Illustration by Nanda Ormond

Hypotheticals With Rabbit Bartholomew


You wake up in an alternative reality in which surfboards don’t exist but Kirra is its old self and going berserk. What do you ride?
Well consider the board MP and I used to fight over, the number 19 hire board. That thing wasn’t far removed from being a park bench with a half moon fin stuck to it. It would leave a groove in the bitumen as you dragged it to the beach. So I’d be peeling up a park bench.

Michael Peterson shapes you a new stick for the World Masters and assures you it’ll win you the comp. Do you view his gift with suspicion?
Well he gave me a board at Caves in 73 that I couldn’t even paddle and that I fell off first wave and lost out to sea. He did it again at Margarets in huge waves and I got annihilated. So yeah, I think I’d view this one with suspicion.

Warner Bros are making the film of your life. Who plays young Rabbit and who plays Rabbit of today?
Sean Penn all the way. He’s such a fantastic actor. He could play me now no worries and we’d have to wheel out Spicoli for when I was a grommet.

Advances in human memory data technology allow for one session to be reproduced on film, as seen through your eyes. What’s the session?
I remember this onshore summer swell way back before Big Groyne had been put in. Nobody was even thinking about surfing. Then this southerly that could rip the roofs off houses hit at about four in the arvo. So I went down there and it was absolutely perfect and there wasn’t a single guy out. A bloke from school ended up paddling out with me and we surfed it by ourselves till dark.

You can only ride one surfboard for the rest of your life, what is it?
It’d be this 6’2” Lee Stacey did for me. It’s an 80s model with a modern bottom curve and it paddles beautifully which is always helpful at my age but it goes ridiculously good in just about any type of waves. He’s a genius.

Mick Jagger can no longer front the Rolling Stones. Keef Richards calls and asks you to fill in. What do you wear and what song do you kick off with?
Well the leather pants from my 80s Performers days probably wouldn’t fit me anymore so I’d wear a tank top with tight jeans. I’d kick things off with You Can’t Always Get What You Want.

It’s you and Jimmy Connors in the final at Wimbledon. It’s six all in the fifth when Jimmy calls a time out to eat a banana. How do you respond?
I’d walk straight up to the net and just eyeball him. I always wanted someone to do that to McEnroe. I thought Jimmy Connors would be the man most likely. So I’d do that to Jimmy. Get right in his face and call him out.

The Thruster is never invented. Who holds the record for most World Titles and who’s World Champion today?
Well, MR would still have his record in tact. I saw Mick Fanning ride a single fin recently and he was going super fast. And then there’s Kelly to consider. You know what? The cream always rises to the top. Doesn’t matter if you’re riding a park bench or the latest high performance JS. The cream always rises to the top.

Surfing World