Surfers farewell Joe the Loveable Larrikin
SURF SCENE with Andrew McKinnon
WHAT a fabulous turnout celebration/wake for Tweed-Gold Coast surfing pioneer and innovator Joe Larkin who sadly passed away on Thursday, July 20. He was 84 years.
One of Joe's favourite surfing sons, Peter Townend, flew out especially from California to be the MC.
The former Gold Coaster and original Coolangatta Kid was surfing's first professional champion in 1976 and praised his mentor, crediting Uncle Joe for his world title.
"I wouldn't have become world champion if it hadn't have been for Joe Larkin!" he said to rapturous applause.
"My first board was a Joe Larkin which I surfed in my first event in 1969 at Snapper Rocks for the Queensland State Titles."
Both Michael Peterson and Peter Townend were greatly assisted by Joe and his head shaper Brian 'Furry'Austin who taught them how to shape surfboards. The MP and PT rivalry was legendary, both trying to outdo each other in their early junior days. Joe was like a father figure that included a younger Wayne 'Rabbit' Bartholomew. The Original Cooly Kids, including surfing judge Terry Baker, were driven to the contests all over the East Coast including the annual Bells Beach Easter competition. It was on the way back from one of those Bells to Gold Coast road trips when all hell broke loose.
"We pulled up at a secluded river mouth lefthander on the NSW South Coast. It was groomed to perfection," said Rabbit who would follow on to be a world champion like PT.
"PT was always methodical and perfectionist even when it came to waxing his board with diligent precision."
Then without warning, MP appeared behind a bush and threw a pot of hot, melted butter over PT's freshly waxed board and it was on!
"Joe just shrugged his shoulders and let his team riders sort it out and I had perfect waves all to myself!" he said.
There were a long list of speakers at Joe's wake held at the Cabarita Hotel, including former Tracks editor Phil Jarratt who recently produced an award-winning documentary, titled Wood & Foam, that traces the early years of board building where Joe is one of the central characters.
Joe was brought up at Freshwater Beach, Harbord, Sydney, he called it 'Hardboard!' where the great Duke Kahanamoku had the first famous surfing lesson. Larkin loved the ocean from an early age and was a local lifeguard there. Brookvale, Sydney was the epicentre of the first surfboard industry with pioneers like Barry Bennet, Gordon Woods and Danny Keyo. But Joe saw his chance to do the same up north and built a surf shop at Miles St, Kirra.
"Joe's specialty was making timber boards, the hollow Okanuis and Balsa pre-foam boards. A couple of years ago Joe and I went up to New Guinea to bring back some hardwood and make those classic 1959 boards," said Danny Keyo, a renowned Sydney manufacturer employing the likes of Bob McTavish credited with the shortboard revolution.
Joe Larkin the lovable Larrikin, we will miss you and your invaluable contribution to the surfing world and support of so many champions! RIP mate.