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Russell Hughes – RIP

Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Russell Hughes – RIP
By Steve Core

Another great legend of the early longboard days of the glorious sixties era of surfing in Australia has passed away.

Sad news this week beginning to filter in as we learned that sixties and seventies reclusive stylist, Russell Hughes, has ridden his final wave.

After several battles with Cancer over the years, Russell aged 64, passed away this past week in Quebec, Canada, the home country of his surviving long time French Canadian partner, Monik Roy.

Below: See Russell surfing from George Greenough’s Innermost Limits of Pure Fun

Originally from Brisbane in Queensland, Russell started his involvement with surfing and love of the ocean with the Surfers Paradise Surf Lifesaving Club.

Russell was a smooth wave rider and a true master of style. What Ernest Hemingway referred to as; “grace under pressure”. He was a pathfinder and a bona fide Aussie surf pioneer in every sense of the word.

Attracted to the multiple point breaks, relative seclusion and clean living on the Northern NSW Coast in the late sixties, along with Bob McTavish, George Greenough, Nat Young, Chris Brock and the cutting edge crew, Russell was one of the handful of gifted surfers to be spearheading the avant-garde transition from clumsy longboards to modern responsive shortboards.

Always exhibiting style both in and out of the water. Who can forget Russell’s classic floral Nehru-collared shirts during the flower power hippy era of the late sixties?

Researcher, biographer and curator of Cronulla’s surfing legend; Bobby Brown, Queensland’s Andrew McKinnon has penned a great exaltation on Russell’s surfing history and achievements, as well as his recent past. I direct you to Pacific Longboarder’s website to read a nicely written tribute: 

One of my fondest memories of watching Russell Hughes surf, is that I was standing with a thrilled crowd on an offshore day at City Beach in September 1967, in Newcastle, NSW to see Russell take out one of his very rare major surf contest wins at the ’67 Mattara Surfing Contest – in true contemporary style.

Despite his sparse list of contest victories and few podium finishes, he was regarded by all of his peers as one of our greatest surfers of his time. He was one of the headline surfers featured in Paul Witzig’s 1967 breakout surf film ‘The Hot Generation’.

Tributes are now beginning to pour in, not only from surfing’s anointed royalty who shared many wondrous times over the years with Russell, but from a host of ordinary people who were simply touched by just knowing the this gentle and kind human being.

God bless you Russell, you will always be remembered in Australian surfing’s folklore and your legacy of images will live on for many years to come. Time to join your old surfing soulmates Bobby Brown and Kevin Brennan who have been waiting in the line-up over that far horizon for some time now. I am sure you will be doing a beautiful, impressive, soul arch turn as you glide magically across the glassy waters in the straits between heaven’s gates.

Steve Core