SHIPS I N THE NIGHT
Igrew up in an era idolising Midget Farrelly, Nat Young and Peter Drouyn. They were my big three. You know that question, who do you like better The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? That’s what loving those three guys was like when I was a kid. Midget was one of my boyhood heroes.
I didn’t get to know Midget much at all during his surf career. By the time we came along there’d been a great exodus. The 1970 World Titles at Johanna was the last event of an era really. Midget, Nat, Drouyn, Ted Spencer, they all went in different directions after that. They weren’t on the international competitive scene anymore. We were ships passing in the night in that regard.
I do remember Midget coming down and surfing at Bells in 1974. It was so cool to see him surfing and riding very different boards. I was always aware that he was innovative with surfboard design. He was always looking for ways to evolve and improve his surfing experience.
It’s hard to fathom Midget was only a teenager when he won the World Title at Manly and that in ’74 he would only have been in his late 20s. Attitudes towards surfing were very different at that time. The mindset was more like swimming. It was expected that your peak years of performance were 19 to 21. Everything from the judging to who was trending was affected by it. Sport hadn’t evolved to the point where you could be in your 30s and still be performing at the highest level. You were considered ancient at 25 and a dinosaur if you were still on a longboard. Now thanks to sports science, athletes train better, eat better, condition themselves both physically and mentally to peak later for longer, but none of this was known back then. That’s why it’s difficult to compare eras.
Regardless of the time or space though, Midget was always the stylist. Masterful, silky smooth, he was sublime when he walked the board. He was to us what Phil Edwards was to the Americans. They were the two pivotal stylists.
I got to know Midget much later in life. Whenever I spent time in Sydney I’d go for an early morning surf at Manly, then head over to the Honolulu Café and have breakfast with Midget. We got to talk real surf story. About groups of Aussie teenagers hitching boat rides to Hawaii and going out and surfing the North Shore for the first time and going to take on the giant waves at Makaha. They were the pioneering days of Australians on the North Shore and it was trailblazing stuff. He was a great storyteller. You had to be lucky to get one, because he would only open up when he felt comfortable. I felt like if he was telling you stories, he liked your company and I felt so privileged to be educated firsthand by a guy who had experienced it all.
Whenever I surfed with him at Manly, he was very consistent about his style and flow and his touch with the ocean. His legacy is rich and his influence undeniable. There’s no doubt you can still come across guys and girls from the Midget school of surfing today – beauty in every movement with not a drop of water out of place.