FROM THE HEART
Wife The very first time I laid eyes on Midget was in Jimmy Carruthers’ milk bar, around 1962. He walked in with a group of Dee Why boys after a surf, and my girlfriends and I were sitting across from the doorway, in a group. From the day I met him his pale blue jeans and a white T-shirt was totalled with an addition of white sneakers. His uniform didn’t change for a long time, and later as a group the girls and I used to travel into Dee Why for a Saturday night dance – I could catch glimpses of him around the place. After a one Saturday night I remember picking up my sister Cheryl from where she worked. Coincidently Midget was there with his friends having coffee. Our first decent conversation came from his proposition to me, wanting to know if I would join him at Denny Keyo’s engagement party. I had a wedding also that night but I arranged to meet him at the party later. I asked Bernie Alexander to drive me in his Blue Beetle and wait outside just in case. The party was in full swing. I wasn’t able to find Midget so I went straight home. The next morning, he was on my doorstep. He took me surfing and it all began.
Daughter I was 15 and it was an adventure, I was terrified. Mid-80s and Dad and I were windsurfing Long Reef, off the beach. We met some of Dad’s friends and set our destination for ‘Little Makaha’; it was the furthest we had ever been and the wind was coming in at the perfect angle for it. We had to sail out quite a far way, and set a tack to head back into Little Makaha. I was so afraid to jibe that I seemed destined to hit an out-to-sea oil tanker. I didn’t know at the time but Dad was quite worried for me. Eventually I had the guts to brave the jibe out in the ocean, after watching Dad do it. We ended up riding knee-high waves at Little Makaha, and enjoyed the rest of the day. It was through these windsurfing days that my father introduced me to Matt, my husband.
Daughter Dad took me hang-gliding. We went to Long Reef and I made myself busy by playing in the dunes. I would keep myself occupied for hours and watching all the gliders above me. There was no one else out of our family, just us two. After a couple of hours, Dad landed and came up to me, “Jo it’s your turn.” Some of his friends lifted me up on his back and before I knew it we were flying over Long Reef. I was on Dad’s back gripping his fleece as we glided over the ocean. I was only eight and it’s the closest I’ve ever been to flying, I still have flying dreams to this day.
Daughter “We are going to get a big one, let’s go.” It was a typical Sunday at Palm Beach. I was about nine years old. The surf was kind of good, good enough for people to come from out of the area. Dad was out surfing the south corner (kiddies) riding them all the way along the beach to the front of the surf club. I was bodysurfing out the back with some fins on, too scared to surf. We met up on the water’s edge and he grabbed me and I resisted, I was always running away. He convinced me to go out tandem with him. We paddled out through the rip at Kiddies, and he always had to sit the furthest out. I was nervous, I kept saying it’s too far out Dad, can’t we just pick a small one to start with. He insisted that we get a big one, The knock heeled, backside trimlines of Midget at full speed. “You would regularly see surfers leave the water to watch him surf. He had it all.” said long time friend Mick Dooley. (John Pennings)
and we did. We ended up getting one of the larger ones. He always yelled paddle hard Luc and we carelessly glided across the face of the wave all the way into the beach. We all have many, many memories that will stay with us forever. He gave us strength and courage and taught us all that the ocean is life The man was 100 per cent saltwater.
Surfer, Shaper, Contemporary Midget and I first met in 1959. He was a 15-year-old northside surfer and I was an 18-year-old southside surfer from Bondi. After my move to Manly we would see each more often in the water. His first forays into making boards for himself were at his family home, and the resultant mess delighted his parents. As he got older, but still a teenager, his surfing talent really started to be noticed. You would regularly see surfers leave the water to watch him surf. He had it all. I am very fortunate to have known and surfed with Bernie and been able to call him my friend. We surfed in local, state and national competitions, as well as being Australian team representatives at the 1964 World Titles at Manly. We did many things together in those early days, surf trips and Hobie Cats at his beloved Palm Beach, and in later years he attempted to teach me hang gliding, rather unsuccessfully on my part. Midget’s gone, but his legacy remains. We should never forget his enormous contribution to the surfing life of Australia. He was the first Australian
surfer to be noticed on both the national and international stage. He will always be remembered by me and my generation as being a gentleman, great surfer and successful businessman. We will surf together again one day. R.I.P. Bernie.
Mcdonagh Surfboards Founder/sds Greg and I first met Master Bernard Farrelly when he would visit our home in Evans Street, Harbord. We were making surfboards under the house in the early sixties. Bernard became known as ‘The Praying Mantis’ and later as Midget, cutting across a wave with his hands and knees bent like a stick insect. Midget was certainly a historical boardrider and his name will be long remembered. Fare thee well old mate.
1964 World Champion Nobody thought we were going to win the World Titles at Manly. Everyone thought that Linda Benson would win the women’s, and either Joey Cabell, or one of the other Americans, would win the men’s. But Midget and I proved otherwise. There was a lot of hype about it definitely; I mean there were thousands and thousands down there at Manly. After that we went out to Manly and had a few little noggins. Would you believe I’ve got a terrific photo of Midget and myself when we won the World Title, with our trophies. When I look at it I can’t believe he’s passed away.
Legendary Boardmaker Nobody could walk up and down a board like Midget, it seemed like he didn’t put any weight on the damned thing, he was just sort of floating. He was magic to watch. Few people can be a ballet dancer on a surfboard. He was just gentle with his surfing. He was unique and he’ll be missed.
1999 World Champion He was alltime, our first World Champion. He’ll be dearly missed. I got to meet him a few times and he was such a happy-go-lucky guy, really funny too. It’s really sad. My heart goes out to the family. He paved the way for all of us.
2x World Champion He came into our store at Narrabeen about once a month. I learnt to surf on coolites, and the first surfboard I ever rode with a fin was a Midget Farrelly. I probably had about six or seven of his boards over the years. I remember leaning one up against the garage door trying to stand on it, when I was about seven or eight, trying to do re-entries and breaking it. So my parents went and bought me another one. Everyone looked up to him as a World Champion, but I think first and foremost he was a good person. And to me as a surfer, that’s the one thing I’ll remember him for – being a nice guy. I used to surf with him a lot around the northern beaches and I remember him crashing his hang glider into the surf at Warriewood when I was 13 years old. He was a pioneer at everything. I remember the first time I went to the snow, I saw a guy coming down in a onepiece Quiksilver ski suit on basically one of those mono-boards and I thought “How’s this guy!” He was the only one the mountain who looked like that, and it ended up being Midget Farrelly. He was a real individual, a gentlemen and well respected. Midget was a legend.
Pipe and Style Guru As the wonderful sport of surfing continues to grow, there is the inevitable loss in this process of a small family suddenly becoming a mob of massive proportions.
What goes away is an intimacy where the lessons, influences and the tremendous accomplishments of our leading elders are no longer common knowledge to help mold and direct those who follow. While there are always a few with that special vision and awareness to ride, in a metaphorical sense, a surfboard without a fin, most of us need something to relate to and give us a sense of direction. Midget Farrelly’s many contributions to furthering the world of surfing will, in a large part and sadly, go unheralded and even unappreciated except by those who were there when it was a smaller, less complicated world. We will all miss one of the great leaders of surfing. He led by example and it was a while, if ever, before many of us even knew we were following.
Brother to SW Founder Bob Evans On behalf of my late brother Bob. Sad to hear of Midget’s passing, an icon of our surfing history. Gone but never forgotten.
1968 World Champion Midget Farrelly was the best in every sense of the word. I learned firsthand of Midget’s dignity and honour as a gentleman in Puerto Rico in 1968. He pioneered modern day performance surfing in Australia and was truly the best. Australia should always remember Midget with pride. Surfing has been enriched by his life.
1964 World Championships Runner-up Surfing lost the first and best spokesman it ever had. He was a great person.
Surfer, Shaper, Innovator I became of aware of Midget’s ’64 World Title win years after the fact, being only 10 at the time. This event was always a legendary moment in history to me but whenever an image or footage appeared from the ’64 contest, it would resonate somehow like I was part of Australian surfing going back to the beginning at Manly. Growing up at Collaroy I have early memories of seeing Midget surf in person at my home beach and also Long Reef in the late 60s.
A session at Collaroy on an innovative sideslipper inspired us to sand down our normal size single fins, eventually to the point where the board no longer worked. Another session at Long Reef, with Midget emerging from the
surf hoisting his board vertically above his head in a gesture of satisfaction and stoke on surfing, stuck with me. Midget’s boards always appeared unique and innovative. Case in point are the 1970 Johanna World Titles boards that had dropped in length to 5’4” or 5’6” and were functional to a point. Midget held out and surfed a longer board against all trends, placing second to Rolf Arness.
I worked with Midget from the mid 70s to the 90s and still at times today, but back then I got to know the man behind the legend a little. He always thought he knew best, the only attitude to have in our industry as it turns out, and most of the time he did know best. We worked together on early customised rockering – a concept that he wasn’t too keen on in the beginning; his rockers were adequate – he knew best. Midget also supplied us with Ultralight blanks (Phenolic foam), a great innovation to boost performance in Australian professional surfing. I was able to manufacture super lightweight boards to compete in the
various pro events of the small wave era at the beginnings of the World Tour as we know it today. The ultralight foam came at a cost however; it was difficult to produce due to less chemicals and less expansion pressure resulting in soft spots, shrinking foam and big cell structure. The success rate was almost commercially unviable and relationships between boardmakers and Midget were tested, but he persevered to our benefit. In October 1980, Surfblanks cut out the first thruster fins for me and in general Midget and Surfblanks helped boardmakers throughout the industry, domestically and internationally, in our efforts to produce top quality surfing equipment. In recent times I’ve seen and heard Midget at various surfing functions, he was a great orator and ambassador for his era and our sport.
My enduring memory of Midget will be sharing a wave with him at big South Avalon a few years back. He would have been late 60s, the surf was solid, I was late 50s. It was at the edge of my capabilities, I was impressed he was out there. We paddled into a good sized set wave together and traded turns on the face. At the end of the wave we pulled out together with big smiles.
1990 World Champion Midget didn’t seem worried about expectations and got the same level of enjoyment off other people’s experiences in the surf as much as his own. In that sense be was a very generous surfer, he enjoyed that aspect of sharing, rather than the more selfish ways of surfing. He shared waves and also his knowledge. He was a real presence at Queenscliff. He was there every morning for a while. Because my husband Mark Rabbidge makes surfboards, I would often be tasked with picking up blanks or (god forbid) return one. That would be the scary Midget if you had to have that discussion about how your ultra superlight blank had somehow shrunk.
Surfing is hedonistic fun. Our attachment to the ocean makes us feel better. You pursue it too much, it becomes more of a curse, and then there’s this other way of trying to give it away and you get a different kind of enjoyment from the ocean.
I felt that sense of pride, that connection to Manly Beach, where he and Phyllis O’donnel won their World Titles. Anniversaries may sound corny, but you get that connection to the past. It helps to dig those roots into you. Those iconic shots of him during the World Title gave me a sense of ownership to them somehow. I felt connected. I had my first waves surfing Mid Steyne and North Steyne. It was something you felt a part of in some way.
Former SW Editor, Photographer, Artist A matter of weeks ago, as I changed for a surf at the regular haunt, a cyclist appeared out of the ageless headland backdrop on a north south loop. Clad head to foot in black he cruised the deserted bottom carpark oblivious to a chill Pittwater offshore. I glanced up as he drew abreast and recognised a familiar profile. Bernie the beak. “Hey Midget!” He passed by and, as if in thought, quite a way down the hill, made what could be described as a definitive statement: “Hugh” and was gone. An encounter mildly amusing at the time now takes on a certain gravity. I can’t claim to be anything but an acquaintance. Professionally I designed ads and the Surfblanks logo for Midget. My first SW design in ’73 included a Farrelly glassing tutorial. He lived where I surf so I always caught glimpses. A wave, a few words, even the occasional knowing nod.
Midget’s aspirations for surfing seemed to be fuelled by an almost unrealistic purity, but this vision was founded on matchless experience. He was both charming and blunt, eloquent while taking sarcasm to a high art. A craftsman, innovator and stylist. A protagonist who couldn’t let perceived injustice lie unfried. What more can I say? The bloke was a one-off, a true individual and a champion. I hope he’s at peace.
Big Wave Pioneer This is how I met Midget, I was 13 years old, and I was entering the junior men Makaha International Championships in 1963. The big deal guy at that point, besides Buffalo Keaulana, was Midget Farrelly. In those years the newspaper was carrying a heavy coverage on the Championship. Although it wasn’t an official world title,
everybody kind of felt that the Makaha International was the biggest contest in the world and whoever won it was actually world champ. Me and my brother surfed in the junior mens and the big deal on the beach was Midget Farrelly. Being a kid, and never meeting the guy, he was already a gigantic hero to me and Eddie. And me being so young, I thought he was actually a midget. I expected to see a midget surfer. But we didn’t.
We didn’t really get to spend time with Midget until the North Shore, at the Duke Surfing Classic when the major influx came with Rabbit Bartholomew and Ian Cairns and those guys. Midget was before all of them, and had been coming to the North Shore for a number of years. No matter what, Midget was always a really nice person to Eddie and I and my family. I loved the guy. He and his wife were always wonderful people to me and my family. Years later we had travelled all over Europe, France, Japan, and everytime I saw Midget he was always a nice person to us, no matter who he was with. He was always such a humble person. His surfing was excellent, we really enjoyed surfing with him, watching him surf.
For me personally, me and my family are very homegrown, down to the basics of life and basics of people, and think it’s just outstanding when a famous World Champion like Midget, with all the media coverage that he received, he never forgot to say hi to Eddie and me. To tell you the truth, I love those guys, and I miss those years. We had good times, when it was ours. At this stage in life, for me and I guess a lot of guys our age, like Midget, is just to share our knowledge that we have with the younger people and hoping that they will want to know and want to listen because I feel that I can contribute to a lot of the younger guys’ lives. The things me and Eddie did in our lives, and what I want to share with them, can make them a better person right now, today and not 10 years later. There’s always going to be another world champion and there’s always going to be somebody who will ride a bigger wave than you. When it’s all said and done, I swear, it’s going to be the guys who were true to their heart, and true to their surfing and their passion that will always have that gigantic respect. Hawaiians say ‘high’ as Maka maka. Good luck to those people. God bless you Midget. Ride the long wave with Eddie Aikau up there.
2x Longboard World Champion Midget began the legacy of Australian world champions. He was a massive influence for me. His style is something people still try to emulate now, many decades later, and that alone is a credit to how good he really was.
Freewheelin’ Shaper, Innovator Midget and I knew each other a long time. We had a lot of parallels in our lives, with shaping, surfing and also getting involved in paddle boarding and surf club boats. He told
me nothing felt as great in surfing as taking off on a big wave in a surf boat, steering down the face looking at the wild expressions on the crews faces!
Publisher Switchfoot and Hodaddy.com.au Ever wary of the ‘surfing media’ that had turned on him in the late 1960s, Midget was the interview you couldn’t quite get, even if you were compiling a pseudo anti-corporate, anti-surf media book that was entirely independent. Switchfoot was a big up yours to surfing media of the era, but it was surf media all the same and Midget didn’t want to partake. Knowingly.
After the success of book one in 2005, I did speak to Midget and he was quite impressed with the book, aware of the challenges of self-publishing and at least happy that he’d contributed a quote to the Peter Drouyn chronology. It took another four years of pestering. “We can tell your REAL story, like I did with Drouyn. No editing from the corporate surf machine. No influence from the surf media mafia, you can see it in print and sign off on it before it goes out!’ These were the cries I was making from the hills of Byron and in 2008 Midget finally agreed to talk.
I flew down to Sydney and began the navigation towards Midget’s Surfblanks business, our appointment being at 11am. My mind was going a million miles an hour at the thought of finally getting his story on tape and putting some popular myths to rest, but I was also nervous because, well, it was Midget and I was a huge fan of his surfing. Who wasn’t? My aspirations (perhaps delusions) came crashing to the floor when I sat in front of Midget and he told me “I am sorry Andrew, but I have changed my mind and I can’t do your interview.” I was gutted. Where would all the obscurities and unknown stories that Midget was holding go if not into the pages on an independent, selffunded book? At that moment I honestly felt like they might be lost to surfing forever.
Several years later Midget and I began communicating again, mostly over email, with the occasional long phone conversation. If I had a surfing project I was working on, he would always discuss his knowledge of history and was extremely helpful, yet guarded. Always guarded. Understandably guarded.
The day after Midget died Wayne Lynch rang me and said, “Thanks for letting me say what I said about Midget in your third book, to know that he read it and know that he knew that before he died, that is priceless to me.” Priceless to me too.
7x World Champion It was a truly defining moment in surfing history when two young Australians became the first ever World Surfing Champions, paving the way for many of us who are chasing the same dream today. Midget will always be an incredibly important character in the history of surfing, an icon Australian surfers well never forget! Rest in Peace Mr Farrelly.
Finalist ’64 World Championships, Manly Midget could ride the nose so well. He knew how to perform on a longboard. He was very elegant. In those years, Phil Edwards was considered one of California’s leading stylists, and he taught a lot of the younger guys how to really ride nose and perform. He set a standard that was unbelievable, and Midget was there too in this era, coming from Australia. At the time everyone was buying in to how to use a longboard all around. Not only in noseriding and performing in smaller waves, but in bigger waves too.
In Hawaii when we started surfing we didn’t have a drop in situation. Guys always rode on the outside of younger kids coming up, and it drove us into the whitewater to see if we could get out of it and make the wave. That’s just how it was done in Hawaii and I think it finally changed in these international contests, because the judges wouldn’t allow it. I did that to Midget maybe once or twice. Maybe I didn’t think he was going to make the wave, but the 1964 World Championships turned my senses around. It was about time too, it was a good thing, because obviously that’s the right way to go, but we were doing it in Hawaii for years and years, for 20 years of my early life. It became the new standard for surfing around the world and that was a win in itself. At Manly, I recall perfect noseriding conditions for the preliminary rounds. Two to three feet and very clean. The final I think it got a little onshore and turned into more typical Manly conditions. But it was really clean on that first day or two.
After the contest, I was taken up north and went by all the surf breaks all the way to Byron Bay, right through Angourie.
There are so many of my contemporaries who have passed away, it’s so sad. Midget was there for one of the earliest waves of surfing and I was there too. I grew up on Waikiki Beach surfing in the ’40s. Most anyone who came to Hawaii passed by where I was. It was a wonderful experience to see the whole evolution take place. I was riding a redwood board with a vee tail and no fins, and that’s how it all started out.
All I can say is Midget was the man, with his ability to surf there’s no doubt about it. He owned it in his country and his time, and he came to Hawaii, to Makaha and proved it. He deserves all the credit he got.
Finalist ’65 World Championships, Peru Midget made me a board for Hawaii, back when he had the factory in Palmy. I paid 52 pounds for it. I told him I was going to the North Shore and he said to me, “Ok I’ll make you a board for Sunset.” It was 10’6’’. I surfed it in Hawaii for two months, and that’s the board I took to the World Titles in Peru, which was held at Punta Rocas in Lima in 1965. I mde the finals. Midget seemed restless around this time. He was borrowing everyone’s boards, and even borrowed the board he made for me. Everytime I’d look to the water at Mira Flores, where we were staying, he was out there, right in front of Club Waikiki. He was obviously dissatisfied in some way, as if he was trying to find the secret of the perfect board. He was always searching for ways to improve. He was very much focussed on performance. Midget travelled differently too, he never ran with a big pack of surfers as far as I know, but when you spoke with him you instantly wanted to be around him. It was like being amongst royalty, as if somebody introduced you to the King of England. He was very worldly, and I always had remarkable respect for the man. He was incredible.
Master Craftsman, Innovator In the very early days before pro surfing, I remember sitting around with my club mates from the North Narrabeen Board Riders Club shooting the breeze and discussing what it would be like if we could be paid to do what we most loved to do - surf. I talked to Midget about it on one of our trips down to the Bells Beach Easter Classic. He would always say, ‘No. Surfing’s about having fun, not about making money.’ He was a purist at heart. On one of our first trips to Hawaii with Midget in the early 70s, I was immediately made aware of just how much respect the Hawaiians had for him, not only as a surfer but as a decent human being. His reputation proceeded him, and wherever I went I was made to feel welcome thanks to Midget’s ambassadorship for Australia. To this day, his influence on surfing throughout the world is as strong as it was when I was a young man watching him in the boatshed in Palm Beach all those years ago. His impact, contribution and aura lives on forever.
11x World Champion Midget was an Australian icon. Most of what I knew about him was just personally spending bits of time here and there. He was always friendly and happy to talk about waves and boards with me. I enjoyed his company and only wished I had known him better. I’m surprised and deeply saddened by his passing, as is everyone else. Thanks for letting me share a few words.