About Bobby

Affectionately known as “Brown Bobby”, his surfing prowess ranked with the best surfers in the 1960’s such as Midget Farrelly, Nat Young and Peter Drouyn. His short but impressive surfing life featured in movies like Bob Evans’ 1963 “Young Wave Hunters” and Paul Witzigs’ 1967 groundbreaking movie, “Hot Generation”, both of which, alongside stories and photos from Bob Evans’ Surfing World and Jack Eden’s Surfabout magazine, will feature in the Exhibition.

The Competitor

Only 17 years of age when he qualified for the first open men’s World titles in 1964, the event that launched surfing as a sport in Australia, and eventually won by Midget Farrelly at Manly Beach in front of a record crowd of 50,000, Bobby’s career saw him became a open men’s finalist in both the 1966 Nationals at Coolangatta, Gold Coast and 1967 Nationals at Bells Beach, Victoria.

Brown was destined for surfing greatness and a World title was just around the corner. Although irregardless of his contest success, Bobby loved to surf for the pure enjoyment of it embarking on countless car surf trips with close surfing mates to unexplored locations up and down the East Coast which became known as surf safaris.

The Quiet Acheiver

He had been introduced to surfing by his older brother John who would lend him his board until John would have to swim out to the waves to ask for it back. “He would stay out for hours and I realised from an early age just how good Bobby was at surfing!”

In a sense, this quiet achiever of surfing was the ultimate soul surfer and according to his fiancé Lorraine McIntyre who was the love of his life, “He didn’t really like contests, he competed to keep his sponsors happy but he just loved to surf for the sheer thrill of it!”

His surfing hero status was immensely recognised wherever he paddled out drawing big crowds in awe of his technical ability which was well advanced using an effortlessly graceful yet progressive polished style all of his own.

As a non-smoker who opposed the use of drugs, he loved to surf all day and then enjoy a cold beer with his mates. He represented the straight, clean and innocent era prior to the short board, drug taking and total change of the surfing lifestyle. The age of innocence.

The Enigma

Bobby was a surfing enigma, very much under the radar, a reserved unassuming quiet polite man who let his surfing do the talking. Not only was he an exceptional surfer he was also a proficient surfboard shaper and a gifted carpenter for his father’s Jack Brown and Sons building company. He was engaged to his much loved childhood sweetheart Lorraine McIntyre and they were planning to marry at the end of 1967 and go to Hawaii for their honeymoon.

Unlike Farrelly and Young, Brown had yet to surf in Hawaii and his natural surfing ability in big or small waves would have seen his true potential come to the surface on the North Shore at Sunset Beach, in surfing language Bobby would have ripped in Hawaii. He was at the cutting edge of the pre-shortboard revolution and was already reducing the size of his boards after Bells 67, and taking his surfing to a brand new dimension as demonstrated in the famous Jack Eden bottom turn taken at Sandon Point.

Bobby’s life was tragically and unexpectedly ended only two months short of his 21st birthday, when he was fatally struck with a schooner glass in a Southside Sydney pub over a game of pool on a Saturday night in August 1967.

The Memorial

Understandably his death and unexpected loss shattered the Brown Family survived by his older brother John and younger brother Terry (both surfers) and his parents Jack and Glad. His future wife to be, Lorraine was grief stricken, the loss of her life partner too hard to bear and is only now is coming to terms with the loss, while the Cronulla surfing community was totally devastated by his unexplained early demise. Their favorite surfing son regarded as the number one surfer from Cronulla and the south side of Sydney was struck down in the prime of his life. It was as though the age of innocence had passed and his loss impacted heavily on all those who knew him personally.

A prestigious Bobby Brown Memorial Open surfing competition was held in his honor for three years only in the Cronulla area attracting the creme of Australia’s surfing talent. Midget Farrelly (a close confidant of Bobby) won the inaugural competition in 1968, Frank Latta won at Sandshoes in 1969 (Frank was one of Bobby’s closest friends who recently died in the surf at Valla in August, 2010) and in 1970, a young 16 year old rookie from the Gold Coast Andrew McKinnon won the third and final event at Wanda Beach.

Andrew McKinnon
September 2010