witzig : we're tops now, 1967
the publication of We've Tops Now was
detrimental to Australian-Californian relations, although many
may not have read past the deliberately inflamatory title.
The editors of Surfer might had made a more significant contribution to surfing if they had, instead, reprinted the technically brilliant article by Bob McTavish.
On the following pages are the views of
Australian surfers presented by leading Australian surf
writer, John Witzig.
Witzig writes of the new "power" school of Australian surfing and says...
by John Witzig- Australia.
thrash Nuuhiwa, and make Bigler look like a pansy."
These were the words of Bob Cooper when he saw Nat at Rincon in the week prior to the World Championships.
It was far more than a superficial comment when Cooper noted, "I haven't seen power surfing since I was in Australia."
Cooper knew that Nat and Drouyn were not two isolated instances, but were indicative of the new school of thought in Australia.
Those of us
who were conversant with the present trend of surfing in
Australia, were astonished at the corresponding lack of
development in this direction in the United States.
Probably nothing has had such a profound influence in leading Californian surfing out on a limb than has the nose riding fixation.
I need no
justification to claim that this obsession with nose riding
has been initiated and vigorously promoted by the commercial
interests in the sport.
The number of 'nose riders' that have been sold gives more than credence to this argument.
The real aim of surfing has been lost in a morass of con caves and the idolatry of David Nuuhiwa.
be no greater indictment of Californian surfing than the
fact that Nuuhiwa took only his nose rider to San Diego for
the World Championships.
Surfers had been telling themselves for so long that they were right and that they were good, they had come to absolutely believe in it.
How much a shock has it been to see the idols, the graven images, fall so unceremoniously to the ranks of the also-rans.
What was it
that made Nuuhiwa take only his specialist board to San
If this can be honestly answered, then this curious ailment that has striken Californian surfing will have been partly remedied.
Not only did Nuuhiwa think that all he had to do to win the World Championships was to perch on the front of his board, not only did he know that everyone in California would agree with him, but he thought that the rest of the world could not see through his self-induced delusion.
This delusion has been expressed and I suppose partly caused, by a second great anomaly in the Californian surfing system.
While the nose riding preoccupation has produced surfing specialists on a scale never before seen, the restricted wave system used in contests has produced a group of the most ordinary and average surfers I imagine have ever 'led' Californian surfing.
happened to surfing?
On one hand there are the Specialists who have made surfing 'nose riding': on the other, an uninspired personification of normalcy, neutrality, and mediocrity.
In the middle somewhere is the group whose members are not really good at either.
state that there are no good surfers in California.
I cannot state that David Nuuhiwa cannot surf well according to the standards which I seek to establish.
I do state that the 'system' has created a standard of surfing, a pattern of riding, that does not allow surfers
Here's the 'in-the-pocket' style
of Australian 'Nat' Young,
World Surfing Champion.
Photos by John Witzig.
system should work to draw from the competing surfers their
When the surfers have to work for, to surf for, the system, then the system has defeated its purpose.
The Huntington contest is a prime example of a restricted wave contest.
Through Australian eyes this was the most tedious and uninteresting contest that I have ever seen.
Even the stupidity of the mass public enthusiasm for nose work did little to arouse interest.
The surfers, restricted and confined by the system, did not attempt anything which would constitute a chance.
Indeed they could not.
system must simulate as closely as possible, those
conditions that are experienced in the ocean.
If the freedom that we find so inherent in riding waves is not expressed in our competitions, then they are not true contests of surfing.
If we are to derive any value from contests then they should encourage the surfer to draw on greater talents than he is aware he possesses.
A surfer must have that freedom that allows him to attempt far greater things, and make a mistake in the process.
To my knowledge achievement has never been laid at the door of the ordinary person.
Consistency becomes mediocrity unless measured in terms of challenge and achievement.
with whom Greenough first came into contact was Bob
A theoretician in his own right, it was only reasonable that he and Greenough might spur each other to greater levels of creativity and experimentation.
McTavish and Greenough talked and surfed, and began applying their principles to surfboard design.
While everyone else in Australia was turning to longer boards, McTavish built short and more manoeuvreable boards which he could use to place himself in the best part of the wave.
McTavish's words best describe his principle motive:
"The direction is involvement.
Getting into tight spots and getting back out of them.
This is of course, a supplement direction to the all powerful 'make the wave' motive.
The way to get involved, obviously, is to place yourself in a critical position, under, in, over, around the curl, quite often in contact with it."
The trend is to push things to the limit:
"The tighter you push them; the longer you hold them; the more involved you are; the more situations you can overcome; the hotter you are."
This then is the McTavish philosophy.
The desire to attempt the impossible; to transgress into the realm of the unattainable; to power.
the master tactician of the perfect wave, saw his personal
limitations in the transference of his thoughts into general
He chose then to infuse with his enthusiasm and his aggression a number of other surfers in Australia.
The result of this union was the surfer that the world saw as the best in San Diego.
Nat has an
enormous reservoir of surfing talent.
He has a feeling for the surf that he can express in his riding.
He possesses that superb control under all circumstances that mark him as a fine surfer.
He is part of this 'power' school of surfing: he has crushed the 'pansy' surfers of California and the East Coast: the mediocre 'competition surfers' have paled into insignificance in the face of his aggression.
Nat is the
best surfer in Australia.
Australia is represented by its best.
How is it that the United States is not?
Of the ten Californian surfers, only John Peck showed some sort of aggression, and David Nuuhiwa showed that he was capable of it.
While Australia presented its finest, the U.S. had only its run-of-the-mill ordinary, and its specialists.
Surfboards expressed as clearly as any other factor, the extent of the deviation in direction that has occurred in Californian surfing.
There was the ever present concave, the stretch, the 50 50, da cat, the performer, the eliminator and the penetrator.
It is the concern of this Australian surfer that. his board should express, as he himself sees it, the whole, rather than a series of unrelated or specialist manoeuvres.
The Australian concern is with 'the whole' and the Australian board is designed with this purpose in mind.
The direction is positive.
It is towards dynamic and controlled aggression in surfing.
What is the future?
As I see it, a continued domination of world surfing by the Australians.
Californian surfing is so tied and stifled by restrictions that are its own creation, and other countries simply do not have the necessary ability.
What chance is there that California will free itself of its encumbrances?
This is something that I cannot answer.
General social conditions will continue to exercise an influence over the surfing scene.
The drug situation is something which cannot be ignored.
"Push things to the limit- the tighter you push them; the longer you hold them; the more involved you are;
the more situations you can overcome; the hotter you are."- Bob McTavish.
To the right, an example of Mctavish and his style.
"Nat has crushed the 'pansy' surfers of California and the East Coast:
The mediocre 'competition surfers' have paled into insignificance in the face of his aggression."
Morey-Pope Blue Machine
The Men and Their Models
Gun by Bing Surfboards.
Rider: Jock Sutherland
da cat by Greg Noll Surfboards
Lance Carson model by Jacobs Surfboards
da cat by Hobie Surfboards
Greg Noll Surfboards:
After surviving '66 Da Cat promises to go for broke in '67.
'66 is behind me and rotting on the insanity heap.
Sticking my neck out to tell the truth in advertising has backfired for the most part of last year.
For shaking up the status quo and stepping on the wrong toes at the right time, strange things began to happen.
Character assassination, intimidation, and the latest frame job to put me in the Grey Hotel.
When these things occur, you know you are beginning to hit home and the foundation is starting to split.
Da Cat was here before and will be here after.
The more it is put down, the stronger it gets.
The moons and the finks and the rest of you will always be washed up because you're nothing and you stand for less and there are a few of us left who know who you are.
- Mickey Dora.
Holmsey Surfboards: The Sidewinder is here!
The Sidewinder is the newest design in noseriders from Holmsey Surfboards.
The idea was conceived in mid-summer, 1966, and has been in experimental stages for the past six months.
During that time it has been tested and re-tested by the Holmsey Surf Team and after many changes we have developed one of the finest surfboards for prolonged and controlled noseridtng ever designed.
The Sidewinder has relatively parallel rails and a wide nose.
It's main features, however, are the slots and scoop in the tail section.
In a combined action these serve to hold the tail down, thereby holding the nose up at times when ordinary noseriders will fail.
This action does not reduce the speed of the board as might be suspected; on the contrary, it has a tendency to cause it to plane out very rapidly.
As the speed increases, the efficiency also increases.
Holmsey Surfboards (Florida)
Volume 8 Number 2.
Our cover features one of Australia's angry young surfers,
Nat Young, who says "We're tops now."
To see more of Nat and his power school of surfing, see page 46.
Photo by John Witzig.
Volume 8 Number 4