MARK Richards is a legendary figure in Newcastle, but his influence on surfing always extended beyond this city’s beaches to the rest of the world.
Last night his impact on the sport was recognised officially when the proud Novocastrian was named the most influential Australian surfer of the past 50 years.
The four-time world champion topped a 10-person list which included Tom Carroll, Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew and Mark “Raging Bull” Occhilupo.
The Surfing Australia ceremony was held in Sydney to reveal the 10 most influential surfers as voted by the public and 34 inductees into the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame.
Fittingly, the ceremony coincided with Surfest, where current world champion Joel Parkinson is among those vying for the main event’s Mark Richards trophy at MR’s home break.
“It’s the 50th anniversary of Surfing Australia this year, and so we thought it was important that we recognise the sport’s legends and historic figures,’’ Surfing Australia CEO Andrew Stark said.
“MR is an obvious one, not only because of his four world titles and his work with the twin fin but for the way he carried himself as a surfing ambassador and became a household name.”
Second was Simon Anderson, the softly spoken design guru whose invention of the thruster, or three-finned surfboard, in 1980 proved a game-changer for modern surfing.
Seven-time world champion Layne Beachley was the sole woman on the list in seventh place.
World No.1 Stephanie Gilmore, a five-time world champion at just 25, became the 35th inductee into the hall of fame last night.
‘‘I know I’ve achieved a lot and they really appreciate what I guess you could call my legacy in surfing,’’ she said yesterday at Merewether. ‘‘I feel like I’m just getting started, to be honest. I’m nowhere near retiring.’’