Bob McTavish:Functional Sub-Styles Surfing World
Volume 7 Number 2, December 1965.
1970 Bob McTavish : Streaks
and Slugs. Surfer
Tips : Number Forty Five, Surfer
11 Number 2May 1970, pages 27 and 29.
McTavish asked Bob Evans to
select photographs illustrating the techniques described
in this article. Evans understood what was required , but to
interpret any one shot as being truly representative of
McTavish's ideas was a difficult job. The two pictures on this page are perhaps the
most clear cut example.
Top: Bernard Farrelly, a clear 'A' type, is
seldom ever caught unawares. Similarly, his graceful movement while
manoeuvring with complete flexibility is well
known. Ian Wilson photo.
Lower: This unidentified surfer, by the
physical cut of his jib and his adventurous situation within the
wave, qualifies as a type 'B'. Bruce Usher photo.
Sub-Styles by Bob
I guess it's been said a thousand times before.
It'll be said again.
There are two fairly distinct styles of surfing that have
emerged over the past couple of years.
The original two are generally dubbed "Functional"
Everyone knows the characteristics of each style, so I
don't intend to repeat them.
But there are sub-styles forming.
Functional surfing is splitting into a couple of distinct
They could be called "smooth-fast", "beautiful-ugly",
It's very difficult to find one word which could sum up
each style, therefore description of the characteristics
of each style is necessary. Firstly, the smooth, flowing,
aesthetic school as presented by such leaders as Russell
Hughes, Midget Farrelly and many Californians.
Pick up just about any photo of Farrelly or Hughes and
study it closely.
Study the wake, the rooster tail, the angles and inclines
of their boards, body positioning and wave position, and
there's something about the whole thing which is very
difficult to put your finger on — definitely an aesthetic
beauty, a kind of symmetry, artistic composition, an
intelligent representation and interpretation of the
action and other natural goodies of meaningful surfing.
There are a couple of classics which you've seen for sure.
Russell Hughes doing a cut-back outside Robert Conneely at
a place near Noosa which appeared in the "Woman's Weekly"
last October 20th, and Midget arching through a small
Currumbin gobbly right on the beach which appeared in that
very successful American bi-monthly a couple of years
These two are beautiful examples of this smooth, flowing
symmetric school, even though the Farrelly shot was taken
nearly four years ago.
I guess it was this sense of the aesthetic that put Midget
so far ahead of the rest of the country's surfers around
that time. All the advocates of this
style — let's just call it Style "A" — arc physically
built to suit it.
They are taller, perhaps slimmer or wirier than their
Style "B" counterparts.
I guess surfers adjust their mental outloks (sic, outlooks)
to suit their physical limitations or advantages, which is
only natural. The Style "B" devotees don't
photograph nearly as well as the Style "A" mob, as they
lack the sort of beauty which can be captured in a-still
They sacrifice the symmetry and visual beauty for a more
practical thing which is based around speed of movement
and accuracy of positioning of the board.
They tend to surf almost ugly, but their board is
generally embedded more deeply in the curl, due to their
often awkward looking, but speedier, actions.
Surfers of this Style "B" school usually require a little
bit of a peel to show their capabilities.
There haven't been very many photos or movies of Style
"B", as it is still definitely in a state of emergence. I hope sincerely that I don't
sound biased towards one style or the other, although I
Physical limitations (short, ugly, twisted body) force me
to be a Style "B" devotee.
But no doubt if I was constructed a bit longer (upward)
and shorter inwards, I'd be trying to achieve the
aesthetic something of the Farrellys, Hughes, Coopers,
Each style has its pros and cons which would probably
weigh up fairly evenly.
to represent each functional manoeuvre in a similarly
pleasing manner, plus the perpetual striving to achieve
this intangible "fitting-in" with the curl, the aesthetic
bit, must break fairly even with the tight, controlled,
involved (physically) with the curl, advancement of the
Style "B" surfer.
I imagine there's equal satisfaction to be extracted from
each, providing the surfer is following the course that
suits his physical and mental make-up.
If a Style "A" surfer can cruise through a section in the
pocket and then smoothly swing into a flowing cutback
he'd stoke himself out of his gourd, just as a B-type
hard-works his way with split-second stalls, rocketing
acceleration bursts, keeping the board involved with the
curl all the way, and snapping his cut-back just as the
section ends, with equal result-satisfaction.
Bat if the surfer happens to be following the wrong
direction, perhaps because he idolizes a surfer of
opposite mental attitudes, or perhaps because he likes the
look of, and buys, a board that is designed for the
opposite style of surfing to the one which fits his
physical capabilities, he will be enduring as much
frustration as satisfaction.
Be sure of your direction.
In many cases a surfer of Style
"B" employs characteristics of "A" Style and vice versa. A
guy may have worked the hell out of a curl and then a long
section stands up.
As a direct contrast to the hard work he has been doing, he
may relax and arch as be cruises through the long section,
and on emerging, snap back into the hard work again. Style
"A" guys often discard their composure, and burl themselves
into the curl to counter white-water action, but when the
trouble is over, they regain their smooth, flowing beauty. There are a few cases where
surfers from both styles have reached a sufficient stage of
advancement to actually incorporate both "A" and "B" as one.
These guys snap off all the movements, refinements, and
complexities of Style "B" with the grace and flawlessness
of an advanced "A" man.
In fact, when leaders of both styles have a really good day,
they usually achieve this fabulous unity.
It's the surfer who can perpetually surf on this level who's
I don't believe there is a surfer in Australia who can
always do this.
A handful can achieve this state on really good days, and
even average good days, but not every time they enter the
water. Another point is that perhaps
the leaders in Styles "A" and "B" don't wish to see
themselves employ both styles, for perhaps they can progress
more rapidly by sticking to the one.
In this case I think that gradual adoption of the other
style is part of progress, something which occurs
naturally, without conscious effort.
The Style "A" surfer will gradually speed up actions, work
harder and still retain his fluid grace.
The Style "B" surfer will find himself developing a more
acceptable, visually pleasing style, becoming more fluid
without any sacrifice of speed of action or loss of
I believe these changes will take place without the surfers
consciously intending them to do so. What is now a split, two
definite styles, will probably end up in unity again.
But the surfers that emerge will be much more mature, well
rounded products compared to the uncut hunks of gemstone
that entered the progress machine. Page
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