An icon on the US east coast waves, Peter has been surfing for 40 years and was inducted into the Surfing Hall of Fame in 1996. A versatile waterman, Peter has directed numerous surfing competitions and holds countless shortboarding, longboarding, bodyboarding and kneeboarding titles. A colourful character and one of surfing’s greats, he has been an integral part of the BIC Sport Research and Design Team for nearly a decade. Interview. Photos: Joe Mc Govern
When and how did you first get into surfing?
I first began surfing in 1963 with my best friend, Russell Norman. He said it was a good way to meet girls. I could not swim very well but I figured what the hell?
What's your favourite surfing spot?
The same beach that I learned to surf at....possibly the worst beach break in the world.
The Narragansett Town Beach in Narragansett, Rhode Island. Big close-outs, dumping shore pound, bad rips, and heavy undertow. I just love it!
Best wave you ever rode?
Probably the left peelers at Pacasyamo, Peru. ( I might have spelled that wrong) I went there to judge the World One Design BIC Championships, and we ran the contest at this absolutely perfect sand bottom break. I just could not get enough of that wave.
How did you get involved with BIC?
We were selling lots and lots of BIC surfboards at our shop in Rhode Island, The Watershed. The national sales team at BIC Sport noticed how much I loved the boards and asked me if I would like to become the East Coast sales representative. That was in 1999 and I have been at it ever since.
What made you decide to set up a surf school?
I actually began the structured lessons in 1978 through our surf shop. I did this because there was a need for beginners to learn how to surf properly and there was no one out there to teach them. The business has built up over the years and now I teach lessons all year long, including the icy cold New England winter.
What sort of surf camps do you run?
I run four-day surf camps during the summer months at the world class wave spot, Matunuck Point, Rhode Island. We deal with mostly children between 9 and 14 years old. We teach them the basics of surfing and paddling...and there is a lot of it at Matunuck Point. I also run one-day camps for big adult groups on the same idea.
Any plans to do something similar outside of the USA?
I believe in the ‘Peter Principle." That is that you are at your highest level of incompetence and should stay in that position.
What advice would you give someone wanting to give surfing a go?
Call, email or text me! I love giving surf lessons. Females between the ages of 18-45 have priority. Seriously, anyone who really wants to learn how to surf should consider taking a lesson from a professional certified surf instructor, not your boyfriend or bro. They are not going to teach you!
What board would you recommend to a first-time buyer?
Of course that would be the BIC Sport Magnum. It is the lowest priced, full floatation, easy to learn surfboard model that will handle surfers from 90 to 180 pounds. I designed it to work in all conditions and to be easy to paddle and catch waves on. If the surfer is 200 pounds plus, I would then recommend the new 11'4" SUP model, which will also work in the same way that the Magnum does, except for the big boys and girls!
"I love giving surf lessons!"
And to someone with a bit of experience?
I told you I loved BICs! For shortboarders...the 6'10" ACS Shortboard, for cruising on both large and small stuff...the 7'6" Performer, and the BIC longboard series for loggers. I really love the Gerard shaped 9' E Comp Longboard. I have been riding and competing on it for over a decade and will not switch to anything else. Float wise: The 9' Longboard for surfers 150 lbs. and under. The 9'4'' for surfers 150 to 190 lbs. The 9'6' Big Boy for surfers 190 lbs. and over.
Have you ever surfed in Europe? If so, where? And how was it?
Yes in France, and I love this country! The surf is great and the beach babes are so so hot!
Are you involved in any other sports?
Many of them.... I am an avid snowboarder. I started at the beginning in the mid-70's. I teach snowboarding and have worked at the local ski area for over 20 years. I also have competed in both slalom and freestyle contests. I work at Gold's Gym and have been teaching and working out there for about 10 years. I have been involved in Tae Kwon Do since 1980. I teach cardio kick boxing, body sculpt, ‘amazing abs" and toning and conditioning classes at three Gold's Gyms in the state. All that stuff helps me surf better. When you are OLD, like me...you must work out every single day or you are doomed.
What's your favourite post-surf snack?
Star Bucks Café Mocha and vanilla scones
What do you like doing when you're not out on the water?
Working out at the gym or watching my TV shows. That includes Nip/Tuck (which just went off the air), The Mentalist, Cold Case, Numbers, Criminal Minds, and all the CSI's.
Is there any new surf talent you would recommend looking out for?
Any hot beach babe...especially the topless ones in France!
What makes the perfect wave?
Any wave is perfect if you are the only one riding it. Size, quality, and conditions can all be sacrificed for the NO crowd factor.
How old are you - if you dare tell us?
Just turned 60! Believe it or not!
What's your real name?
How did you get to be called Peter Pan - or is that your real name? Are you really Peter Pan?
Someone who could not pronounce my name at a surf contest in 1967 called me Peter Pan, and it stuck.
Are you Married? Kids? Do they surf?
Yes. My daughter surfs all the time...all winter long. My son was a champion skateboarder and now is into boxing. Both of them are avid snowboarders.
What's your favourite :
Music? Jazz, especially Coltrane
Food? Crap...especially McDonalds
Destination? Atlantic City...surf all day and gamble all night!
Alternative sport? Kick boxing and snowboarding
Football (soccer) team? Manchester United
How long have you been stand-up paddleboarding for?
I was introduced to the sport in Maui about a decade ago, interestingly on a BIC Sport surfboard photo shoot trip. I had not idea at the time that I would actually be riding the boards, competing on them, and designing them.
How popular do you think the sport will become?
The sport is exploding in the U.S. right now. I see its’ popularity skyrocketing for the next two years. The middle of America is just getting wind of it.
What type of SUP boards do you ride and for what purposes?
I really like surfing on the 9’6” ACE TEC. I designed it to work as a flat-water board for lighter riders up to 140 lbs., and to allow riders up to 165 lbs. to use it in the surf. Because of it’s maneuverability and lightness, it can easily be controlled in all size surf conditions.
For my lessons and rentals, my personal favorite is the original 11’4” Duratec SUP, which can withstand just about any kind of abuse that can be had. This was our first real production SUP and it is still my favorite.
For cruising, touring, and long distance flat-water stuff that I do in the river where I teach, I love the 11’0” Wing. It just knifes through channel chop and wind slop effortlessly.
What is your choice in SUP paddles?
I use the same BIC Sport SUP paddle for everything. I have an all-carbon BIC paddle cut to my specific length with the new smaller blade. It is super light and you don’t get fatigued with it in long distance tours or races. It also works well in surf.
What are your SUP plans for the 2013 season?
I hope to continue to compete in the Eastern Surfing Association SUP division in both flat-water racing and surfing events. I would like to defend my title in both events at the up and coming competitions. I am also planning on doing a lot of demos and classes all over the northeast. We have a lot of events planned with the BIC SUP One Design Challenge as well.
More interviews of Peter Pan on northeastsurfing.com