words by: tara wesson photography by: the drop + rainbow bay supporters


Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew took out the world champion title in 1978. This year, along with the surfing world’s new heroes, Rabbit will return to Manly as festival director for The Drop, the music event running alongside the Vissla Sydney Surf Pro. COVERED. spoke with Rabbit about his role and how surfing has changed. 

COVERED.: Back in your day, you campaigned a lot for credibility in surfing. Do you think that’s been achieved?

RABBIT: Modern day surfing’s evolved. I did have a dream of professional surfing, it was a really strong dream I had. It was a bit of a Forrest Gump moment where I’d walk four kilometres to school and four kilometres home and every day I dreamt about a thing called “professional surfing”, and it was going around the world, going to grand prix events. I obviously featured prominently in my dream, but, we actually made it happen. 

C: Do you think the Vissla’s an example of where surfing’s arrived at now?

R: I just think that surfers are dreamers. Everything’s opened up on the planet earth and all the best waves are there, and it is kind of amazing. I love where it’s at now, it’s kind of like anything goes. Back in my day it was even deemed like, if you put on a surf contest jersey you kind of lost your soul in a way, you weren’t the true spirit of just free surfing. We actually had to make it so we could live from week to week, live from tournament to tournament, and that’s how simple it was back then. And now it’s very lucrative. If you can get to the top of the pyramid, there’s a lot of riches. 

C: With a festival like The Drop, why is live music so important to you?

R: I came up with a thing called the dream tour, and to me, this completes it because back in the day, in the 70s, we’d go to surf contests, or you’d just go surfing all day and then you’d go see incredible live music. 

C: The lineup you’ve got is incredible by the way. 

R: I know! It’s so incredible and that’s what it’s all about. It’s really about capturing the dream tour concept, which was really simple for me. It was best surfers, best waves. Now, The Drop festival concept is best surfers, best artists, best waves, best music. Surfing has run a parallel course with music since the youth revolution of the 60s. And we’re just trying to really galvanise the whole surfing - music genre. Surfing and music are absolutely the same. A music note never finishes and a wave never finishes. 

C: What’s the best part of your job these days?

R: The best part of my job is being able to get up there and maybe introduce a band if they allow me to (laughs). You know, the best part of my job is actually just being there. The crew I’m working with have a history working in music festivals and we’re really trying to find that right groove. And we all bring something to the table. What we do is kind of like a band; we all bring something to the table that meshes with each other. 

C: Are you going to be catching some waves yourself? Making a comeback?

R: If they’ll give me a wave, I will (laughs). I’ll throw my surfboard in there, just like Keith Richards would throw his guitar in wherever he goes, I’ll throw my surfboard in too. •