First printed in The Surfing World, February 1963 and recreated in SW Issue 400: The Best of Surfing World

FROM THE VAULT: Hawaiian Triumph

Surfing World editor Bob Evans, himself a competitor, here gives a graphic account of how Australian Bernard (Midget) Farrelly became the first “foreigner” to take Hawaii’s coveted International Board Riding contest. It is a story to thrill all Australians, whether board devotees or not.

THE colourful crowning of Midget Farrelly
 as Australia’s first world surf board champion climaxed days of intense competition by some of the best board riders I have ever seen.

Midget’s wonderful success has sent Australia’s board riding stocks sky high and there’s no doubt at all that his terrific win was a great publicity kick for Australia.

Australians are perhaps the most popular visitors to Oahu at any time, but it was especially good to be “an Aussie” when Midget won his world championship.

(As soon as they picked our Australian accents the Americans and Hawaiians wanted to buy us drinks and invited us to their homes and asked us so many questions about “Down Under.”)

I reckon there were about 40 to 50 Australians on Makaha Beach when the Midget received his world championship trophy – a delicately carved wooden trophy 3 feet high.

Pilots and air crews, a couple of Australian journalists, holiday makers and many, many businessmen, who naturally take a couple days off in Hawaii on their way to or from America, were among a great crowd of 4,000 who watched the finals.

I really can’t describe to you the thrill of hearing the good old Aussie cheer of “You Beaut, Midget,” when you’re miles from home.

We arrived at Honolulu Airport (naturally greeted by hip-swinging hula girls) to be told by Customs officers that the championships had already started!

The thought of pushing a plank out after travelling for some 14 hours really didn’t appeal to any of us.

We flew past Waikiki and headed for Makaha some 27 miles from Honolulu on the windward side of Oahu.

Makaha is one of Oahu’s best surfing beaches but
 I must say we were tickled to death when we saw only medium sized humps breaking about 350 yards from shore. Had there been a typical Makaha surf on in those elimination heats we would have been in all sorts of trouble.

Midget’s board wasn’t even unwrapped when we got to Makaha but he ripped the packing away and was busy rubbing his board down half an hour before the last semi-final.

Midget went out in his familiar striped down board shorts slipped down a couple of waves and then came back to the start to pick up his numbered singlet.

I’m not kidding but all this happened within one hour of arriving in Honolulu. The “champ” was pretty toey.

Midget woke up straight away and was untroubled in his paddle out or on his ride back home.

We were invited to stay with Bud Browne and Mike Doyle at Rocky Point just near Sunset Beach. After chewing the fat for a couple of hours we were glad to hit the sack.

There’s a fabulous body surf right out the front of the house and we had a couple of hours riding some fine waves the next morning. Later in the afternoon we went to Downtown Honolulu and bought ourselves a 1950 Chevrolet sedan for 40 quid!

We drove out to Makaha after I had renewed my American license where the three of us had a couple of of hours on the boards in preparation for the next round.

Midget served notice in his semis. He was the top threat to the acknowledged champions. He impressed the astute watchers with his control, his crouching “George Moore” style and his great balance.

Midget was the only non-American in the final. The other nine were either Americans or naturalised Americans. I think there were six American Hawaiians in the final.

The surf was so poor after the semi-finals that officials decided to postpone the finals until the surf built up a bit.

However, after the first day in which there wasn’t a great build up they decided to run the championship the following day irrespective of conditions.

We drove out to Makaha and nearly died when we saw the surf. The waves were at best no bigger than 8 feet. We couldn’t have got a better surf for Midget if we’d prayed to one of the Hawaiian Surf Gods.

We dashed back to pick up Midget full of confidence. We found him sitting on the verandah looking out to sea as if he was in a trance. He was naturally nervous.

The final ten were given their numbered colored singlets and the judges took up their positions. The competitors were introduced to the crowd with typical American gusto and the atmosphere was terrific when Midget was introduced from “Sydney, Australia, etc., etc.”

This is when the Aussies in the crowd gave out with “Good on you Midget … You Beauty Aussie … Up Yer Go Matie … “

From the time Midget rode his first wave we were confident he’d make the last three. He was in great form. He was never in any bother at all. As a matter of fact after about his third run Midget had the waves running for him.

I can’t stress too much the incredible respect the Hawaiians and Americans gave these small waves. Maybe they tightened up or something but Midget, while he was very calm, made the best of the conditions. He moved to within 200 yards of the beach and vigorously hot dogged every wave he could get into.

However, there is no doubt Midget would have been a hard man to beat in any conditions.

After his final run Midget got a terrific hand from the crowd and when one of the Aussies yelled “You can down your glasses Midget” it confirmed our hopes that Midget would get the title.

We had to sweat it out for nearly two hours before the judges came to their decision. While we were waiting Midget went for a surf.

In due ceremony “Bernard Midget Farrelly of Sydney Australia” was announced the world surf board riding champion.

He had made it!

Midget went a white colour for a while then broke into a broad grin as he was called up for the presentation.

He received his trophy and then was garlanded with a magnificent lei of carnations. (The carnation lei in Honolulu is the most significant garland you can wear).

Other competitors and hula girls “leid” Midget and at the end he had so many leis around his neck he looked like the winner of the Kentucky derby.

Midget was interviewed by the press, radio and television boys and he kept saying “Boy won’t they be pleased back home.”

It certainly wasn’t a night to sleep.

This article and more of the best from Surfing World, available in the current issue, on sale now. 

Surfing World