The style which changed the game
I WAS 12 years of age when I watched the 1966 National titles at Coolangatta Beach.
It was the third Australian title and the first one for Gold Coast. It was a defining moment in surfing with “in with the new” and “out with the old.”
Nat Young had created a new style of surfing called new involvement as coined by fellow collaborator and shaper Bob McTavish. The boards were still long in the 9ft range but the traditional way of surfing like drop knee cutbacks were replaced by wide stance rail turns.
It was more about power than style. It was the start of the new Aussie brand of power surfing. The tall lanky Nat Young from Collaroy, NSW, dominated the final to win over Noosa’s Bob McTavish, runner up, and Russell Hughes in third.
Nat would go on to win the 1966 world title in San Diego, California. Australian surf journalist John Witzig rubbed it in by stating in the American Surfer magazine “We’re tops now”.
American kneeboard rider George Greenough was very much part of the early surfing revolution in Australia. George moved to Noosa from Santa Barbara and was a big influence on both Nat and McTavish, especially with his flex fin that they immediately adopted.
This period of surfing evolved into the shortboard revolution the following year and in 1967, boards were down to 8ft. By 1968 they continued to drop under 8ft, and in 1969 boards were in the 7ft range. By the 1970s they were 6ft some smaller. It happened so quickly, and Nat Young was at the forefront of that change. Australian surfing and the world are owed a great debt of gratitude for the big fella’s contribution to the new era.
Gold Coast’s Michael Peterson became Nat’s heir apparent. By 1974, MP was the king of Australian surfing winning Bells and the Coke contest in the same year. Nat placed third at the Coke, his last big result that signified the changing of the guard.
Nat would go on to make boards, fly planes, run farms, snow ski and continue to surf. By the mid-80s with the revival of Longboards Nat pulled on the jersey again and won multiple World ASP longboard titles.
I can thank Nat for handing me my first gig on radio surf reports in 1976 at the ABC AM Double J. We had some great bouts on the 1980s longboard tour. This giant of Australian surfing and his champion legacy will be fondly remembered as,” Nat’s Nat and that’s that”.
At 72 years of age, Nat Young is still surfing strong, frothing on the last nine weeks that he called the most consistent run of surf he has experienced on the North Coast at his home point break of Angourie.
This Saturday night Surf World Surf Museum is hosting Nat and Bob McTavish as the eighth function for the year. Nat is launching his latest book Church of the Open Sky. The title was taken from a quote by the American surfing pioneer Tom Blake who uttered these famous words when asked what did surfing mean to him!
Doors open at 5pm. Admission is $10 and can be purchased on Eventbrite or at the door. Meals and drinks are available at affordable prices.