Saturday, March 30, 2013 Sunshine Coast Daily – download original PDF of this article clicking here
Pa and Ma contest an ode to surf traditions
By Bill Hoffman
Bill Hoffman says “enduring Easter event is into its 39th year,offering $11,000 in prize money”
A SURFING competition where history and traditions are in many ways as important as who ends up winner is being held over the first three days of this Easter weekend. The Pa and Ma Bendall Memorial Contest at Caloundra’s Moffat Beach, presented by the Henzells Caloundra RSL Foundation, will offer prizemoney of $11,000 across seven divisions. It remains one of the few surfing events in the world that still includes kneeboards – a surfing style whose heyday came and went 30 years ago.
Daryn Fissenden, a member of the organising body WindanSea Boardriders, said a respect for tradition and acceptance of the responsibility to maintain it were what had made the event, now in its 39th year, Australia’s second-longest continuously staged
surfing competition behind the Rip Curl Bells Easter Classic, also being held this weekend. That responsibility is likely to be passed on to a younger generation of organisers after the staging of the 40th competition in 2014. Fissenden is confident they will step up to the mark. The event holds a special place in surfing lore. Ironically, given that it was one of Australia’s earliest professional surfing events, the Pa and Ma Bendall is loved because it recognises a couple frozen in time and memory at the moment before competition began to dominate the sport.
Pa and Ma, both considerably older than the young larrikins attracted to the freedom and exhilaration of surfing, were a steadying influence on all with whom they came in contact.They epitomised a beach culture that still to this day many look back on with nostalgia or cling to in desperation despite the pressures of development, population growth and our money and success-driven lifestyles.
The retention of a division for kneeboards is reflective of that. Fissenden acknowledges that the
kneeboard competitors are aging. The introduction of bodyboards robbed kneeboarding of its next
generation. But the discipline will retain a place in the “Pa” as long as there are sufficient entrants to run heats. A year after Charles Ben Bendall’s death in 1973, the inaugural “Pa’’
Bendall Memorial Contest was staged as a mark of respect for his contribution to the Sunshine Coast surfing community. He was in many ways the granddad of Queensland surfing. When he and his wife Marjory, who came to be affectionately known as Ma to all she met, settled in Caloundra in the 1950s,
only a handful of surfers lived locally. Ma ran Harmony Holiday Flats at Bulcock Beach and the couple used an old van to carry them up and down Australia’s east coast.
In 1966, Ben formed an invitation-only boardriders’ club called the Moffateers to promote integrity and
sportsmanship in the sport. Free membership was offered to the region’s surfing youth who maintained good character.
When he died in 1973, his funeral was held overlooking the waves of Moffat Beach which he loved so much and where he would whistle others off waves he called his own. A plane flew overhead scattering his ashes. In August that year, a memorial plaque was unveiled christening Pa Bendall Park which overlooks the surf break.
When the first contest was held on February 2-3, 1974, it carried prize money of $1500, the largest purse at the time for any contest in Australia.
The prizemoney attracted the sport’s elite including Wayne Bartholomew, Simon Anderson, Hawaiian Gerry
Lopez, Michael Peterson, Richard Harvey, Nat Young, “Sultan of Speed’’ Terry Fitzgerald and Peter Drouyn.
Harvey, the inaugural winner, used the cheque as a deposit on a block of land, one street back from the sea, at Mermaid Beach on the Gold Coast.
Over the years as a world surfing tour and qualifying circuits emerged, the event evolved into a springboard for emerging talent that to this day strives to earn a place for their names on the perpetual trophy.
As Windansea developed as a rich nursery of surfing talent, it produced its own champions including Serena Brooke, Wade Goodall and Joel Parkinson, all past or present members of the club.
When Ma died in 2001 at the grand age of 91, the contest was renamed to also honour her contribution to
women’s surfing. A full field for the open women’s competition this weekend is a tribute to
those early efforts.
“Today, the contest has become a
perfect opportunity for up-and-coming
young surfers to be part of a rich
history by getting their name on the
trophy,’’ Fissenden said.
Current world champion Joel Parkinson, who was born in Caloundra, is a past Windansea member and still firmly in touch with his surfing roots here. His name is included on the list of luminaries who have held the trophy aloft.
Parkinson is a big believer in the competition which remembers the couple who gave birth to the Coast’s
surfing culture. It is now part of the contest’s history that the 1998, 2000 and 2003 champion gave over his prize cheque as a 21-year-old to send Ma on a holiday.
“I was on the (professional) tour,’’
Joel told the Daily in 2008.
“She was just by herself. She
wanted a holiday so I donated my
The current world champion never had the chance to meet Ben “Pa” Bendall but he remembered Ma as a
“She was unreal,’’ he said
“She was a lovely old lady, who used
to have a lot of time for us when we
Early in 2008, the then Caloundra City Council funded a documentary, Ma and Pa Bendall: Making Waves, a
42-minute film that captured the Bendall story both from old 8mm film recorded by Ma, and through the
memories of those who had met the extraordinary couple.
Completed over two years by television producer Michael Berry, it features interviews with former world
champion surfers Ian Cairns, Phyllis O’Donnell and Bob McTavish.
“I think they (the Bendalls) were very important to the surfing culture,” Berry told the Daily.
“They helped a lot of young people find a sense of direction with Pa saying to kids, ‘You can join the Moffateers club if you are well-behaved and have a sense of purpose’.
“That seemed to work back then.”
Spectators can catch all the action today and tomorrow from 7am.
This year’s champions will be honoured at a beach presentation tomorrow before an after-party at the
Caloundra RSL from 6pm. Organisers are also appreciative of the support from key sponsors M and B Rigging, Telstra, Hotondo Homes, Dicky Surf and Griffith Parry Lawyers.