Surfing Legend Midget Farrelly Dies At 71

He won the first-ever Surfing World Championship at Manly Beach in the 60s.

08/08/2016 8:53 AM AEST | Updated 08/08/2016 12:41 PM AEST
Nick Moir / Fairfax Media
Midget Farrelly surfing at Avalon Beach in 2012.

When Midget Farrelly paddled out at Manly Beach in 1964, he caught a wave that won him the first ever Surfing World Championship.

It's a wave the nation has ridden along with him, as Australia embraced surf culture and the world came to know us as zinc-smeared, beach-blonde water people.

When Farrelly died on Sunday aged 71, surfing had just been announced as an Olympic sport, Australian woman Bronte Macaulay was leading the World Surfing League ranks and at Palm Beach, where he was a member of the surf club in his later years, unseasonally big, steep waves were drawing crowds in a fitting send-off to the surf legend.

Ron Perrott estate / Fairfax Media
Midget Farrelly winning the World Surfing Championship in Manly.

While Farrelly learned to surf at age 6 on a cumbersome old longboard, he went on to personally shape his own shortboards that helped spur on a new generation of surfers, keen on living up to the name signed on their board.

After all, this was the man who surfed against the best of Hawaii, where surfing began, and won the Makaha Invitational in 1963.

Rest in peace Midget Farrelly #midgetfarrelly #midgetfarrellysurfboards

A photo posted by The Surfboard Project (@thesurfboardproject) on

Tributes to Farrelly have begun rolling in, including from his granddaughter who described him as "a beautiful person, an inspiration to all".

RIP #midgetfarrelly beaut shot by #leroygrannis

A photo posted by Ronnie Blakey (@rondogblakey) on

The Manly Daily spoke to Farrelly in 2014 who recognised how his win helped transform Australian surf culture.

"You can't imagine what a straight place Australia was at the time," Farrelly told The Manly Daily.

I was well-practised at what I did and I was lucky – it basically just flowed on the day.Midget Farrelly

"It's best indicated by the fact there were people on the beach that day wearing suits and ties.

"People at that at time looked to England as the mother country but with surfing we looked across the Pacific to Hawaii and California.

"I was well-practised at what I did and I was lucky – it basically just flowed on the day."

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