1984, The Year a Rock Band Sponsored a Surf Contest

1984, The Year a Rock Band Sponsored a Surf Contest

1984 was a big year in the world of surfing. It was a year when a group of younger surfers led by Tom Carroll, Martin Potter and Tom Curren started to shake down the old guard of Mark Richards, Cheyne Horan and Shaun Tomson. Surfboards were changing as modern three fin ‘thruster’ surfboards took over from single and twin fin surfboards.

Down Torquay way, the Bells Beach Surfing Festival had a new sponsor and it wasn’t a car or beer company, it was a rock band and one of the countries biggest – Australian Crawl. For the previous five years Australian Crawl ruled the pubs and airwaves of Australia. Now they were the first band in the world to sponsor a surf contest… the longest running and most prestigious surfing contest in the world at Bells Beach.

1984 and Aussie Crawl were at the peak of their musical powers. The previous year, the four track EP Semantics dominated the Australian charts with hits ‘Reckless’ and ‘She Don’t Like That’. The band had just signed with Geffen Records in the USA and supported Duran Duran on their most recent tour of the UK. Easter 84 and the band headed down to Torquay to record a music clip and sit on the beach soaking up the sun while the world’s best surfers competed in the Rip Curl/Australian Crawl Surfing Festival.

‘The Boys Light Up’ was a hit for the band back in 1980. Easter Friday 1984 and the band spent the night in the Torquay Hotel shooting a new film clip for the song while local ‘youths’ ran amok outside trying to get into the pub to see the action. Police were called, blood was spilt… it made for a great film clip.

Back at Bells times were a changing. Former world champs Rabbit Bartholomew and Shaun Tomson were knocked out early while young guns Tom Carroll and Tom Curren raced through their heats. James Reyne and other members of the band hung out on the hill watching the action while former world surfing legend Nat Young roamed the beach with two film crews capturing the action for his latest surfing documentary.

Cheyne Horan rocked up to Bells Beach that year with a surfboard that looked like a teardrop. The board featured a fin designed by Ben Lexcen that copied the shape of the winged keel from Australia II that had won the America’s Cup yacht race the previous year. The surfers hit the waves by day and the tequila by night and on Easter Tuesday the final was held in small high tide waves with Tom Carroll narrowly losing to Cheyne Horan who literally flew down the small waves on his wing-keel surfboard.

That night Aussie Crawl once again played at the event presentation night while the cameras rolled for the music clip and documentary and everyone went home with sore heads and ringing ears.

Australian Crawl would sponsor the event again in 1985 and then disband the year after. A band sponsoring a surf contest… a few of us were lucky to see that!

Written by John Foss