home catalogue history references appendix 
witzig/brien : windansea contest, 1967 

John Witzig and Lester Brien : Windansea Contest, 1967.

Witizig, John & Brien, Lester: Windansea Invitational Surfing Contest.
Surf International
Volume 1 Number 3, February 1968, pages 20 to 25.

Two contest reports on the crucial Windansea Invitational Contest held on Sydney's Northern beaches over two weekends at the end of November (Long Reef) and early December (Palm Beach), 1967.
Pages 21, 23 and 25 were devoted to photographs.
The contest was filmed and included in Eric Blum's  Fantastic Plastic Machine, released in 1969.
The difficulties in producing the film are detailed by scriptwriter BrianSt. Pierre in his The Plastic Fantastic Voyage- Across the South Pacific with Surfers and a Camera, 1969.

Page 20

On Sunday the 3rd of December, Ted Spencer won a trip to Hawaii with Air New Zealand.
The magazine (our magazine) had given it as a prize for the WindanSea Invitational Contest.
The occasion was the visit of the Californian WindanSea team on their South Pacific Tour.
That Sunday was pretty funny.
There were a few arguments even though there were only six surfers going into the water.
Midget, Ted, Russell, Bigler, Purpus and John Monie.

The eliminations to find the final six had taken three days.
Or sort of.
The previous Saturday had been used for heats at Long Reef.
The Sunday for eating, drinking and speeches.
The Monday for the semi-finals.
The finals waited a week.
Actually most of the competitors went miles from the scene of combat.
The north coast beckoned and they got a bit of surf.
The south side of Angourie especially.

Apparently the Americans settled in a little better.
They impressed most of the strines.
Purpus had a fin first take off.
He'll probably be remembered for it.
Skip Frye is smooth and stylised.
Bigler stands up very straight on the nose.
The girls seemed happy.
Thor talks.
And tries to sort out all the opinions into some sort of policy.
And sometimes succeeds.

Actually in the final it's pretty difficult.
The cameramen are still on everyones' backs.
Though they have to pay to be so.
The final goes on.
Ted and Russell start slowly.
Midget is consistently consistent.
And good too.
He continues to be.
Somehow Russ fails to really click.
It's Ted who gets about four of the larger longer rights.
It's enough to let him win and he does.
It's a trip to Hawaii.
What a far cry from Palm Beach this small and sloppy day.

All the finalists come out of the water and then we have the prize giving.
The trophies are dozens of paper flowers.
No bakelite.
No chrome.
They have first and second on them.
And third, but they are all the same.
But the first has the trip and it has all been very tense.
Somehow we all get through the ordeal.

Then we know that despite any crap, someone is going to Hawaii who does deserve it.
And we know that there will be a next time for the contest.
And there will be another Ted Spencer.
John Witzig

It was Sunday and a southerly.
The Americans were back in Sydney, ready for the finals of the WindanSea Invitational, the heats of which had been held at Long Reef the previous weekend.
Semi-finals on the Monday had reduced the field to six surfers: Australians Farrelly, Spencer, Hughes and Money; and Americans Bigler and Purpus.
The finals were to be held at Palm Beach, the beach farthest north of Sydney.
At high tide the basin was deep, the waves too full.
I settled down with the Sunday papers and waited for the contestants to arrive.
Most of the Americans were already there, waiting; the Australian competitors, with their advantage of local knowledge, arrive late at various intervals throughout the morning.
By 1.00 p.m. the basin is working; long rights are swinging in about 100 yards north from the southern headland.

The area is cleared and the contestants are allowed in the water; they have time to make final adjustments to their equipment.
Judges Young and McTavish are out, ripping the surf, showing the contestants the standard they expect.
Spencer paddles out, hard turns and long nose rides.
Farrelly is carrying his equipment onto the beach.
Hughes waxes up, then rides a smooth track; recent winner of the Newcastle and Hunter River Valley Championships, he has not yet been out of Australia and it is easy to see that he wants to win. Bigler and Purpus are on the beach, creating interest with their equipment and by their very presence.

On his arrival in Australia veteran surfer Pete Peterson had said that the Australians will find something worthwhile in American surfing.
Today will decide.
It is interesting to note the variations in surfing equipment.
Farrelly has two boards, both extremely small, light and wide backed; one has an accentuated scoop out of the back top deck.
Spencer has a very short pin tail, a large fin set about 12 inches from the back.
Money and Hughes are riding the more conventional 9-ft. performance boards.
The American equipment is different altogether, perhaps their surf demands length, I do not know. Purpus has a rather large, thin-backed, wide-nosed board, the widest point being about one-third from the tip, from there it takes a long but gradual taper to the back.
Bigler is on a somewhat shorter but basically same shaped board.

From the first wave I can see that both Bigler and Purpus are better surfers than I had first given them credit for, but it is hard to judge, as their brand of surfing is entirely different.
They show that stunt riding does have a place in contest surfing.
Purpus in particular pulls off some amazing manoeuvres, manoeuvres that are just not seen in Australia, let alone in Australian contests.
One of the more regular stunts is the fin first take-off; he stands up, fin digs in, he revolves with the board and comes out right way round and, more often than not, hanging five.
I notice from the public's reaction that he is their champion.
I doubt whether the judges will see it the same way.
Both Bigler and Purpus are, by Australian standards, awkward.
With their longer boards they are severely handicapped in vertical movement on the wave; also, a forehand or backhand turn takes more effort than the Australians with their lighter and smaller boards.
The accentuated body movements of the Americans, necessary in order to get their manoeuvres completed, gives them a ...

Page 22

... clumsy appearance.
It is only on the nose that they resemble the Australian surfer.
Bigler comes through some beautiful sections, high up on the face, stiff-legged, on the tip.
Purpus shows tenacity as he semi-crouches on the nose and sticks there, stalling and accelerating by weight displacement.
There is no doubt that the Americans treat contest surfing in a completely different light to the Australians.
They seem to concentrate on accomplishing a particular manoeuvre, of following it through and holding it as long as possible.
In comparison the Australians look smooth and confident, they do not play tricks with the wave but suck all it has to offer and leave it, drained, on the beach.

A year of hard competition has sharpened the Midget's competitive touch and from the start it is evident that he is the force to beat.
Spencer starts slowly but ends strongly.
Physically more powerful than Farrelly, he is driving deeper into the sections, harder into the cutbacks.
Under, over, on top of, Ted Spencer is a top proponent of the modern Australian style, a hard and fast-moving competitor.
Hughes' deceptively easy style whipped him through some hard sections for some fine nose rides but leaves him slightly behind in the run for the money.

It is a hard pick; over the 40 minutes I would not hesitate in giving it to Farrelly, but the contest was to be decided over the best 7 waves.
Spencer had done some hard and spectacular surfing on two of his larger waves, coming through, on the nose, whipping his board from top to bottom with a powerful knee action.
I watched as the judges totalled.
Four judges and their results are worth noting.
Nat Young
1. Spencer
2. Farrelly
3. Bigler
Bob McTavish
1. Hughes
2. Farrelly
3. Spencer
Skip Frye
1. Farrelly
2. Spencer 
3. Hughes
Micky Munoz
1. Spencer
2. Farrelly
3. Bigler

It is so close.
A discussion is called, it is agreed that on 40 minutes Farrelly had won, but that the contest was over 7 waves and the contestants having been told this, it is not practical for a wider points margin to operate.
Spencer had top scored on two sheets; Spencer had won, Farrelly second, Hughes third.

The judges do not like to hassle over the scores, most believing surfing to be an art form and find something aesthetically wrong in deciding a winner in such a way, there on the sand, the stakes a trip to Hawaii.
Frye and Munoz backed the American judging system of time and distance.
Here was a positive winner, you set a surfer a task and he gets it done; if a surfer knows he had to get a 10-second nose ride then he can train, prepare himself to perform this manoeuvre.
If he fails then he loses the contest, no hassle, every surfer knows where he stands.
It is easy to see where the American contest approach originates, it is inherent in ...

Page 24
... their judging system.
Our verbal arguments are not so strong, we are armed with bits of paper representing 40 minutes of surfing, and yet we are arguing over a winner, unable to decide.
The Americans have good logic, a nice tidy result is the result of their system.

On the other hand, our surfers have shown themselves distinctly superior.
True, the American system might give a positive result, but a restrictive wave system acts as a clamp on an individual's style.
Our position loses in verbal argument but comes out on top if you view surfing as an art form. Perhaps the Americans see surfing as an art, but surfing contests as a specialist sport.
Perhaps, after all, we are on the wrong track; for it does seem cheap when guys go in and surf it out and then the winner is decided on split hairs; but that's it, I believe our system is the best of a bad lot. I do not believe that a contest winner should be a specialist performer.
In a contest we should be looking for the best all-round performer, not the best at some particular manoeuvre.
Surfing is beautiful and a surfing contest should try to reflect this as much as possible; let the technocrats go back to the office, I already work there five days a week.

Pete Peterson was right.
I did learn a lot from the Americans. their contest approach, their logical judging methods.
They do have something to offer; we are all contributors to a great sport.
The WindanSea Invitational was a good show and I know at least one surfer who does not have any doubts as to our present judging system: Ted Soencer, as he wings his way to Hawaii, for waves, enjoyment and perhaps a contest or two.
Lester Brien

Witizig, John & Brien, Lester: 
Windansea Invitational Surfing Contest.
Surf International
Volume 1 Number 3, 
February 1968, pages 20 to 24 .

Image left:
Wayne Lynch, Long Reef ?, page 24.
"Australian Junior Champion, Wayne Lynch, qualified for the Semi Finals but had to return to Victoria for examinations", page 23.

Page 27

Bob McTavish is one of the best of the Australian surfers that are currently leading the sport of surfboard riding into the new realm of total per­formance.
A combination of highly technical boards, and an uncanny insight into the moods of waves, combine to create McTavish the surfer.
In the first of this sequence of three photo­graphs, McTavish carves a long driving turn down the face of the wave.


After rising high into the curl, as the wave becomes more critical, McTavish drops with the breaking wave to set up the last section of the ride.

McTavish puts his board into a fantastic turn at the base of the wave. The fin, par­tially clear of the water is clearly visible.
The whole side of the board is buried and it is on the rail, more than the fin that he makes the turn.

Surf International

Volume 1 Number 3,

Return to Surfer Bio menu
home catalogue history references appendix

Geoff Cater (2010) : Witzig and Brien : Windansea Contest, 1967.