Inspirations: Wayne Bartholomew

by Amy in Category inspirations and tagged


From humble beginnings as an adolescent on the Gold Coast, Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew has had a career as varied as the surf itself.

As a kid Bartholomew earned the nickname Rabbit thanks to prominent front teeth and a tendency to hop between pinball games and speed across soccer field, but it soon applied to his skills in the waves as well as on land. He had his first surf at Snapper Rocks when he was 11 and soon moved on to Kirra beach to take on the now-infamous winding tubes that have made it one of the most popular surfing spots in Australia.

By the time he was 18, Rabbit had won the Queensland State Juniors and finished second runner up at the Australian national titles and in 1973, aged 19, he was the Queensland state men’s champion for the first of three times (winning again in 1974 and 1976).

In 1975 Rabbit burst onto the international scene, setting himself up in Hawaii with fervour that went against the stereotypical “mellow” island vibe. As the World Champions of Surfing website puts it, Bartholomew painted himself as “a sort of surfing Muhammad Ali who invested as much time in showmanship and myth building as in performance.”

“Aggressive in the heavily localized breaks, he admitted to sending a guy to the beach and fading surfers into the pit,” the organisation says.

“None of this was common practice among visiting surfers and although he called several local “heavies” friends, his reputation quickly became a liability. However, it now seems it was integral to his move to the world stage.”

Along with fellow Aussies Ian Cairns, Mark Richards and Peter Townend, Rabbit helped take tuberiding to a new level on an international scale and in a few short years took out the world champion title (1978). He remained in the top five for seven consecutive years, and has since stayed active in the industry in a range of other roles.

Photo: Lance Trout/Swell

In the mid-90s Bartholomew built a name for himself as a global ambassador for surfing and mentored pro surfers including Gary Elkerton, Chappy Jennings, Sunny Garcia, as well as his adopted son Dean Morrison. Rabbit drive for competition also saw him win world titles for the ASP Masters in 1999 and ASP Grand Masters in 2003.

He also served as President of ASP International for almost 10 years. Although he stepped down from the role in 2008, Bartholomew has said surfing will always be a part of his life.

“Surfing is the star around which my life revolves,” he said in an interview with Liquid Salt magazine.

“For me, all roads lead to the surf; I feel most comfortable near or on the coast. I think surfing has given me a better appreciation for all things.”