Watch: TSJ Documentaries // Larry Bertlemann

Stu Nettle
Swellnet Dispatch

Have I told you how much I loathe social media?

This isn't just an old-person-who-cant-hashtag rant, it runs deeper than that. As a means of mass communication, social media is devastatingly efficient. I'll give it that. Instagram, FB, et al are instantaneous, unencumbered by gatekeepers, and utterly democratic, yet it's a medium that has no memory. It's ephemeral. And the victim of its immediacy is history - it cares not for what happened, only what's happening.

As social media has laid waste to passed mediums, splintering some, making obsolete others, the users of social media - particulary young crew who use it exclusively - are less informed about history.

It's a big topic to tackle, including how universities are abolishing history departments, but my concern here is limited to surfing. Profiles of older surfers used to appear in print mags, providing continuity and context, how influential surfers arose from various regions and how they changed the culture. It's a rich and nuanced story.

Though websites aren't as geared towards history, at Swellnet we've tried to keep an eye on the rearview mirror.

But as our attention shifts wholesale to social media, the scope for continuity and context reduces. A couple of old surf mag Instagram accounts constitute 'history', though I'll give a big nod to Matt Warshaw's who's pushing back in his own way, as are the archivist's over at The Surfer's Journal.

The latter has my attention right now becase they're just begun digitising their biography series. The TSJ's docos were created by Ira Opper, the same guy who made the recent 'Secrets of Desert Point', and the series includes Terry Fitz, Lopez, Horan, Hakman, Tom Carroll and many more.

The first doco is now freely available and it's on Larry Bertlemann, arguably the most influential surfer of the modern era. Lynch and Young might have taken surfing vertical, but Bertlemann went beyond, into loops, over the wave ('Larry-als' - the first aerials), he switched feet, he was an acrobat, he was confident and colourful when surfing was still in its Earthtone era. Bertlemann brought a showman's act to the nascent professional scene.

The doco itself is kinda subdued but features great interviews with Ben Aipa and Rabbit, plus period footage of LB at V'Land and South Shore reefs.

It's just twenty minutes long - get into it.

Comments

Ape Anonymous's picture
Ape Anonymous's picture
Ape Anonymous commented Friday, 27 Mar 2020 at 10:38am

No doubt that the surfing world re-evolved around Larry "an acrobat". Didn't he have to stop surfing because it caused a back injury? Something to learn in that, I reckon if we want to keep surfing into old age we got to not be so radical.

Ape Anonymous's picture
Ape Anonymous's picture
Ape Anonymous commented Friday, 27 Mar 2020 at 3:00pm

Oh. Yeah. Sorry Stu... Thanks for the content. "social media" is a scourge on society -self is now defined by likes on a computer database -weird. Really really weird.

Larry's understudy -Buttons was a huge influence on my transition over the past decade from comp short boards to single fins and eventually ending up on 5 fins.

Memla, not sure the boards back then all comparatively sucked -the average pop-out board today still sucks. In my mind "down rails" give superior performance if they're done in the right way. More than single fins at that stage, -didn't Hoye mention Ben Aipa using 13 fins??

PKsswellnet's picture
PKsswellnet's picture
PKsswellnet commented Friday, 27 Mar 2020 at 12:25pm

I'm with you Ape, my lack of airs and other radical moves is cause I'm saving my 50 something back.

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf commented Friday, 27 Mar 2020 at 1:07pm

Great topic Stu and the other thing about shitty social media is that everything is outed. The 70's were truly anarchic and just about anything went and you only heard whispers through the grape vine. Maurice on his Vic west coast pub rampages, drugs everywhere (dope and smack), and explorations of spots you had to find for yourself or be in the know. You had to really work your networks to get any information. LB was one of my heroes as we all rode skaties back then on the street when the surf was flat (the multi level car parks were still open after the shops shut at 12 on Saturday so we all used to take the elevator to the top and a mass race to the bottom) and his turns and cutties were transferable. And the boards were absolute CRAP compared to today. Single fin shit boxes with down rails 4 inches thick and no legrope (not leash, a word that has taken over due to the Yank influence). Shark Island was a mythical slab somewhere in Sydney and Peterson was the man and then came MR and twinnies, Rabbit with his bravado and Shaun in the tube who changed it right up. The big trip for Victorians was the big one up the coast all the way to Queensland or straight up the Newell non stop in a bong cloud. Were some wild times and the population was 1/2 what it is today.

billythekid's picture
billythekid's picture
billythekid commented Friday, 27 Mar 2020 at 8:19pm

that's why I fell in love with surfing as a 13 yo

kirra72's picture
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kirra72 commented Saturday, 28 Mar 2020 at 8:37am

Shark Island wasn't a myth to some of us back then. Used to hang out for those big South swells with a touch of East in them. And the trip to Kirra lasted a few years. Reggie and Tommy lived next door. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

freerider.'s picture
freerider.'s picture
freerider. commented Saturday, 28 Mar 2020 at 5:22pm

I literally got scared at first when I saw that picture linked to your name.....

freerider.'s picture
freerider.'s picture
freerider. commented Saturday, 28 Mar 2020 at 5:25pm

I literally got scared for a sec. when I saw that picture--linked to your name.... That guy scares me........

redclement.'s picture
redclement.'s picture
redclement. commented Friday, 27 Mar 2020 at 1:25pm

Loved watching footage of Larry surf he seemed to be throughly enjoying himself.

John Eyre's picture
John Eyre's picture
John Eyre commented Friday, 27 Mar 2020 at 2:36pm

Instagram is full of heroes self-promoting.............where as with the old mags n movies you had to earn it especially to hit the mainstream media......

MartinNow's picture
MartinNow's picture
MartinNow commented Friday, 27 Mar 2020 at 3:28pm

Is hash tag the branding on a big block?

MartinNow

Elliedog's picture
Elliedog's picture
Elliedog commented Friday, 27 Mar 2020 at 3:38pm

Love history....Hate social media...particularly right now with what's going on in our society. Its taking a toll. This cheers me up Stu. I get it all as i's a member at TSJ but great to see you add the info on this platform.

Luba

Pops's picture
Pops's picture
Pops commented Friday, 27 Mar 2020 at 4:47pm

Anyone else see a bit of Larry Bertlemann in Mikey February's style?

He who hesitates is lost

jaunkemps's picture
jaunkemps's picture
jaunkemps commented Friday, 27 Mar 2020 at 6:31pm

100 % dude, thought about that exact same thing after watching the footage.

PCS PeterPan's picture
PCS PeterPan's picture
PCS PeterPan commented Friday, 27 Mar 2020 at 5:03pm

Stu , well written as usual . More surf history for those who remember and those who are curious . For me , the modern "insta" mentality is both self serving and short lived .

Respect is hard earned , where I grew up , the older surfers were way more adventurous than the millenial surfers of today . Don't get me wrong , modern surfing is more radical , thats where it stops .

Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake commented Friday, 27 Mar 2020 at 8:46pm

"...and the one most in motion was the affro-headed sultan of swivel, the titan or torque, the first pioneer of the space age, Larry Bertlemann."

"I rented a board for an hour, and never came back the whole day"

Never been a better time to check the rearview mirror.

Great stuff!

Terminal's picture
Terminal's picture
Terminal commented Friday, 27 Mar 2020 at 8:52pm

Thanks for the treat Stu, great that there was a clip of Bert doing a Bert. Trick still done to this day, I think it's Sandro Dias extending one on vert in a thrasher clip released yesterday, very heavy. If you've got any Buttons' footage hobbitted away somewhere consider this a request for the DJ. In my opinion he was light years ahead and to this day have never seen anyone do switch foot reos, mid-reo, as fluidly. That manoeuvre like an surfing evolutionary dead-end that should never have been abandoned. Looks amazing when done well

wally's picture
wally's picture
wally commented Friday, 27 Mar 2020 at 9:23pm

Great vid.
And looking at the credits.
Narrator : Robert Weaver. You might know him as Wingnut.
Writer : Drew Kampion. When he was in the mood, one of the handful of the best ever surf writers.

mattlock's picture
mattlock's picture
mattlock commented Friday, 27 Mar 2020 at 10:34pm

Doing a "Bert" on the crappy sloped wall at the next suburb's primary school was the highlight of my 11yr old life.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Saturday, 28 Mar 2020 at 7:29am

OT - I have transferred all CV related comments over to this thread. 
​​​​​​​https://www.swellnet.com/news/swellnet-dispatch/2020/03/24/plea-australi...

As you were.

Elliedog's picture
Elliedog's picture
Elliedog commented Saturday, 28 Mar 2020 at 8:12am

Good job Ben. You think HT enjoyed the LB vid?.

Luba

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Saturday, 28 Mar 2020 at 8:18am

I hope so! It certainly was good viewing, eh?

warddy's picture
warddy's picture
warddy commented Saturday, 28 Mar 2020 at 9:34am

Yep the Bertleman on the first skate parks ....
Aww right Larry

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Saturday, 28 Mar 2020 at 5:44pm

Enjoyed the vid but I think I enjoyed Stu's intro moreso. Agree on the social media, but what raised my eyebrows was the mention that History departments are being closed. Is this true? A society without open investigation of the past goes downhill really fast.

Now the surfing - loved it. The forward fin with loose set in the finbox marries to the really low centre of gravity carves (can't do that). Was it LB and Aipa who developed the stinger for this type of surfing? Also good to see how his south shore upbringing formed his approach to the waves. And the Larrials! As of the time of the doco, he was pretty humble after living large.

You can see where Buttons is coming from looking up at Bertleman.

For Aussie surfers, was it Narrabeen Col Smith and WL that sent us down our power surfing/vertical/carving path?

bluediamond's picture
bluediamond's picture
bluediamond commented Saturday, 28 Mar 2020 at 5:53pm

I would agree on those two names VL. Col Smith and Lynch definitely come to mind for me as the first real straight up vertical surfers. But i bet there's a bunch of underground local crew that were also at it around that time too...

Statler's picture
Statler's picture
Statler commented Saturday, 28 Mar 2020 at 7:01pm

Thanks swellnet, Shared today with the grommets already got the eldest questioning his thin performance board...... What a talented surfer, could watch all day long unlike the Pro's of today

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Saturday, 28 Mar 2020 at 7:40pm

Statler, Swellnet did a fantastic article, and it was about short single fins. If you can find a late 70's short single for your eldest, give him a season with it - he will learn to read the wave and flow. In the comments I got Ben to put up a pic of the circa '79 G&S 6'0" that my grom spent a bit of time on when younger, he prefers the modern boards (with adequate float) for his performance and ease of getting in, etc, but it's nice to see how the single has given him flow and speed.
Bonus for your eldest:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2X0ybabB6e8
Buttons Kaluhiokalani: The Future Surfing

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf commented Sunday, 29 Mar 2020 at 10:38am

Yeah those late 70's early 80's singles really set the template for modern boards. Bugs had some really good ones through Hot Stuff. I was with LB and put the fin as far forward as possible in the box. And by then we had proper Leggies.

tango's picture
tango's picture
tango commented Monday, 30 Mar 2020 at 9:20pm

That's the #1 thing missing from today's groms starting on formula 1 thrusters....only a handful of them have any flow. Sure they can go fast, crank few good turns but then only a smidgeon of that handful do it with ....panache. Damn, why can't I underline that?

Average's picture
Average's picture
Average commented Saturday, 28 Mar 2020 at 9:16pm

Despite starting surfing in the early 90's, I didn't learn about Larry Bertlemann until the Dogtown and Z-boys Skateboarding documentary. He was a huge influence on the skating scene too. Some of his skating footage here could be mistaken for documentary footage.

Is it just me or is Larry not as famous in surfing history as he deserves to be?

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf commented Sunday, 29 Mar 2020 at 10:44am

Very famous in my era (60 yo) but he was never a big contest man and by the time the ASP got going with the Bustin down the doors crew he was getting out of surfing. I loved his twinnies and always wanted one of those cool sprays, still do. Him, Liddle and Buttons were way ahead of everyone however the drugs were so ingrained into their lifestyle it burn't them out too quickly. They ended up shells of what they were.

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Monday, 30 Mar 2020 at 9:44am

It’s amazing what he was able to do on those boards. The mind boggles when I think about how he would have surfed on a modern shape. Mind you I think he would have lost some of his unique style.
That’s one thing that’s been lost in the modern era. Most pros these days surf in a very similar way. No wounded seagulls to be seen anywhere.

tango's picture
tango's picture
tango commented Monday, 30 Mar 2020 at 9:29pm

That footage of him is gold. As groms we were amazed that anybody could even think about doing an air, and Larrials were the thing for the summer of '83 or '84 - I can't remember if it was Follow the Sun part 1 or part 2? Or....?
And that footage from Fantasea......still one of the greatest surf movies ever made.

Agree about social media - everything is like a sparkler at cracker night and flames out after a short burst to be forgotten far too quickly. I'm probably more concerned by the homogeneity of mainstream surfing these days, and find most of the pros technically amazing but pretty boring, really, and very few individuals. Should we thank the GOAT for that, I wonder?

morg's picture
morg's picture
morg commented Monday, 30 Mar 2020 at 10:59pm

So cool. Larry Bertlemann and Buttons were the guys we wanted to surf like when we were kids. Everyone else in the surf movies at that time seemed to be into tubes and big cutbacks etc (we were kids and had no idea). Larry had us laying tight low carves on our skaties and then trying to do it in the surf. He and Buttons changed the way we wanted to surf.