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Getting Slippery with Bob McTavish

Bob McTavish. Photo: John Witzig
Bob McTavish. Photo: John Witzig
Bob McTavish, 1966. Photo: David Silver
1965 world champion Felipe Pomar (right) and Nat Young.

In Australia, George Greenough’s biggest admirer was a barrel-chested 22-year-old Queenslander named Bob McTavish. Introduced by a mutual friend, Greenough stayed with McTavish for a few weeks during his 1964 visit to Australia, and they’d surfed together almost daily at Noosa and Point Cartwright, among other gorgeous, uncrowded Sunshine Coast breaks. Still on his original balsa spoon, Greenough was already riding circles—almost literally—around everybody else. “The first wave I saw Greenoug...

Bob McTavish was an arm-waving storyteller with a rubbery voice and a big laugh. He’d shave his head for kicks, or eat a bug if someone picked up next round, and he had the best record collection around, filled with Detroit soul, Chicago blues, and the latest from the British Invasion.