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The Event That Changed Pro Surfing For Good


StubbiesProBurleighHeads


Here’s an old story:


In the 1970s, World Champion Rabbit Bartholomew walked into a bank to apply for a loan. He needed a quick $2K for a plane ticket to Hawaii. His plan was to get over there, compete in a few events, win himself some coin and pay the bank back. Easy.


Rab fills his paperwork out and writes “professional surfer” as his occupation. So he’s sitting there, waiting patiently for approval. The bank manager rolls out of his office. Rab stands up to shake his hand...and is quickly told that “professional surfing” is not a job and gets escorted out of the bank. Damn.


Fast-forward a few decades and surfers have contracts in the multi-millions. There’s a highly-respected, virally-viewed international tour that pays millions of dollars and is broadcasted around the world. It. Is. Legit. We’re allowed in banks now.

BurleighHeads


A lot of factors have contributed to the acceptance, growth and admiration of it all — but there was one moment that made more impact than the rest. One event that changed everything: the 1977 Stubbies Pro at Burleigh Heads.


A lot of factors have contributed to the acceptance, growth and admiration of it all — but there was one moment that made more impact than the rest. One event that changed everything: the 1977 Stubbies Pro at Burleigh Heads.


It was the first contest of its kind, introducing the man-on-man competitive format. It offered the biggest purse. It drew the biggest crowd. It was unbelievable. And Mark Richards experienced it all firsthand.


So, MR...what was it like?


“We went into it not knowing what it’d be like. The man-on-man format was a completely new invention and it turned out to be a game changer in terms of competitive surfing. Before that, you’d get caught up in all the hassling. A lot of time you were winning or losing a heat based off of tactics. But with this new format, you were actually able to strategize what you were going to and concentrate on your performance. Plus, it made it easier for the judges because they could actually see all the waves. It also made more sense from a spectator point of view.


First prize in the Stubbies was $3000, which was huge back then. In my memory, sponsorship was pretty much nonexistent in those days. If you got free boardshorts and wetties, you were stoked. I didn’t have much of a vision of what it’d all become in terms of legitimizing the sport. I just thought it was a ton of fun.”


The current empire of professional surfing wasn’t born overnight — it was a slow process involving an extraordinary amount of factors. However, the blueprint was laid out at the ‘77 Stubbies Pro. And surfing changed for good.

BurleighHeadsMarkRichards


Not satisfied? Need more? Find the full Radical Times Gold Coast experience below.

 

Posted in Surf