Surf Life Saving Remembers A Legend

The sad passing of Midget Farrelly was a shock for many people in the surf community.

Best known as Australia’s first World Champion surfer in the 60s, Midget was a true waterman and was also an accomplished surfboat sweep and proud surf lifesaver.

Midget had been a member of Freshwater SLSC for a short time as a youngster, however his passion for surfboats only began when he was in his 50s, an age when many people start retiring from the rigours of sweeping such large, heavy craft.

He bought his own boats and turned novice rowers into skilled boat crews at Palm Beach, Whale Beach and Freshwater. Unlike most sweeps he focused on developing a crew’s surf skills not just their rowing ability. Midget’s crews were trained to ‘surf’ the boat not simply row it.

Fellow surfboat sweep and close friend Kim Marsh says Midget gave his crews a life perspective that was beyond coaching.

“Midget was an amazing soul – sometimes more like a poet than a sports star. I think of Midget’s brilliance in terms of a great artist, composer, author or playwright. There were many more layers to him than just a surfboard champion,” said Kim Marsh. “Only a few weeks ago Midget was talking to a friend about the grace of a surfboat on a wave at daybreak.”

Palm Beach SLSC’s current Club Captain Alex Tyrrell rowed with Midget between 2008 and 2011 and says one of his biggest contributions was to encourage young people and particularly girls to get involved in surfboat rowing.

“He gave us an opportunity to learn how to handle the surf in any conditions, and he was such a competent and confident sweep that we were rarely afraid, rather just maintained a healthy respect for the ocean,” recalled Alex Tyrrell.

“I’ll remember Midget as the man with a boyish love for any surf activity - outside of surfing and surfboats he was also pretty amazing at windsurfing, kite-surfing, SUPing and his car was always filled with wetsuits and equipment. He was the only guy I know who at 65, was still getting around on a skateboard… And killing it I might add!” she said.

Alex describes a one-in-10-year swell which would throw up a fantastic long wave on the back side of Barrenjoey headland. One day in 2009 the planets aligned and Alex recalls them catching an incredible wave for more than a kilometre across Pittwater.

“In a huge swell at a Freshie carnival we cracked a wave about three strokes out of the turning buoy in a race and he got up on the chocks and started bellowing out his version of Queen’s “We Are the Champions” at the top of his lungs. His unbridled pleasure at catching a big wave, no matter what the craft, will be the thing that sticks in my mind about Midget Farrelly,” she said.

Alex Tyrrell says Midget will be greatly missed, but not forgotten by the members of Palm Beach SLSC.

“My heart goes out to Beverlie, the love of his life, who he could never stop talking about and who brightened up every day for him. Bev and his family were so dear to him, and we send all our love and support to them.

“We will all think of him every time there’s a bit of a wave on, and I know he’ll be watching over our special part of the world for years to come.”

Mahalo nona hali'a aloha. (Hawaiian for “Thanks for the memories”)

Photo: Bernard "Midget" Farrelly (R) with good friend Matt Giblin (Palm Beach). Credit Pittwater Online News.

Fri 12 Aug 2016