I first met Peter King in the early 1980s when he was in his early teens and attempting to surf the inside rights at Windansea, near his home. He wasn’t really much of a surfer at the time, but that didn’t stop him from getting out there whenever the waves coincided with his free time.
He was a funny kid whom everyone liked and on the occasion of his 14th birthday, I bought him a twin-fin from Jeff McCoy for $35. I like to think it was that little board that flicked the switch to make him realize he could be great at the sport he was, until then, just playing at.
By the mid ’80s I didn’t see “PK,” the handle he was then known by, much. I heard about him though, through North County standout surfer Alan Nakamura, and others who were competing against him. PK was the new big thing at Windansea!
I spent two weeks in the winter of 1985 on the North Shore, at a house whose front window viewed the Pipeline. I would raise my head early and see Jonny Boy Gomes and Dane Kealoha battling it out for top dog honors at Backdoor while Joey Buran, Derek Ho and the late Ronnie Burns sat deep on the famous lefts.
To my knowledge, that was the first time PK had made his way to the big tent. While the 18-year-old didn’t exactly set the place on fire that day, his was a respectable showing and he certainly didn’t embarrass himself.
That was Peter’s first year on the pro tour where he traveled the world with the best surfers in the world, but always fell a few points short of breaking into a top slot. Nothing to feel bad about, only 16 of the world’s best surfers ever have that distinction.
The tour was grueling and expensive and Peter only stayed with it for a few years before settling back in La Jolla, where he surfed, skateboarded, raised his son Bunker, made music, hosted his own MTV show and co-starred in surf filmmaker Jack McCoy’s 1992 flick, “Green Iguana.”
PK was everywhere — playing music with Kelly Slater and Rob Machado in the short-lived “The Surfers,” which was something of an understatement with the GOAT, the crown prince and La Jolla’s finest hitting pleasant chords.
Then came filming for Hurley, something involving more travel, more music, more fun, a home Bible study that was more like a booze- and vulgarity-free frat party, and an all-access pass to the world of surf.
Somewhere along the long, winding road, I lost track of PK. Last I heard he had moved from La Jolla to Huntington Beach to be near his employer. Yesterday, I was told he was living in Hawaii, because it functions as a central hub between the Mainland, Tahiti, Japan, Australia, Micronesia and Fiji.
I hear he has continued to surf at a high level. He has become a brilliant water photographer as evidenced by his enlightening video-driven “Tour Notes,” which gives the inside track on pro surfing.
If I went looking for him it would be wherever there was the most action and fun to be had. God bless you, PK. That was the best $35 I ever spent.