Hurley Pro at Trestles

Expression Session: Rabbit on Pro Surfing Then, Now

Surfing legend and 1978 World Champion Wayne "Rabbit" Bartholomew will be one of four iconic surfers to appear in an expression session during the Hurley Lowers Pro and Swatch Women's Pro. Having served as the President of the ASP (now WSL), Bartholomew has been involved in the sport of surfing for nearly 40 years. The legend shared the most memorable moments from his career and his view on the sport, then and now.

World Surf League: What was the most significant moment in your surfing career?
Wayne 'Rabbit' Bartholomew: The most significant moment in my career was walking up the beach after my Semifinal of the Pipe Masters, hearing the result and knowing I had just clinched the World Title. I had scored a perfect 10 earlier in the day and then everything fell into place, clinching with an event to spare in 1978.

Wayne 'Rabbit' Bartholomew giving Holly-Sue Coffey some tips at the Original Source Australian Boardriders Battle Wayne 'Rabbit' Bartholomew giving Holly-Sue Coffey some tips at the 2015 Original Source Australian Boardriders Battle. - WSL / Will H-S

WSL: Who was your biggest rival?
Rabbit: My main rival was Shaun Tomson (ZAF). We had been good friends and rivals since the Backside Pipeline days in 1974/75 and we had surfed some amazing Finals in Australia, South Africa and Hawaii.

WSL: Who inspired you the most in your career?
Rabbit: I would say the two most inspirational surfers were Tomson and Michael Ho (HAW). The way these guys surfed Sunset Beach and Pipeline, plus their tube-riding skills at Backdoor and Off the Wall, was totally inspirational. They had courage and knew when to take calculated risk.

WSL: You were key to "creating" pro surfing. What do you think about the state of professional surfing in 2015?
Rabbit: I am very impressed with the WSL. The Tour has never been better. Great surfers and great waves make a Tour. However, the investment and expertise of the WSL has taken pro surfing to a new plateau of excellence.

Wayne Rabbit Bartholomew is through to the Quarter Finals of the Grand Masters.   ASP/Cestari Rabbit during the 2014 Grand Masters. - WSL / Kelly Cestari

WSL: Who do you think will win the World Title in 2015?
Rabbit: The Title race is wide open. I would say Mick Fanning, Owen Wright, Filipe Toledo, Julian Wilson and Adriano de Souza are in the box seat.

WSL: What was the toughest moment in your career?
Rabbit: The toughest moment of my career was losing a split decision to Tom Carroll at the 1984 Stubbies Classic. The outcome was for the No. 1 world ranking in the home stretch of the '83/'84 World Title race.

WSL: What is the biggest difference between competitive surfing now and when you were on Tour?
Rabbit: There is an ocean of difference between the WSL and the Tour back in the day. Where do I begin? It is pretty obvious to all. The prize money breakdown, the creature comforts at events, the traveling entourages, managers, coaches, doctors and chiropractors at events; big money contracts, surf industry support, winning bonuses, ranking incentives, trainers and many more perks.

Having said that, it is definitely top heavy. Life on the Qualifying Series today is similar to how it was at the Championship Tour level in our day: sharing cars, accommodations, making ends meet from event to event, securing enough sponsorship to budget out a Tour campaign. Basically, having to win your way from contest to contest.

Rabbit will make do with runner-up, one place short of three Grand Masters titles.   ASP/Cestari Rabbit placed runner-up in the 2014 Grand Masters, where he has already won two titles. - WSL / Kelly Cestari

WSL: What's one thing you know now that you wish you'd known as a young competitor?
Rabbit: There are so many things that I know now that I feel I would have applied pretty well. It is all clear in retrospect. The training regimes are so different, so sophisticated now. At one level, I feel we were very surf fit. Spending three months a year in Hawaii, surfing with no leashes, swimming out in the current to fetch boards at Sunset, having to hold boards through rogue sets at outside Pipe, competing without leashes made us surf fit.

However, disciplines such as breath enhancement, core strength, cross training and personal trainers were non-existent, or primitive at best. The other area was mental agility. Elite pros today deploy their own variation of the aerobic workout through adaptation to changing conditions. Jeremy Flores touched on this in his post victory interview [at the Billabong Pro Tahiti]. He spoke of adjusting his mental state, of learning to love surfing again after being laid low by life's fluctuations, and how it reaped rewards on the day through mental agility with the conditions, anchored by his love of Teahupo'o. That would have served me well in overcoming heavy losses. The tools available to professionals today are well honed and specific to both the personality and the chosen sport. I think having jet skis, leashes and two best [scoring] rides makes for a different mindset. I envisaged this kind of freesurfing mindset when implementing these rules and measures to the Tour.

The WSL sat down with several different surfing legends to discuss the upcoming Trestles Expression Session at the Hurley Pro and Swatch Women's Pro at Lower Trestles. Don't miss the interviews with Wayne "Rabbit" Bartholomew, Shaun Tomson, Simon Anderson, Michael Ho, Cheyne Horan, Ian Cairns and Mark Richards. And catch every second of this years unique Expression Session LIVE on and the WSL App.