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When was the last time you felt like a grommet?
I recently had the opportunity to attend the rematch of the 1964 World Surfing Championships held in Noosa, Australia.
The original event was the first acknowledged World Championships–staged in Manly, Sydney–where the highly touted Americans lead by Californians L.J. Richards, Mike Doyle (the reigning West Coast champion), and Hawai’ian Joey Cabell came down under to challenge the Midget Farrelly-led Aussies.
It was the first event outside of the annual Makaha Championships in Hawai’i that assembled an international cast of competitors and truly signaled the arrival of surfing as an international competitive sport.
Thirty years later on the beach at Noosa, all the original men’s finalists–with the exception of the late Bobby Brown–were still in great surfing shape. Each of them were at least in their fifties–Cabell is in his sixties. It was a great emotional moment for all of us lucky enough to be in attendance.
Here I was on the beach, feeling like a stoked grommet at 45, remembering back to ’64 when I followed this event daily in the newspaper (even cutting out the articles and sticking them in a scrapbook). It made me feel young again.
Today, when I attend a WCT event like the Op Pro I feel like a grandpa in awe of the talents of the Kelly Slaters, Shane Dorians, and Shane Beschens who lead modern surfing. It makes me realize how important events like this rematch are to our surf culture. It’s like a gathering of the tribes, and it’s important for us to acknowledge these pioneers who first captured the thrills of riding waves–all the way back to the Polynesians and the acknowledged father of the sport, Duke Kahanamoku.
In America, we have numerous surfing museums, the Surfing Walk of Fame, and events like the UCSD Cancer Center Lu’au that acknowledge the contributions of many individuals who make it possible for us to enjoy the rewards our industry provides today.
We should never forget that feeling of being a grommet. At its heart, being a grommet perfectly captures the spirit of surfing culture.
As I said to Midget after the rematch, “Geez, if they ever have a rematch for the ’76 IPS year, I hope I surf that good.”
Actually, I think that he, Cabell, Doyle, L.J., and Mick Dooley surfed better now, 30 years later, because the boards are that much better.
Being there rejuvenated my enthusiasm for surfing every day. I feel like a grommet again!
Surf Industry Manufacturers Association