Rabbit enters the Surfing Hall of Fame

Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew, influential tube rider, Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) president, former world champion and star of Bustin’ Down the Door receives a long overdue honor when he joins the 2008 Surfers’ Hall of Fame at 10 a.m. Friday, July 25 in front of Huntington Surf & Sport (corner of PCH and Main).

Rabbit will be immortalized along with Brad Gerlach, Mike Parsons and Sean Collins. The ceremony coincides with the final weekend of the Honda U.S. Open of Surfing.

Born on Nov. 30, 1954 in Coolangatta, Queensland Australia, Bartholomew has lived a life most only dream of. A true “rags-to-riches” story, Rabbit grew up around the fabled point breaks of Australia’s Gold Coast with legends Michael “MP” Peterson and Peter “PT” Townend as sparring partners. He began surfing at Snapper Rocks, but the story starts when he moved to Kirra at age 13.

Rabbit became synonymous with Kirra, and some argue that, thanks to his formative years at the famed Gold Coast point break, no one in the world has logged more tube time than he has. By the early '70s, he was cleaning house on the Australian circuit, clashing with hometown rivals Townend and Peterson.

Rabbit burst onto the international scene in the winter of 1975. A few years earlier, he had made his first visit to Hawaii’s North Shore, an annual pilgrimage he hasn't missed since. That winter, the status quo was rocked by the surfing of Shaun Tomson, Mark Richards, Ian Cairns, Townend, Rabbit and a few others.

Hawaii was no longer the exclusive domain of locals; the crew had, in Rabbit's words, "busted down the door”; a journey which is chronicled in the documentary Bustin’ Down the Door, premiering in Huntington Beach on July 23.

Professional surfing was still a dream in those days, but Rabbit had the vision and the personality to sell it. His tactics, confidence and flair made him a top-rate competitor for professionalism's first decade. The lightning-quick natural-footer was crowned world champion in 1978, remained in the top five for seven consecutive years and came within a whisker of regaining the title in 1983.

“Bugs” was the first individual to file a tax return under the guise of "professional surfer." Unfortunately, the department promptly sent it back, saying there was no such thing.

After retiring from the professional circuit in the late 1980's, Wayne dedicated himself to furthering the development of surfing. He established the Wayne 'Rabbit' Bartholomew Surfing Academy and with good friends Peter and Lorraine Bryant set up the Rabbit Circuit, a mini tour which helped fill the void following the collapse of the Australian Professional Surfing Association Pro-Am series.

The circuit became a forerunner to today's Australian Championship Circuit, a stepping stone to the world tour for the surfing champs of the future.

In 1993, Wayne became national coaching director for Surfing Australia, the sports national governing body. With the title came the responsibility for the then brand new Australian Championship Circuit, liaising with the ASP to establish an Australian leg of the world tour. In March 1999, Rabbit was appointed to surfing's plum post - president and chief executive officer of the ASP - overseeing the multi-million dollar world tour.

Rabbit remains an avid surfer and in October 1999, proved he is as talented and competitive as ever by winning the ASP Grand Masters title in France, a feat he repeated in 2003. Bartholomew remains a strong grassroots connection to the sport through his role as president of his beloved Snapper Rocks Surfriders, Australia's most successful boardriding club.

He has served as mentor for Gary Elkerton, Chappy Jennings, Sunny Garcia and his own adopted son, 1998 World Junior Champ Dean Morrison. Wayne Rabbit Bartholomew had a dream; he wanted to surf every day for the rest of his life, and he wanted to get paid to do it.

In the days before any World Championship Tour, when contests were sparse, prize money barely covered fuel costs, and surfers were little more than social outcasts, the man they affectionately call Bugs was laying down a mental blueprint for the future. He saw legitimate careers in surfing and no one could tell him otherwise. And today’s generation of pros owe him a debt of gratitude.

“Rabbit is a World Champion; a true pioneer of Professional Surfing,” said Aaron Pai, Surfers’ Hall of Fame founder. “Rabbit is ‘the Man!’ Come watch Rabbit bust down our door, this coming Friday at 10am!”

The Surfers’ Hall of Fame inductees are selected by a committee of business owners, surfers and surf industry professionals based on contribution, dedication, integrity and revolution to the sport of surfing. The Surfers’ Hall of Fame induction ceremony is open to the public, free-of-charge.


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