[Notícia e foto 'emprestadas' do Sydney Morning Herald, Keith foi um dos primeiros a surfar Supertubes em J.Bay, junto de Gavin Rudolph]
Surf, hair, drugs and the big wipeout
March 4, 2004
Keith Paull, Surfer, 1946-2004
Blond, muscular, tanned, handsome and hugely gifted, Keith Paull, who has died aged 57, could not have been a more acceptable face of Australian surfing as the sport negotiated the tumultuous late 1960s.
The hippie era was taking hold. Hair was getting longer, surfboards were getting shorter, drugs were being consumed in large quantities. Paull resisted, at first.
He became the only surfer other than the icons Nat Young and "Midget" Farrelly to win an Australian open men's title in the 1960s. Young won the inaugural title in 1963 and repeated in 1966, 1967 and 1969 and Farrelly won in 1964 and 1965. But Young and Farrelly finished second and third respectively to the young Queenslander when he took the title in an exhausting multi-round format in big surf on Sydney's northern beaches in 1968.
The victory cemented Paull's reputation as one of Australia's outstanding surfers, which at the time opened doors in the US, which had become besotted with the Young/Bob McTavish-led shortboard revolution.
At the same time as he was establishing his surfing credentials Paull was also garnering a reputation as an excellent surfboard designer and shaper.
In what must have been one of the first forays into professional surfing he replaced Cronulla star Bobby Brown, killed in a pub fight in 1967, on The Sun newspaper's promotional surf team alongside Farrelly and Robert Conneely.
Paull began to travel, first to Europe and later to Hawaii, where he took on Oahu's big waves with great daring. He scored a lucrative contract to design and shape for Californian surfboard manufacturer Bing Copeland, whose leading team rider was Rolf Arness, son of Gunsmoke star James Arness, who went on to win the 1970 world title in Victoria.
In the heady nascent years of shortboard surfing Australians were in demand. Young had signed with Dewey Weber, Farrelly with Gordon and Smith, McTavish with Morey-Pope and Paull's fellow Queenslander, Russell Hughes, with Harbour.
Paull's friend and mentor, Hawaiian board shaper and contest impresario Randy Rarick, remembers the Australian as a conscientious career surfer and craftsman dedicated to healthy living.
Paull em Pipe. Foto Steve Wilkings
But at some stage in the early 1970s it all went horribly wrong. Paull began to experiment with drugs, especially LSD, and by the middle of the decade his reputation was for outrageous behaviour rather than for good surfing. By the end of the decade he had vanished from the sport and the industry.
When Rarick met Paull again in the early 1990s, the man with whom he had surfed daily and had shared residences in Australia and Hawaii didn't even recognise him.
"There was nothing to talk about. There was no point in talking about old times because he obviously didn't remember," Rarick said.
Paull died in his sleep in a Brisbane hostel.