Whenever a sport’s history is recounted it’s inevitably the most successful players who get the most attention. Think Pele in football, Jack Niklaus in golf or Roger Federer in the world of tennis.
But surfing (like other action sports) is different. Alongside the likes of 11 times world champ Kelly Slater or mid-80s machine Tom Curren, there is a special place reserved in the history books for surfers who are less successful – at least in the conventional sense.
These are the dudes who, although they were talented surfers, spent a large proportion of their time pursuing another great passion – partying. And who are all the more legendary for it.
1) Clark Gable’s Protegée
Born in 1949, Adolph Bunker Spreckels III – great grandson of a Germany-born sugar baron, railway tycoon and publisher, Claus Spreckels – grew up in the lap of luxury.
When he was five, the world’s most famous man became his stepfather. Clark Gable schooled him in the art of hunting and women and revealed the illusory insanity of the image factory to his young charge.
However at 18, Bunker (as he was known) found surfing and would turn his back on the family fortune and return to Hawaii.
He inherited a cool 50 million dollars and went on a ten year spree of women, drugs and surfing.
It wasn’t till he was 21 when he inherited a cool 50 million dollars that he went on a ten year spree of women, drugs and surfing, living a life of spectacular excess that few have ever matched.
The fact that the book and film of life was called Surfing’s Divine Prince of Decadence pretty much says it all.
2) The Merewether Madman
Hailing from Merewether, New South Wales, Matt Hoy spent more than 10 years on tour racking up career wins, including a famous victory at Bells Beach, as well as enormous bar bills in every town.
He never shied away from his love of beer and late nights and his rock’n’roll lifestyle was a constant throughout his competitive career.
He didn’t stop much afterwards either, fronting webcasts and his own TV show, often with a beer in hand and always with a smile. The tattoos and the forehand hacks may have been his trademark, but his love a good time remains legendary.
3) Rod “[Off His] Box” Kerr
Rod “Box” Kerr was a Bronte goofy-footer who rose to the top of the surfing ratings, managing a hugely respectable fourth by the end of year in 1992.
He vomited on the beach twice after a wave, and yet still went on to beat his (sober) opponent.
However Kerr never ever let his surfing get in the way of a good time, and with his sparring partners like Matt Hoy, Rob Page and Ross Clarke-Jones, was often the first one at the bar… and the last one to leave.
In one infamous event in Spain surfing in a heat he vomited on the beach twice after a wave, and yet still went on to beat his (sober) opponent.
Post career Box tamed his wild ways and went on to become the head lifesaver at Bondi Beach, and now stars in the famous TV show Bondi Rescue.
4) The Big Wave Badman
Aussie Ross Clarke Jones has famously led a life at a furious pace. If that meant partying in Las Vegas for days, and the jumping on a plane to surf in the 20 foot wave in the Eddie Aikau contest, then so be it.
His love of adrenalin; fast cars, hot women and big waves was legendary and fuelled by a manic energy and willingness to never miss out on any action anywhere he was one of the biggest party animals on tour.
This never stopped him from being one of the world’s most respected big wave watermen and one of the biggest characters in surfing.
5) The Rampant Rabbit
The 1978 world champion Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew, cultivated a rockstar like image. At one stage he was famously sponsored by Smirnoff Vodka, and got around in a white three piece suit.
At one stage he was famously sponsored by Smirnoff Vodka
Fiercely competitive, be it surfing Pipeline, playing tennis or in a drinking game, Rabbit lived a life to its fullest, partying hard in hometown on the Gold Coast and around the world, whilst surfing his brain out in a professional career that lasted almost 20 years.
He would go on to be the president of the ASP, but the inner fire always burns and if you get caught up in a round of drinks, or party with Rabbit, you better be ready for a late night and a good time…