PT Townend, the godfather of pro surfing, remains stoked after all these years

When Peter Townend, finest known as PT, sees exactly how professional surfing has actually evolved in the four decades because he was the sport’s very first globe champion, he is the 2 stoked and amazed.

Today, professional surf stars are millionaire celebrities. They fly very first class; continue to be in beachfront manses. They’re pampered by an entourage of trainers, coaches, videographers.

Surfing, once counterculture, is a shockingly healthy job path.

And surf contests?

They’re actual events along with actual money. The nine-day U.S. Open of Surfing, which Townend helped established in 1994 in his adopted hometown of Huntington Beach, is expected to attract regarding 500,000 fans.

None of it would certainly have actually been recognizable to Townend Once he was champ of the sport.

In 1976, Townend and regarding twenty others well-known surfers spent most of the year scrapping their method about the globe to compete versus each others in ragtag competitions. By year’s end, Townend was on Oahu’s North Shore, chasing big waves, Once he got a call from Fred Hemmings, one of the co-founders of just what eventually became the globe Surf League.

Hemmings and Randy Rarick had been counting up the points of the surfers that had competed in those contests and, by their reckoning, Townend had the most points. Hemmings, on the phone, explained that they wanted Townend to drive to the Outrigger Canoe Club in Waikiki to take a photo for the newspaper.

But as PT explains it, Once he met Hemmings at the club something was missing.

“He doesn’t even have actually a trophy!”

“We wanted to grab some promotional value for PT as globe champ,” Rarick explains. “Yet there were no sponsors, so we didn’t even have actually enough cash for a trophy.”

Townend improvised. He got a essential to the club’s trophy cabinet and pulled out an important-looking trophy. He turned it backward so the photographer couldn’t see the inscription, held it aloft, and stood for the picture. It ran the next day in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

“And that’s the birth of pro surfing right there!” Townend says, along with his characteristic explosive laugh.

Townend’s last payout as champion?

Lunch. The trophy, he gave back; it’s still in the Canoe Club’s case. And his income for 1976 was $26,000, mostly from shaping surfboards.

Townend reckons he spent much more cash chasing the globe title compared to he earned winning it.

“spine then, nobody was making any kind of money,” Rarick says.

“I remember PT saying, ‘By 1980, we’ll be millionaires.’ That was optimistic thinking. It took regarding 15 years longer compared to that.”

Of course, anybody that knows Townend knows the payout is stoke – something he absolutely, positively exudes. Whether Townend is talking regarding his life as a pro surfer or functioning as a surf announcer or coach, or as publisher of Surfing magazine, Townend’s entire existence remains dominated along with riding waves – and and the buzz that still brings him.

Townend, that was born in Coolangatta, Queensland, got his very first surfboard as a Christmas present in 1966, the year he turned 12. Soon, he was surfing his neighborhood break, Rainbow Bay, every day.

“As a result of the consistent waves, the nice weather and the warm water, if you had any kind of type of athleticism, you got rather good, rather quick.”

Within two years, he was Queensland champ.

But Townend was anything Yet the stereotypical surf bum. He was a great student and his grades gained your man a scholarship to architecture school.

He turned it down to attempt to make a life from surfing – at a time Once there was no such thing as a professional surfer.

“My grandmother didn’t talk to me for 10 years.”

Townend’s parents were a tad much more supportive, even occasionally lending your man cash to grab to the next contest. To pay for his dream, Townend shaped boards and wrote a column for his neighborhood newspaper: “In the Tube along with Peter Townend.”

By 1972, Townend was a member of arguably the greatest Australian national group ever assembled, which included 5 eventual globe championships.

They traveled the globe to obtain respect as watermen and pursue a dream of becoming pro surfers. To have actually any kind of shot at either goal, they called for exposure. And the very best place to grab surfing cred joined the winter waves of Oahu’s North Shore.

Townend and crew arrived in Hawaii in September and stayed till February. If you had a mattress and a sheet – and a magic board – you were happy.

“We didn’t have actually trainers and travel accounts and entourages. If you got hurt, you lied on the couch, drank a couple of beers and got up the next day and strike the surf again.”

And in those years leading up to Townend becoming the very first pro champ, there was danger in and from the water.

In fact, Townend and others of the era – Ian Cairns and Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew, along along with South African Shaun Tomson and his brother, Michael – surfed Hawaii in the early ’70s along with a “check out me” attitude that native Hawaiians located offensive.

They claimed to be the very best surfers on the planet.

“The Hawaiians had a much more laid-back, let-your-surfing-speak-for-you attitude,” Rarick says. “Well, these guys were letting their mouths speak for their surfing.”

Townend admits they went regarding it badly. And although Cairns and Bartholomew were the most flamboyant, Townend cringes Once he recalls his own brashness. There were death threats and beatings and even rumors of a contract being taken out on Townend, Cairns and Bartholomew.

“We clearly felt threatened,” says Townend, that called for a police escort to his heat at that year’s Pipeline Masters.

“I got punched at Off the Wall and had to go hide out in Kauai prior to the Duke contest one year.

“It was all of eventually resolved,” he says.

Yet a long pro surfing job on the tour he helped establish was not to be. Shortly after winning the ’76 title, Townend got a call to act as Jan-Michael Vincent’s stunt double in the film “Big Wednesday.”

Townend and the actor had become friends a couple years earlier, Once Townend was living in Malibu, and the movie pay was $1,000 a week.

He took the portion and briefly turned away from the tour.

In 1977, he moved to Huntington Beach to be along with the woman that would certainly soon become his wife and mother to his three kids.

In 1979, after only a couple of much more years on the pro surfing tour, he became coach for the U.S. national team. He additionally became publisher and advertising manager for Surfing Magazine.

Over the years he’s developed a TV reveal on surfing, worked as color commentator on Prime Ticket and ESPN, and established an action sports consulting company, ActivEmpire, which he still runs.

He might never ever have actually gotten wealthy off surfing, Yet he’s been immortalized in the Surfing Hall of Fame and remains respected by today’s surfers and surf industry leaders as one of the reasons they are obtaining wealthy.

At age 61, Townend still surfs almost daily.

He’s additionally pulled off one of the toughest feats in professional sports – a squeaky clean image.

“I was truly self-promotion conscious,” Townend says. “Yet this was … prior to Internet, social media, cellphones … I don’t already know if I could pull that off today,” he says, laughing.

“I did run along with Jan-Michael Vincent that year in Malibu!”

Terence Loose wrote this for Coast Magazine.

Leave a Reply