Bustin’Down at Pipe. Photo: Merkel/A-Frame


Surfing’s answer to Mick Jagger and Muhammad Ali. Brash, flamboyant and
with no end of natural talent to back it up, Rabbit Bartholomew was one of surfing’s earliest trailblazers. He famously broke new ground in Hawaii, won a World Title and by the end of his career had paved the way for
a professional surfing tour. He wasn’t loved
by all but he was a beacon of personality and innovation that benefited surfing no end. Raised on the points of Coolangatta, Rabbit was a hustler in his youth, ripping off tourists for cash and stealing wallets to get by. A protege of sorts to the great Michael Peterson, Rabbit was right there with him in those early days of design tinkering and performance redefining. A tenacious, precocious talent from the outset, it didn’t take long for Rabbit to find himself, he soon found himself in a feud with none other than Michael Peterson
- one that would last years. Rabbit, despite being in awe of the lauded Peterson, was not one to back down. So when he and a team of Australian and international surfers arrived on the North Shore in 1975, he took the same confrontational attitude with him. It didn’t wash well. Although he put down one of the most memorable North Shore performances in history that season, Rabbit also pissed a lot of people off. Hassling locals, sending people in and the obvious swagger of a young man at the peak of his powers sat at direct odds with Hawaii’s age old traditions of humility and respect. The next winter he was threatened with death and had several teeth knocked out in a savage beating. But surfing has much to thank him for. It was Rabbit’s idea to form the loose collective of top flight surfers that would form the genesis of today’s world tour. He won the title himself in 1978 as well as blowing minds in the seminal performance film of the same year, ‘Free Ride.’

– JS

Muhammad Bugs. Photo: Flame/A-Frame


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