Three issues after Gerry Lopez’s “Attitude Dancing” was published in SURFER in late 1976, young Australian Rabbit Bartholomew got his chance to respond on behalf of what are known today as the Free Ride revolutionaries, the enfants terrible who threatened to unseat the Old Guard on Oahu’s north shore.
“The fact is that when you are a young emerging rookie from Australia or South Africa you not only have to come through the backdoor…but you also have to bust that door down before they hear ya knocking.”
In his treatise “Bustin’ Down the Door,” he described the other side of the cultural clash that stood to halt the radical, progressive surfing championed by the young Australian and South African surfers—and his title announced, in no uncertain terms, how they meant to achieve revolution. Though Bartholomew felt he made his case in a respectful tone, many Hawaiians seethed over Rabbit’s and his countrymen’s behavior in the water, and his essay, rather than quell their anger, had the opposite effect.
Weeks after “Bustin’ Down the Door” was published, Rabbit got in a tussle with Hawaiian legend Barry Kanaiaupuni during a competition in Australia. The following season on the North Shore would prove to be one Bartholomew would never forget. Death threats and punch-outs meted out by local surfers soon forced Rabbit and a handful of other Down Under crew to live in a state of siege in a nearby resort.
Fortunately, Hawaiian Eddie Aikau saw that things had gone too far. He and his highly-respected family stepped in and called together the aggrieved parties for some good old-fashioned ho’oponopono, the Hawaiian custom of putting things right in a group or family meeting. Held in a packed conference room at the Turtle Bay Hilton, this gathering of the tribes was a de facto public trial. The verdict: Rabbit had shown disrespect for the local people; he was banished from the North Shore, save only for his heats in the scheduled professional surfing contests.
Many believe that Aikau’s actions may have actually saved Rabbit’s life. It would be three years before he could return, and many more before he could stop looking over his shoulder. Today, Rabbit is the president of the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) and stands in good graces with the Hawaiian surfing community. Still, in a 2005 SURFER interview with editor Chris Mauro, Rabbit felt the sting of old wounds, observing that the affair “cut me in half as a man.”
The intro above is from The Best of Surfer Magazine,
Edited by Chris Mauro and Steve Hawk
Foreword by Dave Parmenter,
BUSTIN’DOWN THE DOOR
by Wayne Rabbit Bartholomew
With the emphasis of our sport being placed on sophisticated lines of both human and mechanical technology, the year 1976 has thrust mankind into the last quarter of the current century cycle; and, as we draw ever closer towards that controversy-shrouded twenty-first century dateline, a now insignificant minority of individuals, whether they realize it or not, are psychologically adapting themselves for this coming evolution of time.
Certainly the ruthlessness of the industrialized material world has contributed to the attempted suffocation of individuality, but even in this year of politically celebrated bullshit, it cannot be denied that our race witnessed superhuman extensions of the accepted impossible, even though the recognition of personal achievement was somewhat smothered in the repetitious mode of daily madness.
From within the loose living, rowdy atmosphere of contemporary society has filtered individuals who are making accurate evaluations of their own potentials; and, through combined natural ability and total dedication, they are mentally gearing themselves to physically project towards their concept of the highest attainment in a given, or alternative, direction. Evidence of this movement was witnessed and displayed at the Montreal Olympics, in which swimming stars, no doubt motivated by Spitz’s notoriety, marginally reduced 95 percent of the existing world records; and also, for the first time in history, perfect scores were rewarded to Rumanian and Soviet gymnasts.
As people’s comprehension of perfection reaches new heights, in relation to the level they are currently at, they begin expanding their mental awareness, absorbing and utilizing all relevant experiences, and their physical coordinations simply become a reflection of their inner knowledge. Their imagination continually challenges their spontaneity, and they develop the ability to bounce off both positive and negative vibrations, like a computer absorbing, analyzing, assessing, and finally responding with a relevant statement.
A recent book called “Powers of Mind”, by Adam Smith, reports that professional athletes unknowingly sound like Zen masters, being that they’re on the mind-body trip where psychology fades into Oriental physiology. He claims that while gurus are guruing, and M.A.’s in psychology tell you what it’s all about, the pro golfers, tennis players, and footballers are assimilating Zen theories on meditation whilst in actual competition. By total concentration, or turning of the ego mind, one can slow down reality to a state where even the most intense situation can be dominated with total comfort and subtlety by simply being as one with the situation. Sounds like Pipeline to me.
But what does all of this have to do with SURFER Magazine, and you, and me, and us? Well I think that the development of modern-day surfing is a bitchin’ example of “the extended limits principle,” and it is still a fairly young trip. When surfing became a popular pastime roughly twenty years ago, the objectives and directions were quite basic, as the pure novelty of riding waves was in itself a breakthrough and a stoker. Gradually people became aware of water flow principles, and so began the evolution of surfboard design and theory. Actual style and performance were of little consequence until the arrival of the first superstar, Phil Edwards. In ’59, when Edwards went surfing , many of his down-the-line-peers could not completely comprehend and accept his approach, and he was, therefore, often criticized for executing such radical longboard maneuvers, And for incorporating pronounced body English, and his creativity wasn’t fully recognized until years later.
Surfing progressed through the various longboard eras, and it was the transition point between long and short board that planted the root to some of our modern-day concepts, and the impact of those young dudes from Down Under, namely Nat. McTavish and Company, blew the existing directions apart, and with their animal aggression and spontaneous direction changes, they presented radically carved faces to a then unsuspecting audience. People’s reactions ranged from being totally for this new revolution, to being totally anti-radicalized, or else they couldn’t give a stuff anyway.
The fact of the matter is that Nat, like Edwards and Nuuhiwa, had set his own standard of hot surfing, with high priority given to total performance, and he’d set his standard within himself while he was still a developing gremmie, long before he exposed it to the world. Nat simply opened the door to realistic extensions, and in the following years, many alternative directions were created by people such as Jock Sutherland, Lopez, Hakman, Greenough, B.K., Owl, Lynch, Reno, James Jones, Fitzgerald, Hamilton, and many others, and though each exhibits individuality and comes from varying sources, they all seemingly influence, and were thus influenced by, each other’s energies, and they created immense incentive for young kids to go surfing.
By synchronization with many seasons and cycles, these guys introduced many innovations to the surf vehicle, and were either directly or indirectly responsible for untold breakthroughs, including, with the help of people such as Hemmings and Downing, the introduction of professional surfing contests, and the overall commercialization of surfing. Another angle which is rarely reflected upon is the development of surf photography and the growth, expansion and influence of the surfing media, which, apart, from expressing both art and the game of surfing, supports quite a band of ocean-oriented people.
And here we are today, ’76, and yet another breed is establishing themselves, and creating new directions, and following contest circuits, and still finding remote surf spots, and generally laying their trip on the surfing world. Most names are known, including Bertleman, Ho, Buttons, Dunn, Liddell, and Kealoha from Hawaii; Paarman and Mike and Shaun Tomson from South Africa, and Richards, Peterson, Cairns, Warren, Townend, Raymond, and a few others from Australia, with Rasmussen and Flecky being more versatile mainlanders, along with the already established Crawford and Loehr.