WHEN Col Smith started making it into the surfing magazines in the mid-1970s, he was always described as Col Smith from Redhead.
That was to separate him from the "original" Col Smith, from Narrabeen, who'd slashed his way to the top of Australian surfing a few years before with a radical, vertical style of surfing that had him credited as the inventor of the backhand re-entry.
Both were goofy-footers, surfing right foot forward.
THE STORY SO FAR:
- Ten point rides: Newcastle's best surfers across the decades
- 'Girls can't surf?' Yes they can. And how
- Boardriding brilliance on the bus from Wallsend: Kelly Bashford
- Longer hair, shorter boards: Peter Cornish
- 'Radical Roger' Clements, with rare 1968 video footage
- Opposite ends: Smooth Belinda Baggs and the frantic Sabre Norris
- The impossibly stylish Craig Anderson
- Paige Haggerston: Aussie champ at 17
- The tropical life of Peter McCabe
- Merewether pioneers Pam Lane, Nancy Newburn and Judy Clements
It didn't take too long for the Novocastrian Smith to shine in his own light, both here in Australia and in the ultimate testing ground for competitive surfing, Hawaii.
His breakout year was 1977.
Having won the Mattara and surfed his way through the trials into sixth place in the Alan Oke Memorial at Phillip Island in Victora, Smith blew minds in Hawaii, winning the Pro Class Trials, a key event for entry into each winter's major contest on the North Shore.
A few weeks later he made the final of the Pipeline Masters, finishing seventh, and beating another Novocastrian - a certain Mark Richards - who finished in eighth place.
And he did it all on a type of board that also turned heads at the time - a series of single-fin channel-bottoms. Some were shaped by boardmaker Jim Pollard.
Some Smith shaped himself, having learned the shaping game from another Novocastrian, Martin Littlewood, owner of a company called Delta Designs.
And after Pollard, he turned to a Lennox Head shaper, Phil Myers, whose Free Flight surfboards is still turning out Col Smith models all these years later.
Myers recalled yesterday how Smith swore by the channel bottoms, which he said were originally inspired by a US longboard called the "slot bottom".
The channels are designed to create a "venturi effect" under the board, with "bubbles of air" - Myers says - giving lift to the board and making them "take off like the power band on a motorbike".
They were not for everyone and to this day they are regarded more as a sideline than a mainstream design.
But their advocates swear by them, including Col's son Rique, who followed his father onto the pro surfing circuit for a couple of years in the mid-1990s.
As Myers points out, they are the only father/son combination to take out the Mattara, after Rique lifted the trophy in 1998.
Rique, a natural-footer, still surfs them today in the powerful left-hand point breaks around his home town of Kalbarri, six hours drive north of Perth on the Geraldton coast.
Rique was only nine when his father died in 1986 of cancer, aged 31.
He says he was five or six when Col and his wife Kim moved the family to Margaret River in WA.
He was a bit young to realise what was happening at the time but he has fond memories - and photographs - of that time.
Famous surf faces litter the family album.
One snap has Col and Kiwi-born surfer-shaper, the late Al Byrne, another lifelong channel-bottom enthusiast.
"My father was only here for a short part of my life but I'm very thankful for the time that I had with him," Rique says.
"I remember him pushing me into my first waves when I was about five.
"The people I know who knew my Dad have helped me to really appreciate the person he was. He had a lot of impact on a lot of people around the world.
"I love hearing the stories. And I hear he might even make the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame. About bloody time . . ."
Surf journalist Stu Nettle wrote a long and detailed history of the channel bottoms - focusing on Smith, Littlewood, Pollard and Myers - that can be read online at Swellnet.
SUBSCRIBE FOR OUR NEWCASTLE CUP COVERAGE
It's less than a cup of coffee a week. $19.50 a month ($4.50 a week) $187.20 annually upfront ($3.60 a week). Hit the red SUBSCRIBE button on your screen.
IN THE NEWS:
- Nationals suspend Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen's membership over rape allegation
- PODCAST: Wayne Pearce speaks with Barry Toohey on the eve of Mitchell Pearce's 300th game
- Singing and dancing to return as COVID-19 NSW restrictions ease
- Sacked manager Jill Gaynor wins six-figure unfair dismissal damages payout from Newcastle council
- In profile: Who is Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: