First Person: Wayne Bartholomew

An interview with the legendary competitor, professional surfing icon, Kirra local, and World Champion

Photo: Ellis
Photo: Ellis

If you could trade in your World Championship for anything, what would it be?
There is no doubt about it, as one gets older the appreciation grows for the simple act of riding waves, paddling in the ocean and enjoying the health to do it. World Championship glory dims considerably in the clear light of a beautiful day. If I could wish for one thing, and give it all back, it would be the recovery of my sister Wendy.

What color skin does God have?
From space it is actually the blue planet, and when you consider the gifts we have been bestowed with in the oceans, it makes sense, I mean, we have blue blood, maybe God is all blue. Of course, if man is made in HIS likeness, God wouldn’t be silly enough to make himself prone to skin cancer, and considering it is halfway between white and black, there is also a strong case for brown.

Would you be willing to give up sex for one year if you knew it would give you a deeper sense of peace than you have now?
Yes I would, however I need to quantify that by adding that this would have been a much harder choice 20 years ago. There are many obstacles to a deeper sense of peace in my life, but the birth of my two sons have overridden many of these, and, oh yeah, there was sex involved in delivering this happiness.

You’ve been physically assaulted in the water. Is there ever a necessary time or place for physical violence in the water?
I think not. Violence is generally a self indulgence, I mean, you usually don’t see guys picking on someone bigger then themselves. Sometimes the perception of intimidation is enough to prevent a spot being overrun, and for sure there needs to be a code of ethics deployed in the surf, particularly for the visiting surfer, but if you are behaving yourself, being respectful and courteous, and just having fun, you don’t deserve to be bashed.

What important decision in your professional life was based solely on your gut instinct?
The last time I surfed Big Pipe, around 1990, I swung around and took a huge wedge and went right. The thing got so hollow that it devoured me, I failed to penetrated the face and got slammed on the bottom twice then totally obliterated by a whole set on the backdoor part of the reef. That instinct to go right contributed hugely to my decision to retire from Pipe.

If Wayne Bartholomew were never born how would pro surfing be different?
It’s funny how revelations come to you, but it struck me the other day that if World War II had gone differently I probably wouldn’t have been born at all. I figure we were so fortunate to be riding these beautiful waves at Kirra in the late 60’s and 70’s, and it was this collection of characters that were in the same boat as me, amongst them Shaun, MR, PT, Ian, Simon, MT, Bruce, Mike Ho and Mark Warren, that all shared this dream of being pro surfers. Even though I have been a bit closer to the machinations then some of my peers, I think the others would have still carried the sport to where it is now–maybe under their stewardship, further.