RIP Big Darrell Eastlake

Stu Nettle
Swellnet Dispatch

Last night, Darrell Eastlake passed away on the NSW Central Coast. His long battle with Alzheimer's disease over. He was 75.

Older surfers may recall Darrell Eastlake as an early surf entrepreneur and media figure, while those of middle-age will never forget his basso profundo voice booming out of the tele, and younger crew will have no idea what I'm talking about.

Big Daz was born in 1942 and came of age during Australia's first surf boom. Eastlake learnt to surf at Bondi but at the end of his teenage years he moved south to Corrimal, near Wollongong, to open the area's very first surf shop. The South Coast Surf Hut was located near Corrimal train station and was, according to Phil Jarratt in his memoir Life Of Brine, regularly filled with the hottest surfers from the area and the prettiest girls too. Big Daz worked his charm from a young age.

Big Daz on the left outside the South Coast Surf Hut in Corrimal

He also had an aptitude for organising. In 1964 Daz formed Corrimal Area Boardriders which provided his first foray into commentating. Tony 'Midnight' Ryan is from Sandon Point and was a teenage alumni of Corrimal Area Boardriders. He recalls Daz on the PA during their monthly competitions.

"You'd hear him on the microphone," recalls Midnight. "'What a tube!' so we'd look around and there was no tube. 'Incredible re-entry!' and we'd look again and the surfer was doing a cutback."

"He was always getting it wrong," chuckles Midnight. "But he was just so entertaining, always working the crowd. A fantastic fella."

Despite his charisma and beachside flair, mutiny was on the cards. In 1966 a bunch of kids broke away from Corrimal Area Boardriders to form Bellambi Area Boardriders, and Eastlake was reportedly crestfallen by their disloyalty. Whether that contributed to his next move we don't know, but by '68 he'd moved back north, this time to Cronulla where he manned the Gordon Woods surfshop, eventually starting his own company, Something Incredible surfboards with John Rhodes.

Only a sports commentator would call their surfboard label Something Incredible.

During his time in Cronulla, Big Daz had his first taste of media work. Because of his booming voice and perpetually high-spirits, radio station 2UW roped him in to do their southside surf reports. He was leaning towards media work but not before a short stint presiding over Windansea Surf Club in Queensland. It was his last job in the surfing world.

Big Daz letting someone else speak for a change

By the early 1980s he'd established himself as a sports commentator of renown, calling the NRL State of Origin matches and Grand Finals, and being a regular fixture on Wide World of Sports. When Gibbo and Chappelli crossed from the studio, Big Daz was always out in the field, trackside at Mount Panorama, in the bleachers at the weightlifting, or walking Merewether Beach with Nicky Wood, delivering each story with inimitable enthusiasm.

Channel Nine colleague Ken Sutcliffe said Eastlake was a character to work alongside. "You just couldn't help but get into trouble in his company," Sutcliffe told nine.com.au.

"I never got thrown out of a hotel, yet I got thrown out because I was with Darrell — and I was 40-odd years of age."

"He was larger than life, and he loved life. He was noisy, passionate, infuriating and funny."

At the 1990 Auckland Commonwealth Games Big Daz was pulled from the commentary team due to his over-excited performances. 

In his 'Twelth Man'  impersonations, Billy Birmingham sent up Big Daz ferociously, capturing his over-the-top calling ("taking the voice back up to the threshold of pain") and speak-before-you-think delivery ("Pearce off, Jack, Gibbs on"). It was pitch perfect though it was hard to imagine Big Daz being upset.

Big Daz eventually retired from media work in 2005 and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2010, plus emphysema brought on by years of being a heavy smoker.

Eastlake is survived by his wife Julie.

Comments

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Thursday, 19 Apr 2018 at 11:25am

I once wrote an article for Tracks satirising malibus which Darrell believed contained some personal references to him. I could understand how he came to that conclusion but it was not my intention. Shortly after it was published I received a call from channel nine inviting me to discuss the article with Darrell and Nat, who was competing on mals at that time. After careful consideration for about a millisecond, I declined. I never watched that show so I don't know if they had a shot at me or not. I should have apologised to him for my misjudgement but never got around to it.

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf commented Thursday, 19 Apr 2018 at 4:18pm

Geez Blinder I would have gone for the laughs and it wouldn't be hard to wind up Nat from what I know of him (grumpy). Dazza was a hoot on the WWS in the early 80's. Living in Melbourne I always thought he had a rugby background as he didn't come across as a surfer. Who remembers the time they got MR on and asked him back next week? MR said sure love to, then they reminded him he had something else on....his wedding.

abc-od's picture
abc-od's picture
abc-od commented Thursday, 19 Apr 2018 at 11:37am

Big Daz surfed?? Dont know why but this puts a big smile on my face.

Vale.

Phil Jarratt's picture
Phil Jarratt's picture
Phil Jarratt commented Thursday, 19 Apr 2018 at 12:19pm

He rode a huge red mal back in the days when all boards were huge, but Big Daz's was HUUUGE! There are a million stories, a few of them actually fit for print. This one's right on the margin. I worked with Daz at Wide World of Sports right up until we moved to Queensland to live, at which time I advertised our Avalon house for rent. Daz rocked up with a paramour, looking for a beach love-nest. Shoulda seen the look on his face when I answered the door! Vale Daz, one of a kind.

Phil Jarratt

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Thursday, 19 Apr 2018 at 3:27pm

Big Daz- you can't not like him.

One quote that stays in mind when Daz was commentating the Bells final between Nicky Wood and Dog Marsh.

(excitedly about Dog) "he's surfing on water that isn't even there!"

classic fella.

Watashi wa metabo oyagi desu.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Thursday, 19 Apr 2018 at 3:35pm

chook's picture
chook's picture
chook commented Thursday, 19 Apr 2018 at 4:25pm

Thanks for that clip Ben. “Beautiful work”!

PT73's picture
PT73's picture
PT73 commented Thursday, 19 Apr 2018 at 4:54pm

Circa '95. TerrigaI Pub. I witnessed another side to Daz. Y'see, old mate Eastlake could not go to the local without punters asking him to do State of Origin calls. It started out all smiles and laughs, but as the night drew longer and more schooies were put away, it became obvious Daz was growing a bit tired of all the attention and piss taking. My poor mate Brycey happened to be the final straw and ended up with his nose spread across his face.
R.I.P. Big Fella.

Into the ocean I go, to lose my mind, but find my soul.

tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter commented Thursday, 19 Apr 2018 at 7:11pm

I remember his commentary in the first Surfest events in Newy . I didn't now what he was on about most of the time, but it sure was more entertaining than the shit coming the WSL team these days .His passion and enthusiasm just drew you in , whatever he was calling.

John Eyre's picture
John Eyre's picture
John Eyre commented Thursday, 19 Apr 2018 at 11:51pm

Sports journalists and broadcasters from around the country have remembered Eastlake as "unique and one of a kind", while others remembered him for particular moments.
"I can remember him yelling in my ear while I was driving in the celeb GP race. 'Don’t brake, Livinia!'" Nine News presenter Livinia Nixon tweeted.
"So I didn’t. Major crash ensued! You and your beautiful voice will be missed."

Born on July 11, 1942, Eastlake started out as a baggage handler for Qantas. Later, he ran a surf shop, and one of his first media gigs was doing surf reports on Sydney radio station 2UW.

https://www.smh.com.au/sport/nrl/sports-broadcaster-darrell-eastlake-die...

ashleigh's picture
ashleigh's picture
ashleigh commented Friday, 20 Apr 2018 at 10:54am

Used to love listening to him call the Moto 500 GP bikes with Barry Sheene.
He'd come out with stuff like "Ohhhh he's got the hippy hippy shake" whenever a rider would almost lose it coming through a bend. So entertaining...

the-u-turn's picture
the-u-turn's picture
the-u-turn commented Monday, 23 Apr 2018 at 2:43pm

Wonderful post, and thanks for the clip Ben. Dazza was loved well and truly and was at his best calling 'The Aussies' every year for Ch 9. He knew his stuff and nailed it because he did his homework. Just as we see in the clip from Ben. He loved it all but really loved the boats and the Boaties. I met him once, as a young lad, and he asked me, 'do you row son', I said no, I was a swimmer. 'too bad son'...and that was it. Vale Daz.

The U Turn
...a little Aloha goes a long way.

Mort's picture
Mort's picture
Mort commented Monday, 23 Apr 2018 at 10:09pm

It is cool he shaped and surfed. I find it peculiar there was no media wrap up on his death.

Mort's picture
Mort's picture
Mort commented Monday, 23 Apr 2018 at 10:09pm

It is cool he shaped and surfed. I find it peculiar there was no media wrap up on his death.

Mort's picture
Mort's picture
Mort commented Monday, 23 Apr 2018 at 10:10pm

It is cool he shaped and surfed. I find it peculiar there was no media wrap up on his death.

It is the media version of mummifying them.

Mort's picture
Mort's picture
Mort commented Monday, 23 Apr 2018 at 10:10pm

It is cool he shaped and surfed. I find it peculiar there was no media wrap up on his death.

It is the media version of mummifying them.

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