2017 media releases

Museum pays homage to King of the Surf Bernard ‘Midget’ Farrelly AM

Out of Hawaii – King of the Surf feature display

In May 1964 Australian surfing legend Bernard ‘Midget’ Farrelly (1944 - 2016) put Australia firmly on the surfing map when he won two major international surfing events in the early 1960s. Both represent the holy grail of surfing – the famed Makaha contest in Hawaii – the unofficial world title which Farrelly won in January 1963; and the first World surfing titles in May 1964, held in Manly Australia.  Yesterday Farrelly was posthumously awarded an AM (Member of the general division of the Order of Australia) for significant service to surfing as a competitor and industry pioneer.

In May 1964 Australian surfing legend Bernard ‘Midget’ Farrelly (1944 - 2016) put Australia firmly on the surfing map when he won two major international surfing events in the early 1960s. Both represent the holy grail of surfing – the famed Makaha contest in Hawaii – the unofficial world title which Farrelly won in January 1963; and the first World surfing titles in May 1964, held in Manly Australia.  Yesterday Farrelly was posthumously awarded an AM (Member of the general division of the Order of Australia) for significant service to surfing as a competitor and industry pioneer. 

53 years later the Australian National Maritime Museum pays homage to this ‘king of the surf’ in a special exhibit featuring his stunning trophies. The display features the carved timber trophy of a surfing warrior from the Makaha championships and the impressive silver plated world globe trophy from the senior men’s title won at Manly. 

In Hawaii in January 1963 Farrelly, an outsider, beat the favoured surfers Hawaiian Joey Cabell and Californian Mike Doyle in the coveted tenth annual Makaha surfing contest, the first non-Hawaiian to do so. Later the following year all three surfers again faced off in an international field in Manly in front of 60,000 spectators. Both trophies have been generously gifted to the museum by Farrelly family.

According to contemporary press Bernard ‘Midget’ Farrelly possessed a ‘superhuman elegance’. He was a dominant force in surfing – ‘the King of the surf’ at a time of rapid growth in the sportfrom the 1950s to the 60s. Bernard ‘Midget’ Farrelly was a star of TV and film, a surfing correspondent, an author and a designer of surf and skateboards. 

In the past few years 2015 and in 2016 visiting Hawaiian delegations have met with Farrelly at Sydney’s beaches - 100 years after Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku had visited Sydney and popularised surfing, to pay homage to the friendship between Hawaii and Australia born of the waves.. On one occasion they paddled out from Sydney’s Freshwater beach, The Makaha trophy is draped with seed offerings presented to him.

The display also features photos of Farrelly taken by Jack Eden, photographer for the popular Surfabout magazine in the 1960s. The selection is part of a recent collection of 100 of Jack Eden’s surf culture photographs gifted to the museum by the Jack and Dawn Eden.

Kevin Sumption, director of the Australian National Maritime Museum said, “We are delighted that the museum can celebrate the life of one of our sporting greats, as well as significant time in our surfing and maritime history, by presenting this display. Our sincere thanks go to the Farrelly and Eden families for their generous gifts to the National Maritime Collection.” 

The family Farrelly said “We are pleased that by gifting the items to the museum and to the National Maritime Collection Bernard ‘Midget’ Farrelly’s memory and achievements will live on and be shared with future generations and the thousands of visitors that visit the museum each year.”

Out of Hawaii – King of the Surf is now on display and is part of the museum’s FREE galleries. 

The Australian National Maritime Museum, in Darling Harbour, is open from 9.30am to 5pm daily. All enquiries (02) 9298 3777. 

Media images available on request.

All media inquiries: Jude Timms (02) 9298 3645; 0418 219 841.