Wayne Rabbit Bartholomew
Weight: 176 lbs.
Hometown: Kirra, Queensland, Australia
Music: David Bowie, The Rolling Stones
Achievements: 1978 World Champion. Pioneer of backside Pipeline attack and deep-ass tube rides. Two-time World Masters Champion. Association of Surfing Professionals President.
Wayne Rabbit Bartholomew had a dream. He wanted to surf every day for the rest of his life, and he wanted to get paid to do it. In the days before any World Championship Tour, when contests were sparse, prize money barely covered fuel costs, and surfers were little more than social outcasts, the man they affectionately call Bugs was laying down a mental blueprint for the future. He saw legitimate careers in surfing and no one could tell him otherwise.
Bugs was the first person on Earth to file a tax return under the guise of “professional surfer.” Unfortunately, the department promptly sent it back, saying there was no such thing. Now there is—thanks to the Bugs.
But he doesn’t take all the credit for his contributions: “Peter Townend’s professionalism, his vision, and belief that you could make a living from surfing had a huge effect on me, as did a lot of the things happening around the Joe Larkin surfboard factory at that time. I was a young kid soaking it all in.” Hanging out with surfing legends like Michael Peterson, Wayne Lynch, Gordon Merchant, and Terry Fitzgerald during the shortboard revolution in Australia, Bugs had a lot to soak in.
Along with inspiration from other surfers, Bugs was fueled by a wild imagination: “When I was growing up I read Lord Of The Rings, and it was a giant influence. I figured where I came from on the Gold Coast was just like the Shire. It was Hobbitsville. Going to places like Hawai’i was like going to Mount Doom. My imagination slotted into that kind of thinking for years, and so all these challenges and ideas, no matter how big, I’d try to face as if they were part of those stories.”
As he grew older, he found inspiration in guys like Peter Drouyn, Nat Young, Midget Farrelly, and American guys like Phil Edwards and Micky Dora.
Outside of surfing, Bugs says his biggest influences were none other than Mick Jagger and David Bowie: “They were so hot. Bowie had the whole Ziggy Stardust thing going. He would change his persona, move in and out of character at will, the sheer performer, as was Jagger,” after whom Bugs named his son.
He credits his early trips to Hawai’i surfing with Barry Kanaiaupuni and Ian Cairns and his great rivalry with Shaun Tomson for shaping his life: “Those early days really stamped my personal evolution and contributed to who I am as a person and as a surfer today.” His most recent influence is philanthropist Greville Mitchell of Mitchell Surfing Foundation. “I think as you get older, being able to take part in helping others overcome adversity to reach their dreams is an amazing thing to be a part of,” says Bugs.
A passionate visionary and a competitive rock ‘n’ roller with a rebel yell and a style all his own, Bugs has impacted surfing like no other. The world of top-end competitive surfing is all the better for still being in his caring hands after all this time. If you’ve ever dreamed of pro-surfing glory, you’ve been influenced by BBugs.