Barton Lynch – Biography
“The thinking man’s surfer”: a tag line Barton Lynch earned from both his well-spoken Australian wit and his precise, tactical approach to riding waves in competition. This perception, however, was also a liability as his persona (clear of the brash, devil-may-care attitude that defined such Australian legends as Nat Young, Rabbit Bartholomew and Mark Ochilupo) seems to place Lynch in a different category. While “bustin’ down the door” and redefining boundaries have forever been standard methods for Aussie surf champions, Lynch instead employed consistency and calculation to cement his success much like Down Under contemporaries Damien Hardman, Gary Green, and Rob Bain. Therefore, some call in to question Lynch’s legitimacy as a world champ. But what may sometimes be forgotten is that Barton Lynch won his 1988 world title riding classic 10 foot Pipeline barrels against a timeless lineup of the era’s greatest surfers: Tom Curren, Tom Carroll, Martin Potter, and Damien Hardman. His win was neither tactical nor calculated but rather dramatic and explosive. So to call Lynch’s title undeserved is a massive misnomer.
Barton Lynch was born 1963 in legendary Manly Beach and was later raised in nearby Whale Beach. He started surfing at 8 years old, and the skinny goofy footer would quickly master the tricky, powerful sandbars, which fatefully proved a perfect training ground for the world stage; the same waves that nourished talent the likes of Stuart Entwistle, Layne Beachely and Pam Burridge; the same beach where while playing hooky from school Lynch watched Larry Blair and Wayne Lynch trade tubes in their historic final in the 1978 Coke Surfabout (acknowledged as one of the greatest surf contests of all time). It was a great place to be a surfer.
His policeman father, also the captain of the Whale Beach Surf Club, tragically died in a motorcycle accident. Almost 20 years after his retirement from pro surfing, Lynch would later tell Stab Magazine, “I’ve already lived five years longer than my dad, who died at 41 of a motorbike accident.” He continued, “My dad worked three jobs just to buy a house and create a future for his kids.” His father’s presence was never forgotten and his determination lived on in young Lynch who at 11, Tim MacDonald writes, “…promised his mother that he’d become a world champion surfer.”
A boy of his word, Lynch got to work, finishing runner up in the Australian National Titles in 1981 as a junior. Two years later at 16 while a student at Mosman High, he set his sights on a career in pro surfing, finishing 13th on the world tour (in the elite top 16) at year’s end. The following year, he leaped to 8th place.
A perfect build for the era’s three-to-the-beach approach, Lynch’s slight build and light touch could glide along even the most gutless surf, but traveling to the world’s best waves also mixed well with his Manly pedigree, thus infusing in him a thirst for gnarlier waves as well (even earning him a slot in the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau years later).
By 1985, the smiling goofy footer was perched at 2nd place on the ASP tour after leading for much of the year although some maintain his result was aided by Tom Curren and Tom Carroll’s boycott of the South African leg of the tour. In 1986, his placing dropped some 11 slots to 13th, but he quickly rebound to 3rd the following year. Lynch’s roller coaster ride, however, was poised to end as the 1988 pro tour stormed to a dramatic finish in Hawaii at the Billabong Pro, where Lynch found himself in contention for the title behind Tom Carroll and Damien Hardman. With Pipe throttling flawlessly its tell-tale hollow left breaking bombs, any one of the talented goofies had a shot. Favor and fire culminated as the day progressed. Carroll and Hardman faltered as Lynch bested Curren as well as Pipe veteran Glen Winton. In the final and already the world champ, Lynch handily beat young Luke Egan at dredging low tide, late afternoon Pipeline painted smooth by steady trade winds. It was a hell of a day for Barton Lynch.
Over the course of his 15 year pro career, Lynch would place in the top 4 a total of 8 times, win 17 world tour events (which included the Op Pro and Rip Curl Pro). In 1993, Lynch won the highly competitive ranks of the World Qualifying Series Tour, and in 1995, at the “old” age of 32 won the Rio Surf Pro. Lynch would remain competitive up to his retirement in 1998. He was inducted into the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame and the Australian Sporting Hall of Fame.
After retiring, he added big wave tow surfing to his repertoire. In 2006, he teamed up with former rival Tom Carroll to tow a historically massive swell that hit Sydney. He created The Surfers Group (a multi-faceted consultancy firm) and was chosen to coach Team Australia for the ISA Surfing Games. In explaining his experience prior to the Games, Lynch said, “I love coaching young Aussies and trying to inject the passion I have to maintain our position as the premiere surfing nation.” He has gone on to executive produce television programs as well as create “BL’s Blast Off,” a pre junior surfing event held in Sydney.
Surfing through the single, twin and tri fin eras, Barton Lynch has experienced the full gamut of surfing’s gifts: Growing up part of the Manly surf culture, traveling the world during pro surfing’s boom era, and earning the sport’s most coveted prize, but in 2010, Lynch sat seemingly defeated alongside fellow 80’s stars Tom Carroll and Rob Bain, all three injured and bandaged after a winter on the North Shore. But when questioned about the limitations of age by Stab Magazine, Lynch replied like less the thinking man’s surfer from years past but rather a frothing grom skipping school ready to ride perfect Manly barrels, “I’ve dislocated my shoulder three times, snapped my hamstring, done my knee, was on crutches for six weeks after impaling my heel onto urchins at Deadmans and I’ve got a big cut on my thigh. I’m a fucken warrior!” His father would be proud.