Peter Troy: 1940 – 2008

Peter Troy, who has died unexpectedly on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, was one of a vanishing breed of surfer; one who by good fortune, timing, and a bit of a wild streak, cut a completely original path.

Peter was born in Hamilton, Victoria and moved with his parents to Torquay in 1948, when it was still more or less a small country town; his father ran the local general store. He was enthusiastic about the water from early youth, surfed Bells Beach with fellow local Owen Yateman on blow-up surf-o-planes when he was 10, and became one of the Torquay surf club's top board paddlers, winning a gold medal in the surfboard relay at the Vicco championships. As a kid he witnessed the fabled arrival of the US and Hawaiian surf team for the 1956 Olympic surf carnival on Torquay main beach; when they rode their little {{{Malibu}}} "chips", it blew his mind. "I was selected with Vic Tantau to give a boardriding demonstration… we were riding the sixteen foot hollow boards and thought we were doing quite well until these guys came along and just changed it all in about an hour."

By his early 20s, Peter's career path seemed set: chartered accountancy in Melbourne. Then, after a side project showing surf movies paid off better than expected, he decided to catch the boat to England, in the hope of winning the European titles and getting a wildcard invite to the Makaha event in Hawaii. It kicked off one of surfing's all-time personal odysseys. Over the next few years, Troy wore coral in the head in a Pipeline wipeout, introduced surfing to Brazil, travelled virtually the entire coast of Africa (38 separate countries), South America, Indonesia (helping pioneer Nias among other surf zones), and most of the Pacific Ocean's many island chains.

All this literally a generation before surf camps, boat trips, or anything else we might today consider "surf travel".

In a recent interview, Peter explained some of the feeling of being one of surfing's first true grass-roots ambassadors: "Well, to me it was a total opening, because people had never really met a travelling surfer …. And it just kept on going. For some reason or another you'd look at the map and think 'Oh I'll go on down there' and when you got down there you met other people and you started to acquire languages and you started to acquire experience …you met some guy and he'd say 'Well why don't you go out to the Galapagos, you know the Chilean navy can take you out there, here's a little letter,' and he'd write it on a table napkin or something and you'd give it to the admiral of the Chilean navy and you got a free trip in those days. And each time you became more extroverted in what you did, the easier it was to get to the next place."

Years down the line, he made a map of his travels; they took in nearly 150 countries.

For a man who prized his freedom, Peter was able to anchor himself surprisingly well. He owned surf shops, made some canny real estate investments, and was a driving force behind the Australian Surfing Hall Of Fame. He also acted – and made himself available as – one of the sport's honorary historians. In recent years he settled on the Sunny Coast, living right opposite Mudjimba – the small offshore island a tantalising reminder of the joys to be found by getting off your home beach.

Peter Troy died of a blood clot in his lung on the night of September 29, 2008, leaving his wife Libby. He was 69 years of age.