The Cribbar

1966 was an epic year for sport and we’re not talking football.

Only a few people saw the real drama – thankfully, you’re one of them.

You’re huddled up, on Towan Head, Newquay, as the Great September Swell rises up in anger. 

It’s closing out on the beach, but off the reef, the legendary Cribbar wave holds its shape even at a monster 20ft, enough to send the hearts of four kamikaze surfers into overdrive. 

Pete Russell. Rick Friar. Johnny McElroy. Jack Lydgate. You can’t quite believe they’re going in, and nor can they.

They all get out the back, beyond the breaking waves, or so they thought.

Jack is first to fall, mashed by a sneaker set. You shut your eyes. His board ends up in crumbs on the rocks, as leashes aren’t invented yet. 

Rick, Johnny & Pete all catch lefthanders and if it wasn’t for bite of the hurricane wind, you’d swear blind you’re in Waimea Bay, home to the world’s biggest waves. 

Then, Johnny’s gone, or at least his board has.

Pete catches another wave more than 3 times his height and you take a shot that you’ll look back on one day and say I was there when they rode The Cribbar.

It takes Iron man Jack an hour to swim against the rip and get back in, and who’s there to greet him but Pip Staffieri, Europe’s first stand-up surfer.

Not that Jack knows this. 

Pip hands him a huge ice cream and says ‘on the house’.

This beats Geoff Hurst’s hat-trick any day. 


Cribbar 1966 Jack Lydgate. Photo Roger Mansfield Collection