You can tell Peter Townend was a world champion. As he took the floor at Team U.S.A.'s send off party Tuesday at Duke's in Huntington Beach he was all business. And even though he won't be strapping on a jersey to represent the United States, you'd think he was. His eyes say it all. He loves competition. After a few motivating words to the sponsors and visitors, it was as if everyone else in the room vanished. No parents. No sponsors. No onlookers. Just him and his troops. He looked at them from across the banquet room and shouted, "Alright, we're moving the practice to the south side. There's no one out (probably because it was one foot and onshore) and I want you out there at 2:30 sharp," he ordered. "In your wetsuits, now. We've got practice." All the kids dropped their forks; put down the free magazines and shwag they'd accumulated at the party and scurried for the car to get suited up. Party was over. Portugal departure was less than 12 hours away and there was still work to do.
And this is why the U.S. team will come home with medals this year. For one thing, they're starting to get it; you know, this whole team thing. After seeing how passionate countries like South Africa get about the event, those warm up suits they're all donning mean a whole lot more. And the other reason is P.T. While the team itself is obviously oozing with depth this year, featuring team captain Cory Arrambide, alongside rippers like Kolohe "Brother" Andino, Luke Davis, Trevor Saunders, Riley Metcalf, Sage Erickson, Courtney Conlogue, Michael Dunphy, and Evan Geiselman, it's P.T. who has them whipped into shape. I doubt he'll even let them come home without medals. It's in his eyes. It's the competitive edge that makes champions, and it's so obvious when you see him in front of his team. And the best part about it: the kids can see it, too. They're psyching more than in the past. They're starting to understand what representing the U.S. means. They got gold medal fever.
The U.S. team leaves at 3a.m. this morning for Portugal to face the world. Stay tuned in at www.SURFINGmagazine.com for daily updates May 4-13th from coach P.T. all contest long.