Midget was the man of speed, flow and style. As a grom in the Sixties, when newspapers mattered, Midget had a column in the Sunday paper and that’s how we got the latest word on all things surf. For awhile too we had the Midget Farrelly Surf Show on ABC once a week, we’d all be glued to the one TV set in the house to watch his latest adventures, safaris around Australia and the world and of course we all ended up with his book The Surfing Life.
If you were a grom in the sixties, Midget was a huge part of your surfing life.
The first time I crossed paths with Midget was at my home beach Greenmount Point in 1970. The Australian Titles were to be held there and I had made the Queensland Team for the first time in the juniors. All our heroes of the day were there and I got to mingle first hand with them all, a starry-eyed grommet just soaking it all in.
Our Queensland local hero Peter Drouyn (today’s Westerly Windina) won over Midget, Nat, Ted Spencer and Keith Paull – the Australian surfing gods of the day – and they were all hanging out and competing on my home break.
That same year, after he was second to Rolf Aurness at Bells in the ISA World Champs, a shot came out in Witzig’s Surf Magazine that was the epitome of what I thought at the time was how I wanted to surf. That image just showed speed, flow and style and in those days style mattered, I was as a sixteen year old Coolangatta teen inspired.
In ’73 Midget turned up in Hawaii for the first time in years and 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 inside the point day and of course Midget was like royalty around there having been a former Makaha champion. I got introduced to Buffalo Keaulana and all the boys for the first time by a man who had respect.
That lead to getting to go with him to a luau at the Aikau’s at the famous cemetery house to savor out-of-the-ground kalua pig and drink swipe (fermented pineapple juice) with the family – a moment I will always treasure. It was as real as you get when it comes to Hawaiian family culture.
I would argue that Midget was Australia’s best competitive surfer of the sixties, winning Makaha in ’63, the inaugural ISA World Title in Manly in ’64, finalled when Nat won the ISA’S in Oceanside in ’66, runner-up to Hemmings in Puerto Rico in ’68 and then finally runner-up to Rolf Aurness at Bells in ’70. That body of work is hard to match, no-one had that consistency in that decade.
He was also a master shaper and designer, pushing the envelope of design and the quality of Midget Farrelly Surfboards was second to none. Midget Farrelly Surfblanks became a staple of the Australian surfboard industry.
In hometown Coolangatta, local ripper and elder to us groms Terry “Weenie” Baker was the Midget Farrelly Surfboards sales rep and would always have one of Midget’s latest designs under his feet out at Greenmount point. His boards always stood out for their streamlined beauty and craftsmanship.
When Surfer Magazine’s “The 50 Greatest Surfers of All-time” issue came out in 2010 I was mortified that they’d left Midget out and let the editors know it. I couldn’t believe it! How could they overlook such a surfing icon? When it came to speed, flow and style, in my opinion he was the best. That’s how I wanted to surf.
Above: PT and the guy he emulated more than any other. Two of Australia’s most stylish World Champs. (Aitionn). Opposite: A shot young PT might have seen in an early edition of SW. (Albe Falzon)