Forty years since man-on-man surfing was launched at the Stubbies
"It was the breakthrough pro surfing needed, and it was so good we're still using the same system today."
So says Andrew McKinnon of the very first Stubbies that ran at Burleigh Heads forty years ago today. Yet despite it's success, man-on-man very nearly didn't happen.
Just a few months earlier, as Peter Drouyn was selling his vision to sponsors, Rabbit Bartholomew and Kanga Cairns had their backs against the wall in Hawaii. The Hawaiian winter of '76 came to a head with Rabbit getting his front teeth knocked out and the Aussies charged by kanagaroo court of various cultural transgressions.
Into this hostile climate Peter Drouyn attempted to spread the gospel of man-on-man surfing. Yet for it to work, Drouyn needed the best surfers in the world and that included the Hawaiians. The promise of good waves, hassle free heats, and the not insignificant matter of prizemoney - $12,300 worth of it - made for a convincing argument. In early March eleven Hawaiians, including Eddie and Clyde Aikau who held court against the Australians, made the trek down under to compete in the Stubbies.
The very first man-on-man heat was between Australians Mark Warren and Brian Cregan. Coincidentally, the perceived antagonist on the North Shore, Rabbit Bartholomew, drew Hawaiian surfers in three successive heats: Mark Foo, Randy Rarick, and Sunset great Barry Kanaiupuni in Round 2.
Rabbit's run was halted by Michael Peterson who'd come out of semi-retirement just for the Stubbies. Like the Hawaiians he was also lured by the prizemoney. MP would go on to win, besting against Mark Richards in the final. It was MP's last big win.
Forty years later the prizemoney for surfing has grown exponentially - this week's Quiksilver Pro has a prize purse exceeding $1 million - yet despite superficial rule changes the fundamentals of man-on-man surfing remain the same as Peter Drouyn's original vision.
John Webber has footage of the Rabbit v MP semi then the MP v MR final.