WAY OUTSIDE THE SQUARE
Iloved the way Midget viewed surfing, the art of surfing, the act of surfing. I loved tapping into what he had to say. I loved his opinions and his eloquence. I loved every interaction I had the good fortune to share with him.
A Pictorial History of Surfing was a book by Paul Hamlin. It was quite a thick book, and it was pictorial so it was a really good for me because I wasn’t a big reader like my brother, haha! But that book was my bible. I’d just pour over it again and again. It had pictures of Midget in there, at the World’s down in Manly, with Mike Doyle and all the crew that came over from the US. I studied those pictures of Midget, him walking the nose and seeing how the water moved off his board. Stuff like that made a big impact on me, and also the fact he had number one on his singlet.
The cool thing about Midget was one of the most awesome pictures later down the track that hit me, there was a picture taken of him in 1967 on the North Shore. He was wearing a grey jumpsuit and he had a Mohawk. When I saw that I thought, “Man I’m one of him! He’s one of me!” Give me a jumpsuit and a Mohawk any day. That guy was on fire! It was only about three weeks ago I got to sit with him up at Palmy and talk to him about what he’d been going through recently. I enquired because I was recovering from knee surgery so the topic of the body naturally came up. We sat there for a while and chatted and he was very open and honest with me. It was a heavy reminder to get yourself checked as you get older, like really check the body out and get the doctor to really have a good scan of the body. If they got this sort of thing early, they possibly might have been a lot more successful. Seventy-one is too young for him and his family.
He was a deadset frother, there’s no doubt about it, and he saw surfing explode from something very small to completely mainstream. Surfing was so popular when he was at his peak. The beach was a pop culture fad right when he was the Champ. He was as big time as it gets. Imagine the ego coping with that!
Midget’s sister was a ballerina. She influenced his style on a board. The way he delicately walked the plank, walked the nose and was able to cross feet and in critical situations, he credits his sister for that. When he told me I was like “Woah! Ballet!” It made sense and I wound up doing six weeks of ballet training before I won my first World Title, as a result. I’ll tell ya what: ballet is really fucking difficult! It’s one of the most brutally humbling experiences the ego-centric mind of a budding World Champion can put himself through.
Midget was a total trailblazer, he was a way left field thinker, way outside the square and he loved it so that’s where he went. Soon as you were talking to him, he’d sort of look at you, he’d have a think and he’d wanna come at you completely from another angle.
He was so astute, and very strong about his views. Midget was a real special person for Australian surfing, there’s no doubt about it. We’ve had some crackers but he’s right at the top.
The first Australian surf star. Midget is swamped by fans in ‘64. How’s that poor grom getting shaded by some jerk behind him! Wait your turn drongo! (Courtesy of Ron Perrott archives).