SURFING IS FREEDOM
Midget walked some fine lines over the years. He grew up in a very conservative, Anglo Saxon culture really, as Australia was in the sixties. Now, it’s quite easy being individual because people respect people. But back then there was a lot of pressure from either side of that debate, and he threaded a pretty cool line through it.
It’s because he wasn’t in the clique with the media push of the time. During that whole Morning of The Earth generation the whole thing became popular culture. His surfing reputation was discredited and tarnished. I don’t feel that he ever got the recognition for the surfing performance that he had achieved. I’ve always had my things with the industry and the media, and the way they play their favourites and their game too. I can almost understand why he was how he was, why he was withdrawn from it all, because he didn’t have respect for it. I felt like I earnt his trust. At first he didn’t trust me, there was always that standoffish thing. But in the last 10 years I felt him open his arms and open up and tell me things. I’ve quite a few of those surfs where I’ve got to share those real private times and he and I would sit out the back, and I’d ask questions, because I’m inquisitive about my culture, and what it is. I feel like I was privileged to get this inside view. That’s how I kind of understand that concept of the counter-culture and its influence on our sport, and how he felt about that. You’d ask him a question and he’d never answer it right away. There’d be this moment of contemplation, he’d stop and you’d see him think and then he would give it to you. He was always sort of deliberate and controlled and considered in his delivery of things. Nick Carroll once asked Midget what surfing was, and Nick said that he stopped, and had that professor Midget look on his face and then said, “It’s freedom. It’s freedom to live outside of other people’s ideas.”
The fact that he won ’64, tied for first in ’68 and got second on a countback to Fred Hemmings and got second in ’70, against the tide of popular culture, shows how amazing his surfing performance was.
I don’t think he knew how respected he was, and how much people really thought of him, because it’s really pulled it out of people, his passing. He had a vision of what his surfing should be and could be. And right to the very end he was pushing for that to be his reality. Right to the end, he was getting out of that hospital and he was going surfing mate.