A stellar 13-year career was bought to a close at Pipeline. It’s time we celebrated one of Australia’s great competitive surfers.
“That was the best 3.7 of my career,” Bede Durbidge said about 20 seconds after his career had just ended. In his heat with good mate and bottlo partner Mick Fanning, Bede had fell just short of the 3.77 he needed with seconds to go to prolong his 13-year CT career by at least another 35 minutes.
“I saw him takeoff and I thought, well that’s it, it’s all over,” Fanning said afterwards. “But that’s Bede all over. He’ll just keep coming at you and he will never give up.”
When pressed on some of Bede’s highlights Mick had witnessed he talked up Bede’s wins at Pipe and Trestles, before nominating his return from injury as probably the single most impressive act of Bede’s career.
Only Bede, his family and close mates like Mick will probably ever know just how gnarly the injury Bede suffered at Pipeline in 2015. Driven into the reef he displaced his pelvis and rearranged enough internal organs to the extent that his surgeon compared it to that of a high-speed, head-on car crash. It took three months before Durbidge could walk again and another three before he could stand up on a surfboard. In that time he lost three kilograms of lean muscle mass and four per cent of his bone density.
But just like his career, Bede overcame the injury through sheer hard work and his inbuilt positive thinking. He’s never claimed to be the most talented surfer or the most marketable. What he’s always done is maximise every ounce of his considerable gifts and package them into a competitive surfing machine.
“I’d liked to be remembered as a good, fair competitor that had a great work ethic,” Bede Durbidge told me a few months ago. “I’d also like to think I was never handed anything on a silver platter and strived to make my own mark.”
There’s no doubt he has done that, and much more. He is a Triple Crown Winner and a Pipe Master. Between 2007 and 2010 he was also a genuine World Title contender, finishing runner-up in 2008. He has had four CT event wins to his name and since his first year in 2005, has never once had to qualify by the QS. It is this incredible consistency that is to be lauded, and remembered. It’s also the reason he is so criminally underrated.
Away from his pure competitive commitment and surfing talent, it is Bede’s ever present laugh, complete with fliptop head, that will be most missed by his peers on tour. Pragmatic, positive and with none of the ego that fills up many of those Surfer’s Area lockers, it’s impossible to find anyone associated with professional surfing that has a bad word to say about the Beadle. It’s a cliche that often gets trundled out whenever a surfer retires, but in this instance, it really is true.
Durbidge announced his retirement just before Trestles, having taken a role as Surfing Australia’s elite program manager for the upcoming 2020 Olympic Games. “I’ll have to start getting a handle on my email, spreadsheets and powerpoint presentations now,” he told Tracks. “That’s what I need to work as of January.”
It is a new challenge, and getting his head around working in a government bureaucracy and with a big team won’t be easy. However the keys to his success; his work ethic, positivity and ability to relate to surfers of all backgrounds and talent, make him an obvious, and smart choice, to mentor the next generation of Australia’s surfing talent. If any of the surfers in Tokyo in 2020 can replicate Bede’s determination and commitment, success will be inevitable.