“Midget Wins it All” posted last Monday on History of Surfing, followed by Midget’s own honest and kinda bleak first-person account of his victory in the 1964 World Championships. On Instagram, I tried to draw out John Witzig, one of the contest judges that day, to talk about the new “sportsmanship” rule in place that weekend, and if Joey Cabell got screwed out of the title, but John wouldn’t bite. Not at first, anyway. “You’re just trying to get me in trouble,” he wrote. A little more nudging, and John added this: “Yes there was an interference rule, [and] a maximum of one point could be deleted per ride for ‘ungentlemanly behavior’. How I or other judges applied that rule I don’t remember. Certainly the intervention of head judge Phil Edwards affected the placings. I went along with [Phil] . . . and the rest of the judges apparently did too.”
The conspiracy theory has always been that Phil put his thumb on the scale in favor of Midget, who was very much Phil’s stylistic offspring—while Joey (closer in age to Phil) had long been something of a rival. I wouldn’t rule this scenario out. But when I watch the event footage, it looks to me like, sportsmanship rule or not, Midget won fair and square. Anyway, if you set the whole event thing to a thumping Dave Clark Five instrumental (watch here), everyone looks happy, so let’s leave it at that.
I interviewed Ronnie Burns in December 1986, on the North Shore. We met one sunny afternoon at the SURFER house at Log Cabins, rolled tape, and 90 minutes later he was driving off, business done. I recall thinking the conversation never really got off the ground. But reviewing the transcript last week—first time I’d seen it in over 30 years—the back-and-forth was actually pretty decent, and I was stoked to trim it up a bit and add Burns’ name to Above the Roar. “After awhile”—this is my favorite Burns quote—“surfing Pipeline is just like surfing Rocky Point.” Dude said that without swagger or irony, he really was just that comfortable riding whatever came his way on the North Shore. I got all hotted up to make a new clip of Ronnie, and here it is, this thing was just a joy to work on.
Next week we’re cruising the East Coast, Miami to Gilgo, and let me say for the record that “New York’s A Lonely Town” is straight up the best vocal surf music track of all time. Here’s the original Trade Winds version, see what you think. And here’s a great Dave Edmunds cover. Winner either way!
['64 World Title photos by Bob Evans]