Inspirations – Bernard Farrelly
Bernard ‘Midget’ Farrelly is a surfer with a lot of firsts to his name, and legendary status among Australian surfing personalities. Although he was given the nickname ‘Midget’ early in his surfing career due to his slight build, especially compared to some of his contemporary rivals, the impression that Farrelly has left on Australian surfing culture is definitely giant sized. He could also be considered somewhat of a pioneer in some areas, including writing surfing books.
Farrelly is Australia’s first international surfing championship titleholder, an honour collected in 1963 at Makaha, Hawaii. He is also the first president of the country’s oldest surfboard rider’s club, the Dee Why Surfing Fraternity. The club still operates under the same name today.
After winning his first international title, Farrelly became World Surfing Tour champion the year after he won in Hawaii, in 1964, and placed second in the event at Johanna in 1970.
During the 1960’s Farrelly was competing with rival Nat Young for the position of preeminent figure of Australian surfing. Nat Young was considered suitably ‘hippy’ and fit the ideal celebrity surfer prototype, which was popular during that time. Midget was seen as too ‘straight’ or conservative by younger generations during the hippy era, and he was sometimes said to be resentful that surfing was being taken over by drug-using ‘confidence men’ as he called them. This led to some alternative career paths for Farrelly during the 1970’s and 1980’s. He started his own blank-making and chemicals business, called Surfblanks, and tried alternative sports, including hang gliding and sailboarding.
Farrelly was later inducted into the Sports Australia Hall of Fame in 1985, and co-authored two books at the same time as he was learning to shape surfboards, called A Surfing Life and How to Surf. The books were produced in conjunction with journalist Craig McGregor.
During the late 1980’s a sort of peace developed between Farrelly and the newer generations, and he would start participating in legends rides alongside the pro-tour circuit, spending a lot of time in the water.
Farrelly still owns and runs the Surfblanks business, and spends time perfecting older rider tricks, including riding a Blake Style 16-foot Hollow Board and steering an Australian Surfboat. He has two grown daughters, and spends a lot of time around Avalon and Palm Beach, his original home territory. In 1999, at the Noosa Surfing Festival, Farrelly re-won his world title during a replay of his 1964 heat, which has kept critics at bay for the most part as he clearly still has what it takes to win.