Rudolph, Gavin


Lanky regularfoot surfer from Port Elizabeth, South Africa; surprise winner of the 1971 Smirnoff Pro-Am at Sunset Beach, Hawaii, and one of the first to ride Supertubes at Jeffreys Bay.

Rudolph began surfing in 1962 at age nine near his Port Elizabeth home; not long after his 15th birthday he flew to Puerto Rico to compete in the 1968 World Surfing Championships. Later that year, he and 1968 Australian Titles champ Keith Paull became the first surfers to ride long, spiraling waves at Supertubes, located just a half-hour's drive from Rudolph's home. "We used to just sit there in awe," Rudolph later recalled, "watching these long waves come down the point like rockets."

In 1969 Rudolph won the Gunston 500 in Durban, and the following year he competed in the 1970 World Championships. The 18-year-old was visiting Hawaii for the first time when he won the 1971 Smirnoff contest, held in challenging 12-foot Sunset Beach surf, in what was probably the greatest upset of the early pro era, as he outpointed a field of North Shore heavies that included Jeff Hakman, Billy Hamilton, Ben Aipa, and Eddie Aikau. It was Rudolph's second day surfing Sunset—the first was the morning before the contest. His $2,500 first-place check was surfing's biggest prize in 1971.

In 1977, Rudolph entered about half of the scheduled world pro tour events and finished the season ranked #15. His surfing style was efficient, sure-footed and flowing, and he rarely made mistakes. Rudolph appeared in a half-dozen surf films, including Freeform (1970), Tracks (1970), and Oceans (1972).