I’d been traveling for most of 1976 when I landed in Hawaii in early December. I was there with a personal ambition, to surf Sunset while I thought that I (probably) still could.

While I was in California in the month before, I’d picked up a secondary reason to be on the North Shore… to write the lead story on the winter for Surfer magazine. I’m sure that Steve Pezman (the then editor) was hoping that I’d create some controversy, but there was no need… it was waiting for me when I got there.

This was the winter when the Australians had been tarred with the ‘lack-of-respect’ brush. It was a bit difficult not to think that some of that was deserved, but the reaction had been pretty brutal. Rabbit Bartholomew had been knocked around. Others had been threatened. I kept my mouth shut and watched as things were sort-of resolved… as they had to be once the conflict threatened the commercial sponsorship of the major contests. To misquote Paul Keating, never get between a surfing promoter and a bucket of money.

In between observing and documenting this melodrama, I managed to surf Sunset every time it broke. I was very pleased about that.


A Golden Age, an exhibition of John Witzig’s photographs of the 1960s and ’70s, will open at the Bondi Pavilion Gallery on 11 September and run for two weeks.