A walk in the plaque
FOUR surfing world champions were inducted in to the Australian Walk Of Fame yesterday, and they were all from the Tweed.
Three separate generations spanning 50 years were represented when Phyllis O'Donell, Peter Townend, Stephanie Gilmore and Mick Fanning were inducted in to the walk, under the Johnny O'Keefe statue on Wharf Street.
Ms O'Donell was the first female world title winner in 1964, then Mr Townend won the first international men's championship in 1976.
Mr Fanning and Miss Gilmore brought the titles home in 2007 and Miss Gilmore went back-to-back in 2008.
If there is ever any doubt that the Tweed and Coolangatta area is home to world class surfing talent, the proof is now in the pavement, with the four new stars joining fellow local world champion Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew in the walk.
Mr Townend, who now lives at Huntington Beach in California, summed it up best.
“It is a great day for us in Coolangatta to see four people, all known as world champions, to be (inducted) together,” Mr Townend said.
He dedicated the award to his late mother Hazel.
“I probably wouldn't be here if it wasn't for her, she was a big influence in my life.”
Mr Bartholomew said Mr Townend was a visionary.
“He was the first to say: 'I want to be a pro surfer and this is how it is done'.”
One example of Mr Townend's vision was when, as a teenager, he banged on the door of the Tweed Daily News and convinced the editor to give him his own column, which continued for five years.
He said he grew up in a beach side house about 50m from where his star will soon lie and his grandmother was buried under the high-rise that now stands in its place.
Ms O'Donell used to work nights at the nearby bowling alley and across the road at Twin Towns Services Club so she had time to practice surfing during the day.
Mr Townend said he was “stoked” for Phyllis and that when he and Mr Bartholomew were grommets, they used to see her and the other “Sun Sisters” out surfing at Coolangatta and say “we got to get better than those girls”.
With the Quiksilver and Roxy Pros underway, Mr Fanning couldn't make it, but Miss Gilmore managed to rush from the surf at Rainbow Bay to accept her award.
She said it was awesome and humbling to be inducted into the walk of fame at her home town, especially with Mr Townend and Ms O'Donell.
These days Ms O'Donell keeps fit at 71 by swimming 16 kilometres a day and says she is impressed with the quality of female surfing.
“I can't believe what the girls are doing these days, Steph Gilmore is a great surfer,” Ms O'Donell said.
Fellow world champions Layne Beachley and Mark Richards, along with Billabong founder Gordon Merchant, have already been honoured with stars in the Australian Walk of Fame.