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Lynch, Wayne


Dynamic Australian goofyfoot surfer from Lorne, Victoria; teenage messiah of the shortboard revolution in the late 1960s and early '70s, and generally regarded as the inventor of "vertical" surfing. "He was the Future of Surfing incarnate," Hawaiian pro surfer Reno Abellira said of Lynch. "A boy wonder with searing eyes, a disarming choirboy smile, and an attacking style that often left him upside-down in the curl, only to recover in midair and land back on his wax."

Lynch was born (1952) in the southwest Victoria town of Colac, the son of a fisherman-carpenter, and raised in the nearby town of Lorne, 25 miles west of Bells Beach. He began surfing at age 10; the following year he entered and won a statewide open-age contest, but event organizers, flustered by the smooth-cheeked phenomenon, hastily gave him the "Best Wave of the Day" award rather than the first-place trophy, and banned him from competing the following year, saying he was too young. In 1965 he won the first of six consecutive juniors division Victoria state titles.

While surf magazines published some impressive black-and-white photographs of Lynch in 1968, his star-making moment came in 1969 with the release of Evolution, Paul Witzig's rough-hewn cult classic surf movie. Two years earlier, surfers on 10-foot-long boards were focused mainly on walking the board and hanging ten. Lynch, the 16-year-old master of the just-introduced shortboard, featured in the opening sequence of Evolution riding a 7' 1" stubby, changed the direction of performance surfing almost singlehandedly, riding out of a low crouch, his thin legs collapsing and extending pneumatically from one tightly arced turn to the next. Although 1966 world champion Nat Young and 1968 Bells winner Ted Spencer costarred in Evolution, the film is mostly remembered as a Lynch showcase.

Lynch won the juniors division of the Australian National Titles four straight times (1967 to 1970), appeared in a small number of surf films (most notably 1971's Sea of Joy), then suddenly dropped from public view, saying he "wasn't interested in fame or money," and that he wanted to be "just a surfer, not a star." Only later did he admit that he spent nearly three years avoiding Australia's then-mandatory military service.

A motorcycle accident in Bali in 1972 put Lynch in an Indonesian hospital with a broken collarbone and sprained back; while there he caught malaria, was bedridden for six months, and unable to surf for all of 1973. He returned to the water in 1974, and the following year reentered the competition scene, placing sixth at Bells, then earning $3,500 for winning the Surfabout event in Sydney, the second-richest pro event of the year. Lynch competed part-time for the next three years (finishing 11th on the debut International Professional Surfers circuit in 1976, second at the 1978 Katin Pro-Am, and second in the 1978 Surfabout), then once again retired.

In the 1978 short film A Day in the Life of Wayne Lynch, surf filmmaker Jack McCoy shows the one-time child star dividing his time between his quiet, woodsy house in Victoria and surfing alone—and brilliantly—in the deepwater reefs nearby. Lynch was regarded by many as the ultimate soul surfer. In talent and temperament he would in years to come be likened to three-time world champion Tom Curren of California.

Lynch continued to have a curious back-and-forth relationship with the surf industry and media. While he's been an eloquent spokesman against surfing's commercialization, he's also benefitted from surf company sponsorship throughout his career, most notably by Rip Curl wetsuits and Quiksilver beachwear. His disinterest in the surf media seems genuine enough, but he's nonetheless turned up regularly in surf videos and documentaries, including Legends: An Australian Surfing Perspective (1994), Litmus (1997), Great Waves (1998), and Biographies (2001). In 2000 he became the long-distance president and head designer of Evolution Surfboards, a short-lived company based in Del Mar, California.

Lynch was inducted into the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame in 1988, and was cited by Surfing magazine in a 2004 articled titled The 16 Greatest Surfers of All Time. Making another return to competition, Lynch placed ninth in the 1997 Masters (for surfers 36 and over) and fifth in the 1999 Masters.

In Another Day in the Life of Wayne Lynch, a 2011 short film by Cyrus Sutton, Lynch revealed that he'd had a heart attack and that over the previous few years he'd lost interest in surfing. At the end of the film, he's seen happily riding an inflatable raft with alongside his son.

"Uncharted Waters: the Personal History of Wayne Lynch," a feature-length documentary, was released in 2013.