World Surfing Championships 1970


The fifth world contest was held in Victoria, Australia, between May 1st and May 14th, amid wind, rain, hail, and at least a half-dozen small political firestorms. California's Rolf Aurness won the men's division, and Sharron Weber from Hawaii won the women's.

Most of the event took place in sloppy four-foot waves at Bells Beach, and the poor conditions only magnified the anticontest sentiment that had been building in the surf world over the previous few years. Ted Spencer, 1970 Australian National Titles runner-up and a newly converted Hare Krishna, pulled out of the World Championships two days before the preliminaries began. David Nuuhiwa gave up his slot on the California team and flew back to Huntington Beach after his first heat. Runner-up US champion Corky Carroll, interviewed at Bells during the early rounds of competition, called the event "a complete fiasco," and said the entire world title concept had been ruined by inept organizers and judging panels, and should be eliminated altogether. "Abolish the whole thing," Carroll said. "The world contest is wrong." A few days earlier he'd been temporarily suspended from the contest after starting a food fight in the local hotel bar. Carroll's California teammates then refused to march in the opening ceremonies, and threatened to boycott the contest. Event directors responded by preemptively throwing the California team out, but a meeting was held the following day, and the West Coasters—Carroll included—were reinstated.

More drama followed, as state narcotics agents raided the competitors' rooms. One California surfer was found to have a small amount of marijuana, and another had a baggie of mushrooms; neither was arrested. Surfers from the tropics, meanwhile, had a hard time adjusting to the chilly Australian autumn climate (air temperatures dropped into the low 40s; the water temperature was in the upper 50s), and many were laid up with a cold or the flu.

The women's final was moved from Bells to Skene's Creek, and held in poorly shaped left-breaking waves. Sharron Weber's victory over defending world champion Margo Godfrey was comprehensively ignored by the surf media, with Surfer devoting just two sentences to the women's final.

The men's semifinals and finals were held at Johanna, 95 miles southwest of Bells, in beautiful peeling six-foot sandbar tubes. Rolf Aurness, the soft-voiced 18-year-old son of TV star James Arness, became the first California men's division world champion, and his unanimous victory seemed to be the only noncontroversial, nonpoliticized event of the competition.

Aurness used a streamlined seven-foot board, while most of his Aussies rivals labored on stubby six-foot-or-under boards. Midget Farrelly, runner-up in the World Championships held in Puerto Rico two years earlier, again finished in second place. Peter Drouyn (Australia), Reno Abellira (Hawaii), Keone Downing (Hawaii), and Nat Young (Australia), in that order, rounded out the final. "Out of disaster upon disaster the thing has ended up pretty well," as Surfing World magazine noted of the final day of competiton. Still, three of the six finalists didn't bother to show up for the awards presentation.

This was the fourth World Championships event run by the International Surfing Federation, and surf journalist Drew Kampion went out of his way to praise ISF president Eduardo Arena, calling him a "hero" for acting as the event's "sole binding force." But after Australia there was little doubt that the World Championships event as an institution was in bad shape. "The Death of All Contests" was the title of a Surfer editorial related to the 1970 Championships. "Maybe they should abandon the idea of a world contest for awhile," Surfing magazine said. "At least until we all grow up."

Results of 1970 World Surfing Championships:

MEN
1 Rolf Aurness
2 Midget Farrelly
3 Peter Drouyn
4 Reno Abellira
5 Keone Downing
6 Nat Young

WOMEN
1 Sharron Weber
2 Margo Godfrey
3 Barbara Belyea
4 Joyce Hoffman
5 Martha Sunn
6 Jericho Poppler