World Surfing Championships 1966


The third and most memorable World Championships, held from September 29 to October 4, in San Diego, California; won by Nat Young of Australia, and California's Joyce Hoffman. The format used for the 1966 World Championships was different than those used in '64 and '65, as winners were determined by a cumulative point score over three consecutive but separate contests, instead of a single event.

President Lyndon Johnson sent the '66 World Championship competitors a letter of welcome, while Life, Newsweek, and the New York Times reported from the beach, all of them giving the sport a pat on the head for apparently transcending its recent rowdy past. "Five or six years ago," Newsweek wrote, "the World Surfing Championships would have been about as welcome in a US city as the Pot-Smoking Olympics." Dory races, tandem surfing and other adjunct events further added to the color of the '66 titles, and 80,000 spectators reportedly gathered to watch the finals.

Top-seeded Joyce Hoffman, 19, of Capistrano Beach, by winning the first two events of the week and placing runner-up in the third, took the women's division easily over California teammate Joey Hamasaki. Third place went to 14-year-old Mimi Munro from Florida. Hoffman, winner of the '65 titles, became the sport's first two-time world champion. California ironman surfer Pete Peterson, along with partner Barrie Algaw, won the tandem division, while the American team (Rusty Miller, Mike Doyle, Steve Bigler, Corky Carroll) took the relay paddle race.

Although reigning US Champion Corky Carroll, along with '64 world champion Midget Farrelly of Australia, were among a half-dozen contenders for the '66 world title, the event was correctly billed a showdown between David Nuuhiwa and Nat Young. Nuuhiwa, 17, the silky-smooth Hawaiian-born goofyfoot from Huntington Beach, was the US junior's division champ, and revered as the world's best noserider. Young, 18, the cocky regularfoot from Sydney, was in the vanguard of the hard-turning Australian "involvement" school of surfing, precursor to the shortboard revolution.

During the first round of competition, which opened at La Jolla Shore and finished in four-foot lefts at the Mission Beach Jetty, Nuuhiwa caught a wave, walked to the nose and perched on the tip for 10-seconds, and from there cruised to victory for the day, with Young in second place. The curly-haired Australian roared back over the next five days to win the second and third rounds, both held  at Ocean Beach in mainly right-breaking two-to-four-foot waves. Nuuhiwa meanwhile lost early in Round Two, and the title was decided even before Round Three got underway.

Young gave much of the credit to Magic Sam, his 9' 4" surfboard, which was lighter and thinner then the board used by his competitors, and featured a long, swept-back, flexible fin that helped propel Young through his powerful turns and cutbacks. Switchfoot surfer Jock Sutherland of Hawaii finished runner-up; Corky Carroll placed third. Young stuck around long enough to insult Nuuhiwa in a post-contest interview ("Every wave, up front he walks, and stands there; I don't think this is good surfing") then drove off in a brand new Chevy Camaro, his first-place prize. He left Magic Sam with a friend that afternoon and never saw it again, but it didn't matter, as advancing shortboard revolution design work would render Sam obsolete in a matter of weeks.

Not long after the contest, Australian surf journalist John Witzig wrote "We're Tops Now," a caustic feature article for Surfer magazine in which he described America's World Championship surfers as by and large "run of the mill" and "ordinary." Young and his Aussie cohorts, Witzig continued, were "exciting and dynamic." It wasn't that simple. But Young's display in the '66 titles was a preview for things to come, and the event itself was among the most exciting and dynamic surf competitions of the decade.

Results of the 1966 World Surfing Championships:

MEN
1 Nat Young
2 Jock Sutherland
3 Corky Carroll
4 Steve Bigler
5 Rod Sumpter
6 Midget Farrelly

WOMEN
1 Joyce Hoffman
2 Joey Hamasaki
3 Mimi Munro
4 Gail Couper
5 Josette Lagarderre
6 Phyllis O'Donell

TANDEM
1 Pete Peterson / Barrie Algaw
2 Jack Iverson / Susie Smith
3 Mike Doyle / Sandy Gray