Evans, Bob


Protean surf world impresario from Sydney, Australia; surf filmmaker throughout the 1960s and early '70s; founder of the Australian Surfriders Association, and founder-publisher of Surfing World magazine; often called the "father of modern Australian surfing." Evans was born (1928) and raised in Manly Beach, began surfing as a young teenager, and by 1950 was one of the country's best wave-riders.

In 1956, the Sydney beaches were visited by a group California surfer-lifeguards who introduced the paddleboard-riding Aussies to the new balsa-core Malibu boards; Evans's local prestige shot up when he took possession of a 10' 6" Malibu after the Americans departed.

The following year Evans met California surf filmmaker Bud Browne, and agreed to promote and tour Browne's movies in Australia. Evans was tireless in the early and mid-'60s, channeling his energy into a never-ending series of surf-related projects. In late 1961 he organized a trip to Hawaii for a group of 20 Australians, including Midget Farrelly, Bob Pike, and Dave Jackman; Evans filmed the group and sold some of the footage to ABC to help finance Surf Trek to Hawaii (1962), his first surf movie and one of the first produced out of Australia. The dark-haired, solemn-faced Evans also debuted his Surfing World Monthly magazine in 1962. Evans's movies and magazines weren't particularly bold or creative, but they were embraced nonetheless as a homegrown alternative to American imports.

Evans had meanwhile taken up still photography, and became the first Australian radio surf reporter, giving daily descriptions of the Sydney-area surf. He also had a surf column in the Sunday Telegraph. "Whenever something is happening in the sport," 1964 world surfing champion Midget Farrelly said at the time, "Evans is sure to be mixed in with it somewhere."

An organizer of local boardriding clubs and competitions for years, Evans in 1963 created the Australian Surfriders Association, the country's first nationwide surf group; in what remains as one of the greatest promotional and organizational efforts in the sport's history, Evans convinced oil giant Ampol to underwrite the first World Surfing Championships, held at Manly Beach in 1964. Evans's projects were all tied together: his magazine ran articles about his movies and covered his contests; his movies were shown at "surf stomp" events he staged at Sydney dance halls and clubs; and the surf trips he organized provided imagry for his magazines and films.

In part because he wanted surfing to move deeper into the Australian sporting mainstream, and in part because he himself was a stickler for grooming, Evans sometimes came off as a bit of a scold. "We might be the best surf riders in the world," he said in 1963, referring to his Australian surfing counterparts, "but we are the worst-dressed best riders in the world." Meanwhile, as 1966 world champion and surrogate son Nat Young later noted, Evans "religiously adhered to the cocktail hour" and earned a reputation as an insatiable womanizer.

Surfing World was the voice of Australian surfing through the '60s, while Evans's surf movie output continued apace, with Midget Goes Hawaiian (1963) followed by another 16 full-length or short features, including The Young Wave Hunters (1964), The Long Way 'Round (1966), The Way We Like It (1968), Tracks (1970), and Family Free (1971). He mentored dozens of Australian surfers, photographers, surf journalists, and moviemakers, most notably Alby Falzon, who went on to produce the 1972 surf film classic Morning of the Earth. Drouyn and Friends, Evans's last movie, a documentary on former Australian national champion Peter Drouyn, was released in 1974; two years later, while touring the movie in Florida, Evans died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage. He was 47.

Evans was inducted into the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame in 1987. The Bob Evans Memorial professional surfing contest was held in Cronulla, NSW, in 1982 and 1983. Evans was married once and had three children.