Larry Bertlemann comes to Australia

21 Dec 2011 0 Share

Larry stylin at Sydney Harbour in 1978

Larry stylin at Sydney Harbour in 1978

Legendary Hawaiian surfer Larry Bertlemann will be touring to Australia in the New Year as a special guest for the Bleach Festival and Sons of Beaches 72 movie screenings on the Gold Coast in February.

The original ‘Rubberman’ of surfing was the equivalent of Coolangatta’s Michael Peterson. Both were incredibly radical in their surfing approach adopting a fast futuristic explosive style of surfing that would set the pace for many generations to follow. Both surfers were highly spectacular in and out of the water and dominated the Golden Age of the short single fin seventies and the evolution of multi fins.
 
That colourful genre period is the basis for Glen Blight’s Sons of Beaches 72 movie which has its World Premiere opening at the Gold Coast City Gallery from the 4th of February and a one-off screening only at the Komune Resort on Friday 24th of February 1976 first World Professional champion PT (Peter Townend) has collaborated his timeless collection of memorabilia with Blight to create a fascinating movie that features a unique surf art installation of  surfing history from the sensational seventies.
 
Bertlemann was born on the Big Island at Hilo and began surfing at Waikiki when he was 11, “I started surfing with Michael Ho, Dane Kealoha, Buttons and Mark Riddel, the local crew. We were only young grommets and looked up to Gerry Lopez, Reno Abellira, BK and Eddie Aikau, they were the upper crew!”
 
Larry was a fast learner and by the time he turned 12, he was traveling around the World and was the hottest surfer of his age, “I was staying out with Colonel Benson (moviemaker) and Butch Van Arts dale (Hawaiian Pipeline master) at the Schofield Army Barracks for awhile and then moved to Pupukea,” where Larry’s surfing advanced to the next level adapting to the 7 mile strip of notorious North Shore breaks.  “We had so many great days surfing on the North Shore and it wasn’t crowded at all, surfing every morning on these beautiful uncrowded waves!”
 
In 1972, the Hawaiians completely dominated the World titles in San Diego with Jimmy Blears winning the mens and Sharon Webber the women’s, Larry at only 16 and his close friend Michael Ho at 14 placed 4th and 5th respectively. They were riding 5ft 6 wide swallow tail singles shaped by Ben Aipa and it would be the start of a new breakthrough in design. Talking about the 1972 World titles he said, “That was a really good event! We were staying at two hotels in Sand Diego and we trashed them both! There were so many people and parties and we had a lot of fun!”

Bertlemann continued to push the limits with his famous quote “Anything is possible!” riding smaller swallow tail twin fins that evolved into four fins as clearly seen in the photo taken by Art Brewer at Velzyland in 1979 way before the thruster and one of the first aerial maneuvers photographed.  “I had a 5 fin surfboard at one stage with two fins on the rail. We tried everything and skateboarding was a big influence for me doing rail grab cutties and sliding reverses.” There’s no denying that Larry was the architect of aerial surfing and was way ahead of the game yet despite the lack of credit, he laughs it off as the humble jovial Hawaiian he has always been, “I was well ahead of my mind!” he quips.
 
The parallel between himself and Michael Peterson drew his attention early, “Someone said I could be the Peterson of Hawaii and I said, cool I can’t wait to meet this guy!”
 
Larry was friendly with Mark Richards who would become 4 times World champion, Simon Anderson the inventor of the Thruster and Coolangatta World Champs PT and Rabbit Bartholomew.  “ I didn’t see these guys as a threat just loved surfing with them but Peterson was definitely the best!”
 
Bertlemann was one of the first well paid full time professional surfers sponsored by OP and then Rip Curl where at one Coke Surfabout event he was seen chauffeured to the beach in a Rolls Royce!
 
Doug “Claw” Warbrick, co-owner of Rip Curl and Californian legendary photographer Art Brewer worked together to stage the iconic image of LB with his Rolls Royce Chauffeur framed by the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
 
Larry had rock star appeal with his Jimi Hendrix/Michael Jackson afro and his groovy nonchalant approach but like MP faded out of the picture before the 80’s and moved to Phoenix!   “I decided to do something different and see how people live without the water! I wanted to try something new like motorcycles, speed cars and weird stuff,” he laughed.
 
Obviously Surfing has changed a lot since those heady days of the seventies and he views it as a good thing,  “Surfing is really corporate now and I think I had something to do with that. You can make a living from surfing now! Basically that is what I tried to do in the seventies. There was no money to be made in those days, I had to show the people that it was possible and make the point and thanks to Ocean Pacific, I owe them big thanks for supporting my professional career.”
 
Bertlemann loves to see how successful Kelly Slater has been. “I love the guy and he is a great friend! I remember him when he was a little kid at Coca Beach. I invited Kelly up to my room and I said to him “You’ve got what it takes man! Keep on going! And ever since then he has been the greatest!” Bertlmann was ahead of his time jokingly adds, “Slightly ahead of the time,” he laughs, “Someone had to lead the way!” Larry loves the big wave heroes and the tow-ins sessions, “There are no limits today, I like that, the only limits are ourselves!”
 
It will be 34 years since Larry has been on the Gold Coast and he has some fond memories of those days, “Lots of good memories of surfing Burleigh and I had really good waves at Kirra,” he recalls. “Gold Coast is more like Hawaii for me than Sydney or Torquay and the beaches are so unreal! I can’t wait to see it all again”
 
Larry arrives on the Gold Coast on February 18th and will attend the red carpet showing of SOB72, the Komune Resort reunion of the 72 World titles, the ASP World Champions Banquet Ball, Surf World Gold Coast Luau, Quiksliver and Roxy Pro and the Noosa Festival of Surfing plus catch up on a lot of all friends and acquaintances.  “I can’t wait to see everyone! I’d like to see everybody come out and check out Sons of Beaches!”

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