Everybody in the Blears family surfs—the Lord placed fourth in the men's senior amateur, Laura took fourth in the women's division and another son, Clinton, took second in the boys' bracket. But, his lordship? As one longtime Honolulu resident remarked: "With all the Hawaiians and Hapa-Hawaiians here claiming royal descent, who's going to question his title?"
Given the relaxed atmosphere of the crowd and the legendary individuality of surfers, the contest might easily have degenerated into a happy shambles but for Blears' commanding commentary and the take-charge efficiency of Fred Hemmings Jr., a former world champion who served as meet director. In the first Smirnoff, held at Santa Cruz, Calif. in 1969, confusion was compounded to the point where Corky Carroll, a cheerful California cafe singer who was eliminated in the seventh heat at Sunset, won the final by moonlight. Last year it took three days and a 100-mile trip to Makaha to run off the Smirnoff. This time Hemmings, the grateful recipient of almost perfect surf on the first day of the contest, was determined to make it a one-day event, and he did.
Although there were many sportsmanlike gestures comparable to Billy Hamilton's—but no others so costly—the desire for money overcame the surfing ethic (man against wave, not man against man) in a few competitors. Midway through the hour-long final, Craig (Owl) Chapman came ashore after two wipe-outs in a state of fury. "These guys are supposed to be my friends, and they took my waves!" he fumed. Chapman thus learned the answer to what might be called the $2,500 question. He also missed out on a free trip to the South African Championships next June. Rudolph, of course, will be there waiting.
The expense-paid visits, which went to the first six finishers, are the not inconsiderable achievement of Ronald Sorrell, an Olympic volleyball player and a surfer since 1939. A Honolulu stockbroker, Sorrell was instrumental in forming IPSA—the International Professional Surfers Association—in 1968 and is now commissioner of an organization that has 70-odd members scattered through Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Great Britain, South Africa and, in the U.S., California, the Eastern Seaboard and Hawaii. All of the entrants in the Smirnoff—the majority from Hawaii, but eight from California, four from South Africa, two from Australia and one each from Peru and Japan—were members of IPSA, which sanctioned the meet. Those from overseas scrambled to Hawaii on their own. Smirnoff's purse not only was the richest ever but the most widely distributed. Heat winners got $100 apiece, semifinal winners $150, and in the finals prizes ranged from Rudolph's $2,650 ($150 extra for amassing the most points) down to $75.
After he had been thoroughly kissed by Miss Smirnoff, a busty blonde model from Los Angeles named Nikki Morrison, Rudolph shyly signed autographs and accepted congratulations. (Asked what she does when she is not being Miss Smirnoff, Miss Morrison said, "I just kinda stand around.") "I had expected to go back and look for a job," he said, "but now I will stay a while and surf some more. I do not have to get a job so soon." Rudolph's home is in Port Elizabeth where his father is a retired supermarket operator. Upon leaving, Rudolph was asked whether there were waves like Sunset's in South Africa. "Oh, no," he said. "When I came out here today I was scared!"