aged and abandoned Surferkinder, like so many beached whales.’ The ‘mysterioso mystique‘ of the Sixties, Wolfe said, would stagnate on West Coast beaches.”
Bruce Brown‘s The Endless Summer turned the tide of public opinion away from such negatives and redirected it to what surfing’s all about: getting stoked riding waves.
The movie was “about two California surfers (Mike Hynson and Robert August),” wrote Lueras, “who travel about the world in search of an endless summer and the perfect wave -- succeeded beyond his wildest... dreams.
“Filmmaker Brown had been making surf movies for nearly a decade (his first effort, 1958‘s Slippery When Wet, featuring a sophisticated soundtrack by jazz altoist Bud Shank, is a surf classic), but most of his early wave productions were of an in-house surfy genre -- that is, they catered primarily to surfers and a few curious outsiders. Many surf film purists prefer the ‘underground’ and ‘pirate’ nature of such movies, but few of these films ever ‘made it’ in the outside world. Rather, they were -- and still are -- usually seen only by hooting, wave-crazed surfers who crowd into obscure beach town theatres and high school auditoriums to witness an endless procession of wave clips, usually soundtracked by taped rock and roll music and occasional, understated surfspeak. Indeed, it is very possible for a person to witness an entire such movie and never know what the narrator has said. Another hallmark of surf films is the notable absence of a discernible story line or theme.
“Brown’s more conservative and ambitious goal was to produce a surf movie that would turn everybody -- non-surfers as well as surfers -- on to his favorite sport.”
“Surfers knew right away that it was the best surf film ever made,” Mike Doyle attested, “but a lot of us were surprised by how popular it became with non-surfers as well. I think the movie captured people’s imaginations by demonstrating the pure freedom of the sport. There were no bells, no stopwatches, no starting gates, no referees -- just you, a surfboard, and the water. The surfers in the film weren’t hurting anybody or anything. They were just doing something they truly loved, something as simple as looking for the perfect wave.”
“I’ve always felt,” Brown told Los Angeles Times writer Patrick McNulty in 1967, “that an endless summer would be the ultimate for a surfer. It’s really simple to cross the equator during our winter and find summer in the Southern Hemisphere. I thought how lovely just to travel slowly around the world following summer to places like Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti and Hawaii -- and finally back to California.”
“Instead of just thinking such romantic and adventurous thoughts,” Lueras noted, “Brown, Hynson and August did just that, and when The Endless Summer documentary debuted at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium during the summer of 1964, it played to sell-out crowds for seven straight nights. ‘It was unbelievable -- we even outdrew the Beatles,’ Brown recalled later.”
Brown and the surfing world saw his adventure movie as ‘a hot property’ that could draw crowds outside of surfing, but when Brown and a business associate, R. Paul Allen, courted Hollywood and New York producers and distributors, they were waved off. One New York film distributor told Allen that the movie was ‘non commercial.’ ‘Nice try, kid,’ he said, ‘but it won’t sell 10 miles from the water.’“
“To prove that The Endless Summer would sell,” continued Lueras, “Brown and Allen mounted a very tough screen test. They opened the movie in Wichita, Kansas, a city about as far away from surfing as any in the United States. The movie premiered there during bad winter weather -- it was snowing outside and the temperature was 2 degrees above zero -- but despite such meteorological obstacles, it was a smash hit. As journalist McNulty reported, ‘For a two-week period, the film out-grossed the theatre’s two previous heavyweight attractions, The Great Race and My Fair Lady.’
“Armed with the confidence such an improbable success might inspire, Brown and Allen repaired back to New York, where they blew The Endless Summer film print up to 35mm, rented the Kips Bay Theatre in Lower Manhattan, and premiered their international surf movie to rave New York reviews. Even Time magazine gushed postitively, calling The Endless Summer ‘an ode to sun, sea and sand.’“
“The reviews were fantastic,” agreed Mike Doyle. “Newsweek called it ‘breathtaking... a sweeping and exciting account of human skill pitted against the ocean.’ The New York Post said, ‘Something very special... anyone who can’t see the beauty and thrill of it hasn’t got eyes.’ And the New York Times said it was ‘buoyant fun, hypnotic beauty and continuous excitement.’“
“The rest of this story is a fine chapter in surfing folklore,” Lueras went on. “Brown’s movie surfed on to great success in theatres throughout the U.S., Canada and around the world. Film critics began calling him things like the ‘Bergman of the boards,’ the ‘Fellini of the foam’ and other such sobriquets. Brown’s production budget for The Endless Summer was a reported $50,000, peanuts by Hollywood standards, but by May of 1967, Variety, the popular show business daily, was predicting that the movie would gross at least $6,000,000. That sum later grew to $8,000,000, and Brown became surfing’s first movie mogul.
“Brown’s success was and still is laudable, but more important than his artistic and commercial achievements is what his movie did for surfing. From Duluth to Paris, the surfer was no longer perceived as an archetypal, anarchic beach bum or societal laze about, but rather, he became a symbol of a healthy and glamorous lifestyle that during the later Sixties, Seventies and now Eighties would greatly influence the look and tone of fashion, language and leisure time activities throughout the wet-- and dry -- world.”
Eventually, The Endless Summer would gross over $30 million, worldwide.
Da Bull & Stange Conquer Outside Pipe, November 1964
Three years after Phil Edwards became the first surfer photographed riding inner reef Pipeline, “Greg Noll is on the beach at Pipe,” retold Surfer magazine, “leaning against his yellow 11’ 4” gun and looking to what is breaking on the outside reef. The John Severson photo of that moment becomes a classic in surf photography.”
Noll took Mike Stange along with him and for three hours the chased “shifting peaks until Noll gets in early on a choppy, bouncy, 15-footer, then angles halfway down the face and goes for his life. As the wave appears to double in height, Noll iron-legs through chops, bounces and boils, arms wind-milling, legs in a suicide stance. Almost in the clear, Noll hits a big chop, falls backward and goes over the falls as his board shoots 20 feet in the air. Watch that ride on video, if you get the chance. It’s the most inspirational straight line in the history of surfing.”
For a detailed description of this day at Outside Pipe, go to the
previous chapter on Greg “Da Bull” Noll.
Makaha International, December 1964
A year after U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Lyndon Johnson was elected to the country’s highest office in the November 1964 elections. At the Makaha International the following month, Midget Farrelly was again squared off against Joey Cabell, the winner.
“I think that my first heroes were so big,” Midget said, “and I saw them as being so special deep inside my head that I’d seen those guys I’d first competed against as being really special.
“When I went back to Makaha to defend my title... I was stoked that I’d competed in point surf. That was special...”
The surf that year was excellent for the Makaha. Midget testified: “Well, it was good sized surf. Those people at that contest -- Doyle, Curren, LJ, Joey, Dewey and even some guys I still know today like Donald Takayama -- were special people because they were guys who went out and did it for reasons that weren’t written down somewhere. They were really unique people.”
“As time went by,” Midget remembered of the surfers around him, “I found that those people dropped out and they were replaced by another type of people and I didn’t particularly feel the same way about those people.
“I said: ‘This isn’t special anymore’ and so I started to look for it somewhere else. For a while I found it in hang-gliding. They’re a special kind of people. I found it a little bit in sailboarding too. Riding a sailboard on a 15 foot-plus blown-out wave is a great experience, so I looked for the thing I’d experienced in surfing in the early ‘60s elsewhere.”
“There’s something amazing being around people who have ability and that are good people too,, they’re unique and that’s the way it was in the beginning. In the end the people that I was surfing with were doing drugs, they were living a negative lifestyle.
“What they said wasn’t what they meant and the smile they had on their face might not have been because they were glad to see you! (laughs) There was a criminal element in surfing and I figured by ‘70 the bubble had burst.
“I wasn’t really sick of surfing. I just needed to find a new way to come back and look at it and I think you have to keep doing that all your life. You’ll exhaust where you’re at and how you view what you do and if you can get out of that frame of mind and come back and experience it another way it gets reborn and the vitality comes back.”
In 1994, Midget was asked what advice he would give to Australian surfers and he responded, “It’d be the same bit of advice I keep giving myself. You’ll always find yourself in bad situations, even in the water. I’m horrified at the behaviour that can happen in the water, but I always try and think back as to how good it can be and how great it was seeing good surfers, good surfing, good waves for the first time.
“That simple powerful beauty of the wave, and the talent of the surfer. That combination that theoretically should liberate what’s inside you to put a big smile on your face.
“When I see the sport slip into all the negative little subcultures then I think that’s the saddest thing I’ve ever seen. I read disappointing things like really good surfers bitching about ‘fucking kooks‘ ruining their surfing. That’s not why you’re there.
“Born-again Christians are a pain, but a born-again surfer is like a child and whenever I think of surfing I think of a couple of lines of a Buffalo Springfield song: ‘I am a child, I last a while. You can’t conceive of the pleasure in my smile.’
“That all comes from having that surfing experience that lifts you up if you let it.”
Sources Used In This Chapter:
Bernard ”Midget” Farrelly ~ Bob Evans ~ Bob McTavish ~ Bruce Brown ~ Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum ~ Joey Cabell ~ John Elwell ~ John Grissum ~ Leonard Lueras ~ Los Angeles Times ~ Matt Warshaw ~ Mike Doyle ~ Nat Young ~ New York Times ~ New York World Journal ~ Patrick McNulty ~ Phil Edwards ~ Ryan Smith ~ Surfer Magazine ~ The Surfer's Journal ~ Time magazine ~ Tracks magazine ~ Tom Wolfe
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