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All photos: William Hunt (Except where noted)

‘Free Ride’: When the Stories are as Good as the Movie

Shaun Tomson, Rabbit Bartholomew and Mark Richards light up the stage.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Don’t miss your last chance to see Shaun, Rabbit and MR together at the final screening of Free Ride at the HOTA (Gold Coast) this Thursday night. Click here to purchase tickets.

‘Free Ride’, the film where Shaun Tomson talked about time expanding in the tube, Mark Richards introduced his revolutionary twin fin and Rabbit Bartholomew threw casual look-backs at gaping, Pipe pits.

It’s one thing to watch the movie on the big screen and relive the groundbreaking performances at Pipe and Off the Wall, but it’s another thing entirely to hear the original stars tell their own stories about the film and the era. So far, The Q and A sessions have been riveting. When Shaun, Rabbit and MR reunite on stage it’s like getting a Super Band back together. The loose threads of surfing history are gathered up and recomposed by three iconic surfers who all possess a gift for storytelling. 

Three statesman of the sport who all have greatly contributed to pro-surfing.

In Sydney, Rabbit and Shaun engaged in lively banter about a relationship that mixed competitive rivalry with camaraderie. When Rabbit landed on the North Shore of Oahu in 1975 to shoot ‘Free Ride’ he was clear about his goal. “We all had a mission to be known as the hottest surfer in the water on the North Shore,” he emphasised. Meanwhile, Shaun charmed the audience with a tale about the famous pink board that helped him conquer Pipe, and also explained why he felt he could almost “bend the tube to his will” at Backdoor and Off the Wall.

45 years later and these two legends still have outrageous stoke levels.(Photo: Wilkings)

When Mark Richards graced the stage in Newcastle, he and Shaun gave their separate accounts of what is arguably the most famous drop-in ever captured on film. Apparently MR felt it was payback for an earlier misdemeanour by Shaun. “The truth is I just wanted to burn him,” stated MR, prompting the crowd and Shaun to roar with laughter.

It was a special night to witness the Free Ride case reunite.

At the Wollongong screening Rabbit and Shaun reflected on the moment in early 1976 when they stood on the sand, buzzing with endorphins after a session at fifteen foot Pipe, and discussed what they were going to do with their lives. Shaun was headed back to South Africa to finish a university degree, but Rabbit had other ideas. “I’m going to be a Professional Surfer,” he’d insisted.

The following year (1977) Shaun became world champion, and the year after that Rabbit claimed the title . By then sponsors and prize money served as regular sources of income and the dream of becoming Pro Surfers had been realised.           

ST- A man of the people.

Words on a screen won’t do justice to the rapturous entertainment value of hearing MR, Rabbit and Shaun tell their stories to a live audience. Don’t miss your last chance to see them all together at the final screening of Free Ride at the HOTA this Thursday night (Purchase tickets here).

Thanks to our sponsors Better Beer, Surfboard Empire, FCS, Yeti and Tracks Shacks for bringing Free Ride to the big screen. Without them the tour wouldn’t be possible.

Photo Gallery of Screenings so far (click button on right side to navigate)

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