Sometimes, for reasons unbeknownst to us, people’s brilliance isn’t recognised until after their death. Greats such as Edgar Allan Poe, Nick Drake, Vincent Van Gogh and John Keats are just a few who were only fully appreciated well after their passing. But with Australian surfing legend, Michael ‘MP’ Peterson, such was not the case. From the moment he entered the realm of the competitive surfing when he became the Australian champion in 1972, everyone could ascertain that he was an extraordinary surfer with ability and style that would be idolised for years to come. And although his time in competitive surfing was relatively brief, he is still considered to be one of the best Australian surfers of all time. MP’s humble beginnings of shaping boards with his little bro, Tommy, experimenting with designs in their garage and surfing them at the local break would lead him to pioneer board shapes and raise the bar in competitive surfing during the 70s. He was the real McCoy who was well ahead of his time with both his surfing and board-shaping prowess. His powerful style of surfing melded effortless cool with dynamic precision and his famous cutback seen in Morning of the Earth remains one of surfing’s most iconic images to this day. He made the ladies swoon and the men green with envy with his brooding, good looks complete with signature moustache, aviator sunglasses and disheveled, sun-kissed locks that flew carelessly behind him in the surf. Throughout his surfing career, MP had a reclusive persona outside of the water, which was better understood when he was later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. MP possessed contrasting personality traits that he found difficult to reconcile while he was in the spotlight. Although he was fiercely competitive when it came to his surfing, MP was equally as camera-shy and had a genuine aversion to being the centre of attention, which was something he never got accustomed to. Seeing him at the Bells Pro in 2009, was akin to Moses parting the red sea. When he walked to the grandstand, people stopped dead in their tracks to step aside, (jaw-dropped) and the admiration and respect people showed towards him was hard to miss. Despite the fact that he no longer had the muscular physique or the wild, long hair for which he is well known (although still rocking the mo\’ and aviator sunglasses), people instantly recognised him and the awe was almost tangible. It was awesome to see that people still held him in high esteem and that he had the ability to make people star-struck. An enigma in the truest sense of the word, MP was elusive and troubled, but he was simply a free spirit who could not conform to the expectations that were placed on him. We respect him for his contribution to surfing, for his rebellion and for simply being true to himself. Although his reckless behavior and notoriety outside of the water was well known, the legacy of his achievements by far outweighs his flaws. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends and particularly his mother, Joan, whose unconditional love and support from the moment he was born until the moment he passed away was a true constant in his life. When MP was still alive, we hope he realised how much he was loved, respected and admired by many people the world over. So here’s to celebrating the Man…feel free to throw on a copy of Morning of the Earth and remember MP, the King of Kirra.
Tribute to the King