25 July, 2006: It is with great sadness that I write of the passing of former ASP International CEO Peter Whittaker. Pete passed away at noon on Saturday July 22, 2006, after a long illness. Peter leaves a great legacy in the sport of surfing, many of today’s pro surfers and definitely future professionals are the direct beneficiaries of Peter’s body of work as a Sports Administrator.
Some people become surfing administrators, some people are born to be one. Pete was the latter. I have known Peter Whittaker for over 20 years. When I first met him he was a Surveyor by trade who loved surfing, in fact when he first arrived in Queensland he was rather bohemian, living in a tent in the Noosa National Park at this gorgeous beach called Alexander Bay. It wasn’t long before he gravitated towards the Noosa Boardriders Club, and so began his long and successful journey into the world of sports admin.
Peter had some distinct qualities, many of which were tailor made for this profession. The guy was decisive and he was fearless in the face of criticism or opposition. This was tested very early on. The surfing charity group, Surfers Against Natures Destruction (SAND), recruited Peter to be their judge at an inter-club event in 1986. A lot of very talented surfers decided to surf for SAND instead of their respective clubs and they smashed them, winning easily. The pride of the established top clubs was dented and they vented their fury at Pete, hurling abuse and the odd rock his way. To my amazement Pete remained stoic, it was like water off a ducks back. It was exactly what the rabble of surfing needed back then.
Pete entered the system and before long made his way to CEO of Surfing Queensland. He was instrumental in overhauling judging and coaching accreditation courses, but his major contribution was in team and event management and office admin. Youngsters such as Kieren Perrow, Michael Lowe and Danny Wills, to name but a few, remember Pete as a really cool Team Manager on away trips. He was so into background detail that the surfers themselves were so well looked after that all they had to do was bring home the bacon through their surfing performance. Pete was involved in many triumphant campaigns at a time well before the success formula of good management was recognized.
On the national front, Pete managed all the teams representing Australia in the World Grommet Championships, held annually in Bali. It was around this time, in the early 90’s, that he encouraged me to get involved in the national coaching and we enjoyed many fun forays to Indo, the kids surfed their brains out and Pete never once got to know what it feels like to come second. His managerial style was classic, all business on the beach, all fun by the pool or at the many restaurants that lined the streets of Kuta. Pete was also instrumental in establishing events in Sumbawa and his real baby was Nias. He had the knack of being able to woo the Indonesian authorities and felt right at home with Governors or having beers with armed members of the military, including Generals.
As the team for ASP Australasia, I’ll never forget the first ASP Board meeting Pete attended. It was in Bali in around 94. Pete presented the Regional report in this bound document that was meticulously set out and full of detail, incorporating growth projections, event management, financials, sponsorship opportunities, marketing strategies etc. This document and Pete’s presentation were to have a profound impact on ASP. It virtually changed the way reports were delivered; it became a template for not only regional stuff but for the way all presentations were made at Board level. At that meeting Pete caught the eye of some of the shakers and movers of pro surfing, including Greville Mitchell, Randy Rarick, Ian Cairns and CEO Graham Stapelburg.
It wasn’t long before CEO Stapelburg went head hunting for Pete, the guy definitely had talent. So he moved on from Surfing Australia and relocated to Laguna Beach California, to work with ‘G’, Meg Bernad, Dory Payne and Jesse Faen at ASP International. This was a very fulfilling time in Pete’s career. He would ring me and wax lyrical over how fantastic it was to be the WCT Tour Manager. He’d found his calling, he absolutely loved working with and for the surfers, loved traveling the tour, mixing with event owners, government officials and serving the sport and its athletes in this capacity.
When ‘G’ moved on from ASP destiny stepped in once again on Pete’s career. He was unwittingly thrust into the role of CEO of ASP International. He referred to it as an interim role, he desperately wanted to get back to the idyllic role of Tour Manager, where his heart lay. But it was not meant to be. Pete once again encouraged me to come with him on this journey, and over a few cool ones one evening at Rocky Point we established the Bugs/Weeta ticket, running ASP being our collective goal. The team was officially reunited in March 1999 when we were inducted as ASP Management.