Welcome to this chapter on Legendary Australian Surfer Peter Troy (1938-2008).
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Peter Troy (1938-2008)
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The following is from Times Online, October 4, 2008: "Peter Troy: surfer, surf historian and adventurer."
Peter Troy was often described as the “father” or the “tribal elder” of Australian surfing, a pioneer of the sport in the 1950s and 1960s. He was also Australia’s first surf adventurer and explorer, the prototype of the sun-bleached, sun-dried blond lugging his “log” (surfboard) and backpack through at least 140 countries, in all continents, in search of “the perfect wave”. He is credited with inspiring many young men and women to take up the sport in England, the Channel Islands and Italy, also introducing it in Peru and Brazil, where he remains celebrated, and “discovering” several previously unsurfed breaks in remote areas of the world, notably Indonesia.
It was Troy, his girlfriend at the time, Wendy, and two other Aussie backbackers who trekked through thick jungle in 1975 to find the holy grail they had been told about — Lagundri Bay on the island of Nias, off Sumatra. The natives had body-surfed and rowed outrigger canoes through those waves for centuries but Troy and his friends were the first outsiders to ride them on modern boards.
Troy blazed what later became known as “the Hippy Trail” and ventured far beyond it, neither on nor in the search of drugs, but seeking those great waves, the spiritual high they gave him and the opportunity to understand new cultures along the way. His early adventures predated the Beach Boys’ hits but Troy’s “surfing safaris” took him around the world on foot, bus, motorcycle, or any vessel that could get him to a new beach. It is said that peroxide sales among local men rose wherever the handsome, wavy-haired Australian had been.
In the 1960s Troy hitchhiked, solo, from the world’s most southerly town, Puerto Williams, south of Tierra del Fuego in Chile, to the most northerly, Spitsbergen in Norway, stopping only when he found good surf. It took him a year. On the way, he became the first man to surf Punta Rocas in Peru and Arpoador beach, Rio de Janeiro, giving the bug to would-be surfers in both countries and spawning Brazil’s first surfing magazine. Roaming the world with a surfboard under your arm in those days, he said, was “like travelling around the world carrying a grand piano. Everybody wanted to know you. Everyone was nice to you.” The President of Brazil once stopped his limousine on a highway to give the young surfer a lift.
Troy’s surfing prowess was featured in one of the early surf films, Mark Witzig’s Sea of Joy, whose eventual cult status was aided by the psychedelic soundtrack by the Sydney band Tully. In it, he rode well-shaped waves in what, to surfers, was the newly discovered Tamarin Bay in Mauritius. In 1973 Troy and Wendy set off not to get with it, but to get away from it. He on a yellow 100cc Suzuki, she on a red one, they spent two years rambling from Bali, through Bangkok, Burma, India, Nepal, Kenya, Réunion Island, Mauritius, the Comoros and the Seychelles. It was during that trip that they discovered the barrelling right-handed break in Lagundri Bay.
“Peter always wanted to live in the Seychelles because he had seen a picture of the surf at La Digue in Surfer magazine,” Wendy recalled. “We went and lived there for three months but a beautiful three-masted square rigger came into the harbour and it was too tempting, so we got on as crew and sailed away up the Red Sea. That’s the kind of person he was.” They continued through Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire, the Central African Republic, Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria and The Gambia before crossing the Sahara Desert — on the roof of a lorry carrying 56 goats — to North Africa and eventually Spain.
In 1980-81 the two set off from Darwin, North Australia, on another surf-seeking trip that would last 18 months. They drifted through Malaysia, Borneo, the Philippines, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Russia, Turkey, Greece, Morocco and the Canary Islands before hitching a ride on a yacht across the Atlantic. Then came Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, the Galapagos Islands, Panama, through Central America to Mexico, the US and their goal — the big waves of Hawaii.
Peter Hemsworth Troy was born in Hamilton, Victoria, in 1938. His father served in the Second World War and, after he returned, moved the family in 1948 to the small coastal township of Torquay, 12 miles south of Geelong, to open its only general store and newsagent’s. Peter attended Geelong Grammar School but, a powerful swimmer, he spent his spare time as a lifeguard.
Troy found himself immediately at home in the surf. When he was 10 he rode the waves off Torquay’s Bells Beach — on an inflatable Surf-o-Plane, the prototype of what would now be called a boogie board, on his belly or kneeling. He graduated to full-sized surfboards as a teenager in the early 1950s, still mostly kneeling on them. In those days, Bells Beach was hard to reach, even by foot over a rocky outcrop, but after Troy and his friends bulldozed the first road, it became the site of Australia's first professional surfing championships and is now a magnet for surfers from around the world. Torquay, despite its small population, is home to Australia’s Surfworld Museum, the world’s largest surfing and beach culture museum, which Troy helped to set up.
It was on December 2, 1956, when he had just reached 18, that Troy’s life changed and a revolution in Australian surfing began. The Australian authorities laid on a “Surf Lifesaving Carnival” in Torquay during the Melbourne Olympic Games to show the world how good its lifeguards were. In front of 100,000 spectators, the young local lifeguard Troy was invited to represent Australia by riding his “toothpick” — a 16ft-long, narrow board built for paddling to the rescue of drowning people rather than for balancing on. He rode a wave to the beach to applause, but then four Californian and Hawaiian lifeguards took to the water on their own boards — so-called Malibu chips, only 9ft long and made of balsa and fibreglass. Neither Troy nor most spectators had seen anything like it. The visitors could twist and turn and walk up and down their boards with ease. Troy and his friends began building similar boards and Australian surfing took off.
Peter Troy, who was considered Australia’s official national surfing historian, was inducted into the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame in 2002 and awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) last year for his services to surfing. He died suddenly at his home in Mudjimba Beach, Queensland, and is survived by his wife, Libby, and two stepchildren.
Peter Troy, OAM, surfer, surf historian and adventurer, was born on November 15, 1938. He died from a blood clot in the lung on September 30, 2008, aged 69.