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witzig : nat vs. nuuhiwa, 1967 

John Witzig : Nat vs. Nuuhiwa ... How Do We Compare?, 1967.

Witzig, John: Nat vs Nuuhiwa, Drouyn vs Doyle, McTavish vs. Miller, Hughes vs. Harrison ... How Do We Compare?
Surfing World
Volume 8 Number 4 pages 10 to 13.
January 1967.

First published in Surfing World, the article was reprinted in California's Surfer two months later under the inflammatory title We're Tops Now along with additional introductory remarks
Published in the US in May 1967 (Volume 8 Number 2), Witzig's introduction is a response to a recent Surfer article,The High Performers by Bill Cleary, published in March 1967 (Volume 8 Number 1 pages 46-52).
The Surfer introduction is reproduced below.
Surfer printed a further "response", The High Performers Answer Australia, Volume 8 Number 1, in July 1967.

Following the 1966 World Contest in California, won by Nat Young, Witzig compares the current trends in Australian and Californian surfing.
In California performance concentrated on noseriding, its undoubted star, David Nuuhiwa.
Competively, it came to prominance with in July 1965 with Tom Morey's Noseriding Contest 1965.

While the enthusiasm for nose-riding proved short-lived (in the short-term) with the radical reduction in board size between 1967-1970, this was not the last time one manoeuvre became a central focus of surfing performance.
In 1968, the re-entry became the advanced manoeuvre, followed by a "school" of side-slipping in 1970.
See 1970 Midget Farrelly : Side Slipper.
In the late 1990s, "getting-air" became the popular manourve and the next decade saw contests that specifically featured air-manourves, echoing Morey's noseriding contests.
Noseriding returned to the surfing repertoire in the late 1980s with the resurgence of the modern Malibu.

The Australian approach is designated by Witzig here as The Power School and the Greenough-McTavish-Nat nexus deemed the end of the 'Farrelly era,'  a theme that he had explored previously in An End of an Era in the July 1966 edition.
It was also termed the Involvement School.

While Nat's victories in 1966, at Bells and the Australian Championships as well as the World Contest, saw the end of Midget Farrelly's dominance in Australia (since 1962), Midget would continue at the forefront of competive surfing and design into the 1970s.

Note that the article does not consider developments in Hawaii.

His criticisms are reinforced by quoting Bob Cooper ("Nat will thrash Nuuhiwa, and make Bigler look like a pansy.") and noting the influence of George Greenough, both Californians.

The crucial McTavish quotations are from an article published in a recent issue of Surfing World.
1967 Bob McTavish : Bob McTavish is in this wave. He probably had a plan to get out of it.
Surfing World Volume 8 Number 4 January 1967 pages ????

Dr Parick Moser reprints We're Tops Now, in his excellent Pacific Passages (2008) pages 191-195, and notes:

"Witzig's claim that Australians would stay on top panned out in the decades following the establishment of a world professional circuit: from 1976 (the inaugural year) to 1991, eleven of sixteen titles in the men's division were won by Australians.
It is also worth mentioning that McTavish's description of this new surfing- 'to place yourself in a critical position, under, in, over, around the curl, quite often in contact with it'- essentially serves as the core of pro surfing judging criteria today." - page 191.

The photographs are unaccredited, but probably by John Witzig.

In hindsight, the publication of We've Tops Now was detrimental to Australian-Californian relations (possibly some did not read past the 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.

Page 10

Nat vs Nuuhiwa
Drouyn vs Doyle
McTavish vs. Miller
Hughes vs. Harrison

How Do We Compare?

Tom Morey said that his nose riding contest was just a game.
It seems a pity that he didn't tell all the surfers in California.
For when this game has come to be accepted as 'surfing' then the time has come for re-evaluation.
It appears to me that a largely false set of values has been created in Californian surfing.
The East Coast, following blindly along the path that has been set, has not only copied the mistakes that have been made, but has taken this Californian type of surfing to a further ridiculous extreme.

"Nat will 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.

There can 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 Diego?
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 ...

Page 11

Two black and white photographs: Bob McTavish - Point Cartwright.
Photographer : Unaccredited (probably John Witzig).
... 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 anomoly 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.

What has 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.

I cannot 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 to perform to the full extent of their ability. Nuuhiwa is simply a product of this system.

A contest system should work to draw from the competing surfers their best.
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.

A contest 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.

Page 12

Black and white photograph: Bob McTavish - The Bluff.
Photographer : Unaccredited (probably John Witzig).
This then is Californian surfing.
But what of Australia?
What is this surfing that I find so exciting and dynamic.
The theme is involvement.
How bitterly ironic it is that the person who has been most influential in the progress of Australian surfing should be a Californian. A Californian that most surfers in the United States would never have seen, nor heard of.
George Greenough is probably one of the unsung geniuses of surfing.
Technically there is possibly nobody who can surpass him.
He has a working knowledge of hydrodynamics and has expressed it in his design of surfing equipment.
It was Greenough who gave impetus to the smouldering dissatisfaction with the 'Farrelly era' in Australia.

The surfer with whom Greenough first came into contact was Bob McTavish.
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.

McTavish, the master tactician of the perfect wave, saw his personal limitations in the transference of his thoughts into general surfing.
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 ...

Page 13

Black and white photograph: Russell Hughes - Point Cartwright.
Photographer : Unaccredited (probably John Witzig).
... 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.
Against this imposing list we put the small, light, thin and sensitive Australian board.
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.
While surfing progresses, the creative era, is being credited to those who participate, and indirectly, because they participate, I cannot forsee much change.
Strangely enough, the effect of these stimulants seems to have a depressant effect on challenge and aggression.
I felt like yelling, "let yourself go, take a chance."
But as is the pattern, this was not to be.
Everyone was so confined, so under control, so absolutely without the apparent freedom to express.

An end must come to this monotony.
Vigor will replace lassitude: aggression will replace meek submission.
The dynamic will force an end to the commonplace.
Power will be the word and surfing will be surfing.

We're Tops Now
Surfer Volume 8 Number 1 page 46. March 1967

 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...

We're Tops Now  by John Witzig-Australia

That's all that can be said about that story in the last issue- rubbish!
After our Nat Young completely dominated competition at the World Surfing Championships at San Diego, we might have expected a more accurate assessment of California surfing than "The High Performers."
Yet not, since this history is indicative to an absolute degree of the California scene as a whole.
Has everyone forgotten that David was beaten?
Up pours the smoke.
To laud, to deify, to obscure.
To obscure the fact that everything the pedestal of California &urfing is being built upon means- nothing!
"The whole sport is following Nuuhiwa now" ..."and another thing was my rollercoaster" ... My rollercoaster, David?
McTavish has been doing rollercoasters for years.
Off with the rose-colored spectacles and look beyond the David.
If everyone is not too conditioned by the propaganda: STOP.
Establish the real value in California surfing.
"Tell us, David. does it feel to be told that the whole sport of surfing is following you?"
Are you kidding?

Surfing World 
Volume 8 Number 4
January 1967.

May 1967
Volume 8 Number 2

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Geoff Cater (2011) : John Witzig : Nat vs. Nuuhiwa, 1967.