THE MEANING OF WORLD CLASS
Midget was definitely his own man. I grew up at Avalon and from the late sixties on was privileged to surf with him, make boards with him and go hang gliding with him.
On surfing, he was grace personified and imbued with the true Hawaiian be one with the wave ethos so contrary to today’s approach. It was always about fun and being in the moment. He was one of the best good wave “hooters” going around!
On surfboards, he was perfectionism personified. We made the “special” Palm Beach boards – special not least for where they were made, at his home overlooking one of the world’s best waterways – God’s country. He always had the very best of materials straight from the US – resin, cloth and particularly pigments to make what were then the coolest (and most expensive) boards going around – and always with the latest, very Hawaiian, fluid lines.
On hang gliding, he was pioneering personified. Along with Glen Woodward, we started from scratch gliding down the Palm Beach sandhills in the early seventies before graduating to cliffs of ever increasing height. I can’t remember who got the plans, I think it was Glen, but someone wrote away to NASA to get the plans for the original Rogallo hang gliding wing, which Midget then had a big hand in building from commercial aluminium tubing, spinnaker cloth and various creatively applied wire, nuts and bolts. That it flew at all was remarkable and its weight and lack of manoeuvrability saw each one of us seriously injured along the way. From memory, Midget broke at least one of his ankles very badly spearing into the rocks, or maybe it was when the rig fatigued and he fell straight to the ground from a (thankfully) reasonably low altitude. We thought we were out on our own and it seemed that was true as there were always serious crowds around watching in amazement. We steadily worked our way down the coast as we got better and finally made it to Stanwell Tops to find the southside guys, notably Bill Moyes and Steve Cohen, were miles ahead and that we’d been really just scratching the surface in our own little vacuum. This didn’t slow Glen and Midget down and they both went on to get seriously involved in the sport, both as participants and commercially.
Midget’s commercial acumen and discipline were unusual for the times and the sport of surfing. The Surfblanks operation, which probably wouldn’t have got off the ground with today’s OH&S, was a big thing in our part of the world as for the first time we could get good materials locally without making the trek to Brookvale. He was very encouraging of the myriad of us aspiring shapers and boardmakers in the area and the extended ramifications of this shouldn’t be underestimated. I doubt that the area would have spawned anything like the number of superstars it has without this kind of commercial underpinning that Midget was responsible for. He was a constant link for local surfers to what it meant to be world class.
This unique combination of ability, discipline and enterprise was a source of great inspiration to me and the many others of us on the peninsula who were lucky enough to know him. He always had a go and will be sorely missed. A great Australian.
Don’t make the error of thinking Midget’s style and perfection came at the expense of being radical. As this shot at Queenie shows, he was always on the cutting edge. And he built and flew his own hang gliders for heaven’s sakes! (Ron Perrot)