Thu, 29 March 2012

The world has lost another flawed genius after Michael Peterson, 59, died of a heart attack at his home in Australia. Spike writes a tribute to one of surfing's best. Photos from Searching for Michael Peterson, the documentary screened at the Wavescape Surf Film Festival 2009.

MP-Hugh-McleodMP-before-stubbiesMP-wins-1977-StubbiesMP--board-Martin-1In the wild, flower-powered 1970s, MP dealt with his demons by drowning them out by the brute force of his will. Today, at almost 60 years of age, a pot-bellied, balding man with paranoid schizophrenia and diabetes finally succumbed.

Was he a shadow of his true self, or true to who he really was? You decide. Either way, MP was a genius who carried the burden of a damaged soul, an immortal beset with mortal issues. When he flew through the mystic haze, his light shone bright. But slowly, the light dimmed, and soon, it failed to illuminate the gloomy maze from which he could not escape.

Called the Kelly Slater of his time (the mid-1970s) he was considered the best in Australia, even the world. At the height of his powers, he won the event at Bells three times in a row.

MP rode the tube like no one else could. To watch him surf was to see a small spark crack off the cosmic anvil. It was like “watching lightning riding waves”, Rabbit told Sean Doherty in his biography, MP.

MP didn't surf. He flowed.

He followed Jimi Hendrix, Mike Boyum, Janis Joplin and so many of that age - death by purple haze after descent into drug dependency and insanity.

But MP survived. However, some would say he died long ago. He died before the sheer power of his existential anguish and the piercing relentlessness of his soul whittled away his totem, leaving only a schizophrenic caricature of the pagan god he could have become.

The heroin didn't help. Neither did the beer. Or the dope. Or the other stuff that gets in the way of what other people want you to become.

But one wonders whether his medical conditions lurked there always, waiting for release, or whether his lifestyle created them.

Chicken or egg, MP is dead.


Grant M
0 #6 Grant M 2012-04-16 14:38
Nicely put :-)
evan m
0 #5 evan m 2012-04-09 22:46
"Genius is seldom spawned by normality", as was the case with MP. Deserves his spot in surfing history.
Keith Shirlaw
0 #4 Keith Shirlaw 2012-03-31 16:37
From my era in Australia another legend does the big backhand RIP MP. Great words Steve.
0 #3 Stephen 2012-03-30 17:12
Great Article Steve!
0 #2 RyanO 2012-03-30 09:46
Great article.

After reading his Biography, The Life of Michale Peterson, by Sean Doherty, I was in awe of this guy. Every surfer should read it.

A brilliant, tortured soul.
greg b
+1 #1 greg b 2012-03-29 21:47
Brilliant article STEVE!
fitting and apt.
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