The Flyer: Bull at a Pearly Gate

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)

It’s a shorter Flyer today. Last weekend the family and I got caught up in the lockdown brouhaha, and what was supposed to be a relaxed holiday in wide open spaces was anything but.

It was still a holiday though, and it meant I was away from my desk when news of Greg Noll’s death came through. It was something I’ve been reflecting on a lot this week.

I don’t know much about Noll as I only met him once when I hosted a Q&A session at South Cronulla Surf Club. This was held sixty years after he and his US team mates unveiled their lightweight malibus on the waves out the front. 

Like many, I’d read Noll’s autobiography, seen the footage of him bum rushing Waimea in his jailhouse boardies, and was aware of his arc from big wave hero to lifestyle icon. Being a journalist, however, I was determined to hit him with some fresh questions. Seeking some introspection, I asked Noll if he could remember standing in this room sixty years prior.

“Naw, I don’t remember much from that whole trip,” said the big fella. “You Aussies like to drink too much and I can’t say no.”

Of course his answer was met with much laughter and applause, and I realised my ambition of a unique interview was dust. But I also realised that wasn’t a problem, as what the crowd wanted was stories, and who cares if they’ve heard them all before. There’s warmth and familiarity in those tales. They wanted to hear the great man repeat them.

It was time for the journalist to hush up and the Master of Ceremonies take his place.

Stories aside, over the years there has been some great journalism done on Noll’s feats. In 2011, Kirk Owers had a fantastic article published in Tracks, and this article by Matt Warshaw is a good chaser. Actually, anything Matt has posted about Noll on EOS is worth your while.

This week, Phil Jarratt also contributed his memories of Noll, and Tim Bonython shared with Swellnet a video interview recorded with Noll, itself shot just an hour before I had my Q&A session with him. Clearly the big fella was just getting warmed up.

- Stu

Vale Greg Noll: Farewell big wave legend

Phil Jarratt recalls Greg Noll's short, explosive surf career, and his far longer gig as warm-hearted raconteur and figurehead for the surfing lifestyle. Read More >

Watch: Greg Noll talks life with Tracey Holmes

A fantastic interview with Noll during his 2016 trip to Australia. Read More >

Meet Nikolai Popov, the first surfer in the USSR

From the first guy to surf Waimea Bay, to the first surfer in the USSR. While Noll was pushing the outside of the envelope in Hawaii, Nikolai Popov was building Soviet Russia's first surfboard and tracking the vast coastline for ideal waves. Read More >

From the laboratory to the lineup

One more story from the historical basket: Twenty years after being discovered, neoprene was being put to use by divers, as a small cohort of surfers watched on. What seems remarkably simple to make now - soft, tight fitting wetsuits - was anything but in the 1950s. Read More >

Watch: Vantage Points // Russell Bierke & Andrew Kaineder

This clip came with a bit of copy about its aesthetic qualities - "a mix of hi-fi cinematography backed by a suspenseful original musical score" - but all I read was 'Russell Bierke' and the play button was duly pressed. Nor should you hesitate to watch it. Read More >