Michael Peterson, the Queensland surfer who was widely regarded as the best in the world before proper world titles were introduced, has died. He was 59.
The most famous image of Peterson, from the 1972 movie Morning of the Earth, of him performing a high-speed cutback, remains one of the sport’s most iconic moments.
Peterson was virtually unbeatable in the early 1970s, winning three Bells trophies and several Australian titles.
“He was an incredible surfer and an inspiration,” said Ian Cairns, one of Peterson’s peers, from his home in California.
“He had a great style and perfect transition between maneuvers. He had carve and flow, he competed waves, he never missed a section. And he was driven to compete.”
Soon after his competitive peak, Peterson began to suffer from drug-induced mental illness and became a recluse, living with his mum.
His death was reportedly from a heart attack.