Michael Peterson is dead after suffering a heart attack at his Coolangatta home this morning. He was 59. MP was the greatest competitive surfer of the 70s. His story is one of rockstar-like status and one that is sure to endure: A volatile parallel with drugs and a unique and beautiful approach to riding waves. He may be most famously remembered for a car chase that required 35 cop cars to stop him, but more likely that classic cutback shot – surfing’s most iconic ever.
Sean Doherty, close family friend of the Peterson’s and author of his biography, MP: the Life of Michael Peterson, confirmed the news this morning: “Sadly he passed away this morning. At the moment it looks like he died of a heart attack. He’d been in poor health for a while, suffering from diabetes which had been triggered by his schizophrenia medication. In a way his passing seemed inevitable with his health the way it was, but in another way you got the feeling that he’d made it this far, and made it through so much, that he was indestructible, that he’d just keep on going.” Sean last saw MP in December, and remembers a happy man: “I had lunch with him before Christmas, and while he wasn’t in great shape physically, he was in good spirits, the best I’d seen him in a long while.”
Mick Fanning was delivered the news during a morning session on the Gold Coast. “I was surfing Snapper and walked past Rabbit (Wayne Bartholomew) and said the usual small talk and moved on,” said Mick. “Then Rab started walking towards me with a worried look on his face holding out his phone. It was my mum on the line. She told me the sad news but how ironic is it: the man who was also one of the original Cooly kids was right there to hear the news.”
Like many others, Mick will remember MP fondly: “Michael was a great guy to me always gave me the time of day,” he said. “We always had great chats about the old days and what he thought about surfing these days. His family and my family are really close so it’s hard to swallow right now but I’m sure he’ll be having a blast and riding single fins out Kirra for all eternity!!
He is survived by siblings Tom, Denise, Dorothy and mother Joan. – Sam McIntosh