THE MEAN­ING OF WORLD CLASS

Surfing World - - Contents - By Paul Chad­wich, Board­builder, Hang Glider, Boe­ing De­signer

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)

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