MIDGET FARRELLY (1944-2016)
Upon request, Geoff McCoy wrote an article headlined “Eulogy to Midget the Man that took Australian Surfing to the World.” This article was given to Hugh Wyllie of Surfing World Magazine BUT, once again, they macerated Geoff’s words. Here is the original, as Geoff wrote it….
Without a doubt, Midget Farrelly was one of the all-time greats of surfing – a beautiful stylist who’s surfing was pure poetry in motion. Throughout the years, Midget was not only an inspiration to me but to many others throughout Australia and the world. History will always remember Midget as an innovative shaper and a brilliant surfer in his own right. On top of that, he was also a great man full of life.
Midget was responsible for lifting the standard of Australian surfboard manufacturing, insisting on quality and presentation to the highest level in his products. As a craftsman he inspired many, myself included, to strive to create quality surfboards. Midget was an articulate craftsman and designer as well as a successful producer of surfboard blanks.
My fondest memories of Midget were of the early days when I used to visit him in his shaping room, at the time located in a boat shed on a wharf in Palm Beach. While I sat and watched him shape, he would explain in detail the designs he was working on. I was fortunate enough to spend many hours learning from one of the greats. He was very generous with his time and knowledge, and for that I’ll forever be grateful.
Midget loved life and in his early years was into a diverse range of sports. From being involved in the Palm Beach SLSC and being the Sweep for the women’s surf boat to enjoying snow skiing, snowboarding, sailboarding and hand gliding, Midget was into it all and loved every second of it.
As one of the early hang gliders, Midget was always keen to get others involved. I remember when he talked me into going hang gliding with him at the north end of Palm Beach. Thanks to the large sand hills and the good sloping ramps, that part of the beach was perfect for easy take-offs and landing. Midget gave me a quick lesson, and after a few practise runs I actually managed to get a metre or so off the sand. Feeling confident, I decided to get really airborne. This lasted a few seconds before I suddenly went into a full loop and crashed down on the tip of the wing while hanging helplessly upside down, needing Midget to help me out of the glider. Even after my first disastrous experience, Midget was still keen to get me into hand gliding. I decided it best to give the sport a miss.
In the very early days before Pro Surfing I remember sitting around with my club mates from the North Narrabeen Board Riders Club shooting the breeze and discussing what it would be like if we could be paid to do what we most loved to do – surf. I talked to Midget about it on one of our trips down to the Bells Beach Easter Classic. He would always say, ‘No. Surfing’s about having fun, not about making money’. Midget was a purist at heart.
On one of our first trips to Hawaii with Midget in the early 70’s, I was immediately made aware of just how much respect the Hawaiian’s had for him, not only as a surfer but as a decent human being. His reputation proceeded him, and wherever I went I was made to feel welcome thanks to Midget’s ambassadorship for Australia.
To this day, his influence on surfing throughout the world is as strong as it was when I was a young man watching him in the boat shed in Palm Beach all those years ago. Midget’s impact, contribution and aura lives on forever.