Nick Carroll: He's Ours

14 Mar 2020 1 Share

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer


Simon Anderson is presented with Midget Farrelly Award, for reasons only surfers understand

“Can I go now?”

Simon Anderson is pretty much the only person I know who can say this and cause a room to start laughing.

Who knows how he does this. Anderson’s flat delivery of near invisible punchlines has been killing rooms full of slightly pissed surfers for generations.

This time they weren’t even slightly pissed, and quite a few of them weren’t super hard core surfers, but they still laughed.

The occasion was Surfing NSW’s annual Midget Farrelly Lifetime Achievement Award presentation, given to Simon during a business breakfast at the Sydney Surf Pro. At 7:30am.

Of course in these volatile times, many sharp business people are wide awake and firing at 7:30 am, and many surfers are too, but not Simon. Even back on tour pre-Thruster, he was renowned for his skill at sleeping. On Wednesday, he stood on stage next to Layne Beachley, deadpan as ever, while a video of him explaining the moment of Creation played on various screens.

As it did, I was struck not for the first time by the sheer core-ness of that moment. Most great sporting stories involve the classic themes of human triumph and despair — thrill of victory, agony of defeat, sorta thing. The stories get out of that particular sport’s little world and spread outward, touching the hearts of people who’ve never played the sport and never will. Think Steven Bradbury! Cate Campbell, crushed at the finish of the Rio 100m. Adam Goodes, Serena Williams, the list is long. You don’t have to understand what they’re doing in order to feel their pain, or elation.

But the Thruster is different. It was a leap of logic that changed almost every surfer’s experience of the sport, from world champions to mini grommets worldwide. It’s the biggest single reason why people surf as well as they do today. It changed the feeling of riding a wave.

Yet — like surfing itself — can you even understand that unless you do it?

If you don’t surf, maybe it’s like, well, yeah, they had one fin, then two, then three. Duh!

Simon seemed to sense this at one point. “Am I getting too technical here?” he asked the audience. But since he delivered the line Simon style, everyone chuckled again.

How to explain it? Tom Carroll, also on stage, had a go. He described being on the North Shore in late 1980, when Simon pulled his Thruster prototype out of the board bag and asked everyone what they thought.  “We were all in the single fin camp,” he said. “We had these big deep single fins and we used to push on the fin, drive it into the wave. That was how we surfed. And we worshipped Simon. Then out he comes with these three little fins! We thought, what’s happened to Simon? Has he lost it?”

Then one of the crew, Dougall Walker, took the prototype out to small Rocky Point for an arvo session. “He came back and his eyes were alight. He just kept saying, this is epic.”

Back then, as now, Simon himself was never just who he seemed. He liked sleeping in, but there was a lot more going on. Competitive, intelligent, and not super tolerant of fools, once he decided what he wanted, he pursued it with a lot of clarity and didn’t bother himself too much with what other people thought. Plenty of pros in the late 70s and early 80s rued the day they underestimated the big man from Narrabeen.

He paid tribute to Midget, whose blanks filled the prototype three-fins. Terry Fitzgerald, Col Smith, and Frank Williams, whose little trailer fin on a twinnie gave Simon the germ of the Thruster idea. “I guess I’m a product of that Narrabeen community, so I have them to thank for it all,” he said.

Maybe that’s the best reason to give him awards. Simon’s from Narrabeen, and never forgot it. And the Thruster belongs to surfers.

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