THE ORIGINAL SW CONTEST REPORT FROM THE 1963 INTERNATIONAL SURFING CHAMPIONSHIPS
ourselves a later heat, but we tipped the surf might build up and told them we’d take our right places. Midget went out in his familiar striped board shorts slipped down a couple of waves and then came back to the start to pick up his numbered singlet. I’m not kidding but all this happened within one hour of arriving in Honolulu. The “champ” was pretty toey. We were a bit whacked after the trip as I said, but the bustle to get ready was just about as much as we wanted. There’s no doubt in the wide world that the unseasonal surfing conditions threw the strong Californian contingent out of gear. Midget woke up straight away and was untroubled in his paddle out or on his ride back home.
Dave and I changed into our board shorts and were soon ready for the second semi-final for which we were automatically eligible. We were then issued with our singlets and entered the water for the long 600-yard paddle to the take off area where red-flags marked the reefs. We didn’t do so well and were eliminated in the semis. Dave rode pretty well I thought and I just thanked Lady Luck.
We were invited to stay with Bud Browne and Mike Doyle at Rocky point just near Sunset Beach. After chewing the fat for a couple of hours we were glad to hit the sack. There’s a fabulous body surf right out the front of the house and we had a couple of hours riding some fine waves the next morning. Later in the afternoon we went to Downtown Honolulu and bought ourselves a 1950 Chevrolet sedan for 40 quid! No kidding that’s all it cost. Used cars are so cheap in Honolulu. There’s no real market for used cars and it’s too costly to send them back to America. Anyhow it all suited us very well. We drove out to Makaha after I had renewed my American License where the three of us had a couple of hours on the boards in preparation for the next round. The temperature dropped to the low 60’s the following day after a tremendous thunderstorm during the night which bashed the surf right against the retaining wall of the house.
However, the wind subsided and the surf evened out to about eight foot waves.
We went out to Makaha pretty early that morning and had quite a yarn with most of the boys. The Californians were tipping Johnny Peck and Chuck Ligmen to fight out the finish but if anyone was to give the Midget a shake I reckoned it would have been either Peck or the 1955 world champion, Rabbit Kekai, who knows every ripple of Makaha – and then some. Midget served notice in his semis he was the top threat to the acknowledged champions. He impressed the astute watchers with his control, his crunching “George Moore” style and his great balance. He glided into the final ten along with 1960 champion Buffalo Keaulana and Peck, Ligmen and Kekai. There were a couple of new faces in the ‘big ten’ but the hottest opposition would come from these four blokes. Midget was the only non-american in the final. The other nine were either Americans or naturalised Americans. I think there were six American Hawaiians in the final. The surf was so poor after the semi-finals that officials decided to postpone the finals until the surf built up a bit. However, after the first day in which there wasn’t a great build up they decided to run the championship the following day irrespective of conditions. We drove out to Makaha and nearly died when we saw the surf. The waves were at best no bigger than 8 feet. We couldn’t have got a better surf for the Midget if we’d prayed to one of the Hawaiian Surf Gods. There’s not much punting in Honolulu and there was certainly none that I saw on the championships but after seeing that surf I reckon Midget’s market came in from about 10 to 1 to 2 to 1. It was a somewhat overcast day but the publicity the titles got from the Honolulu press, radio and television stations excited a big crowd out to Makaha. We dashed back to pick up Midget full of confidence. We found him sitting on the veranda looking out to sea as if he was in a trance. He was naturally nervous.
The crowd had grown considerably when we arrived back and Bud Browne and Mike Doyle ushered us into the marshalling area where the Midget was given a detailed rundown on the final procedure. The final ten were given their numbered coloured singlets and the judges took up their positions. The competitors were introduced to the crowd with typical American gusto and the atmosphere was terrific when Midget was introduced from “Sydney, Australia, etc., etc.” This is when the Aussies in the crowd gave out with “Good on you Midget…. You Beauty Aussie… Up Yer Go Matie…” The Yanks probably wondered what the hell they were talking about, but we knew and felt pretty good. From the time Midget rode his first wave we were confident he’d make the last three. He was in great form. He was never in any bother at all. As a matter of fact after about his third run Midget had the waves running for him.
These fellows go into a lot of depth about most sports but they really “case” a surf in such a championship. Despite all these commendable academic investigations Midget summed the surf up in a couple of practice runs. It’s pretty hard for the uninitiated public to follow progress in such a title. No points are announced during the runs but those in the know had Midget, Peck and Ligmen figured as the three who would fight out the title. I can’t stress too much the incredible respect the Hawaiians and Americans gave these small waves. Maybe they tightened up or something but Midget, while he was very calm, made the waves work for him. Midget made the best of the conditions. He moved to within 200 yards of the beach and vigorously hot-dogged every wave he couldn’t get into. However, there is no doubt Midget would have been a hard man to beat in any conditions.
After this final run Midget got a terrific hand from the crowd and when one of the Aussies yelled “You can put down your glasses Midget “it confirmed our hopes that Midget would get the title. We had to sweat it out for nearly two hours before the judges came to their decision. While we were waiting Midget went for a surf. In due ceremony “Bernard Midget Farrelly of Sydney, Australia” was announced the world surfboard riding champion. He had made it! Midget went a white colour for a while then broke into a broad grin as he was called up for the presentation. He received his trophy and then was garlanded with a magnificent lei of carnations. (The carnation lei in Honolulu is the most significant garland you can wear). Other competitors and hula girls “leid” Midget and at the end he had looked like the winner of the Kentucky Derby. Midget was interviewed by the press, radio and television boys and he kept saying “Boy won’t they be pleased back home.”
It certainly wasn’t a night to sleep. The three of us joined up with some Americans and Aussie surfers Barry Cardiff and Bob Sheppard.
We “unlaxed” for about three days after the final by body riding at Sunset and Banzai Beaches. Banzai gave us all a decent work out as ironically enough the surf built up to some 14 footers the day after the finals. Everyone over here is particularly interested in the progress of Australian surfing. There’s no risk that board riding has brought the Pacific “boardies” closer together. When you read this we will probably be in California. I hope the Midget can come with us.