The Founders' Cup of Surfing presented by Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold, is a historic region-versus-region teams event featuring a cross-section of the world's best surfers to be held at the Surf Ranch in Lemoore, CA May 5 - 6. While the event is a potential portal into a new future for professional surfing, it also aims to celebrate its past. The Founders are comprised of seven iconic organizing members who are directly responsible for where surfing is currently at. But what did they do and how did they do it? Here's a breakdown of each member's contribution and why they matter.
"No one was taking us surfers seriously and myself and a few of my contemporaries like Mark Richards and Rabbit Bartholomew really wanted to change that," Ian "Kanga" Cairns recently said at the launch of his biography; Kanga - The Trials and Triumphs of Ian Cairns.
Initially Cairns led the charge from the water. The 6'3", 180 pound naturalfooter was a powerful surfer and fierce competitor whose best results, which included victories at the Smirnoff Pro, Duke Kahanamoku Classic and World Cup, were all recorded in Hawaii. Out of the water Cairns was one of professional surfing's most opinionated advocates. He recognized very early on the potential of the sport.
However it was his influence post competitive career that has probably had the biggest affect. After forming the Aussie domestic circuit (APSA) and founding the ASP, the precursor to the WSL, he moved to the USA. In the 1980s he helmed the NSSA and coached a whole generation of American surfing icons.
"We wanted our sport to be something our parents would be proud of, we wanted to be proud of our sport," he also said at the book launch. It's fair to say very few people have worked harder, or been more successful, in that pursuit than the Western Australian.
Wayne "Rabbit" Bartholomew
"Professional surfing was still a dream in the early days," Surfline's Jason Borte wrote, "but Rabbit had the vision and the personality to sell it." As an athlete, showman, guardian, writer, innovator and mentor perhaps no other surfer has lived the dream with the same passion as Wayne "Rabbit" Bartholomew.
It was in the 1970s that the charismatic Queenslander made it his ambition to turn the nascent professional surfing scene into something far bigger. His flamboyant and progressive style won a World Title and fans all around the world. Away from competition his freesurfing efforts in Hawaii were also brash and groundbreaking. His uncompromising approach on Oahu's North Shore may have angered the locals at the time, but it also helped usher in a new era.
After finishing with competition, Bartholomew mixed environmental activism with coaching before taking over as ASP President for 10 years (1999 to 2009). It was in this time that he prioritized events that put the world's best surfers in the world's best waves. The Dream Tour as it became known still remains the modern template for the Championship Tour (CT) and just one of the many legacies surfing owes Bartholomew.
Can you imagine a surfing world without the Pipe Masters or The Triple Crown? Well, to do so would be to imagine a world without Fred Hemmings. If we were to remove Hemming's influence as a surfer, administrator, presenter, promotor and US Senator, the sport of surfing would be a very different beast indeed.
Hemming was born and raised in Honolulu and throughout the sixties dominated the sport, winning the Makaha Surfing Championships four times and the World Championship in 1968. Hemming then successfully used his leverage as Hawaii's first World Champion to promote and market surfing as a viable professional sport. He created the Pipe Masters in 1971 and the Triple Crown in 1975 and secured national TV coverage for both. In 1976 he founded the IPS, which brought together a loose affiliation of surf contests to form the first professional world circuit.
It was Hemmings who personally dragged surfing in front of a vast new audience. In doing so he established the platform for which the WSL and professional surfing still rests on today.
It's startling to think that by the time Randy Rarick co-founded the IPS in 1976, he had already completed a four-year surfing odyssey around the globe, studied accounting and commercial law in Sydney, ran a surf shop, shaped thousands of surfboards and represented Hawaii at the World Championships.
Rarick, along with partner Fred Hemmings, also created the Hawaiian Triple Crown, which he has managed from 1983 to 2012. Whether it was telling a teenager Gerry Lopez to go left at Pipe, witnessing Greg Noll's biggest wave ever caught at Makaha or being an integral to every pivotal professional surfing moment in Hawaii for the last four decades, Rarick is one of surfing's most reliable witnesses and it's biggest enthusiast.
It is a measure of Mark Richard's achievements that it took the great Kelly Slater to surpass his record of four successive men's World Titles. MR won those titles from 1979 to 1982, before retiring at just age 25. However while the numbers are incredible, it was the manner in which the Australian secured the titles that elevates him to one of the all time greats.
His wins came on surfboards he shaped himself making him the last World Champion to do so. It was also his signature re-imagining of the twin-fin design that fueled his success and became the dominant design worldwide. His style too was totally unique and while it earned him the nickname the "Wounded Gull" it was both graceful and inimitable. Out of the water Mark's gracious personality smoothed the path that allowed professional surfing to take hold and grow.
"Years ahead of his contemporaries, Tomson stood alone with articulate grace and redefined tube-riding in the process," wrote Jason Borte on the 1977 World Champion. It was the Hawaiian winter of 1975 when the South African changed surfing - finding deeper, longer and more radical ways to ride the tube at Pipeline, on both his forehand and backhand. The movie Free Ride chronicled that evolutionary leap and is seminal for that reason.
However Tomson maintained his competitive edge for far longer than his Free Ride contemporaries and remained a top 16 ranked surfer all the way until his retirement in 1989. In all that time and in his post competitive career in business and publishing, Tomson remained one of surfing's most positive, professional, intelligent and articulate advocates. Without his tube-riding or his voice, surfing would be a much cruder art form.
Is there a better CV in surfing that Peter "PT" Townend? World Champ, writer, publisher, fashionista, commentator, brand manager, promoter, ad man, stuntman, coach and Tour Founder are just some of the roles he has fulfilled.
PT grew up on the Gold Coast, surfing the famed sand-bottom points and vying for supremacy with Michael Peterson and Rabbit Bartholomew. While his 1976 World Title has a slight question mark over it (after all, he was the one tallying the ranking points) he used that win as a platform to legitimize the sport. Few surfers, before or since, had a better eye for self-promotion and be it through the formation of the Bronzed Aussies or acting in Big Wednesday, his own publicity always fueled a greater interest in surfing.
After finishing with competition Townsend moved to California and helmed the NSSA, coaching and mentoring Tom Curren and Brad Gerlach among others. A prolific and talented writer he then worked his way up from advertising manager to associate publisher in the surf media. Then came influential roles with surf brand Rusty, not to mention advisory roles with organizations such as the ASP, Surfrider Foundation and the Surf Industry Manufacturers' Association (SIMA). In fact PT's CV is the timeline of professional surfing itself.
The WSL Founders' Cup of Surfing presented by Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold will take place from May 5 - 6, 2018. Tickets available at WSLFoundersCup.com.