Michael Peterson Passes Away

The 1970's icon dies of a heart attack at the age of 59

| posted on March 28, 2012

Michael Peterson's iconic frontside cutback. Photo: Falzon

Legendary surfer Michael Peterson, commonly known as MP, passed away today in his home in Australia. He was 59. According to a report in The Australian, Michael’s death was allegedly caused by a heart attack.

Growing up along the Gold Coast, Peterson was a consistent standout at Kirra. In 1971, he acquired early fame when he appeared in the film Morning of the Earth. The following year, he landed a legendary cover of Tracks magazine and set his career ablaze. Peterson became one of the most highly regarded surfers of his generation, helping to usher in the shortboard revolution, taking multiple wins, and cementing his legacy as one of the country’s premier surfers. In 1977, Peterson, displaying his phenomenal tuberiding skills, took a win at the Stubbies Pro at Burleigh, a contest now regarded as the first ever World Tour event.

Although he was supremely talented in the water, Peterson’s life was not without hardship. A diagnosed schizophrenic, Peterson’s struggles included addiction and a 15-car police chase that resulted in Peterson doing time in prison.

When he was released from prison, Peterson became reclusive and chose to live his life outside of the limelight.

Despite his tribulations, there’s no denying that Peterson was an integral figure in surfing’s history. He will be missed.

Click here to read Michael Peterson’s profile in The 50 Greatest SURFER’s of All Time from the August 2009 issue of SURFER. MP finished 16th on the list. The author, Sean Doherty, was also MP’s biographer.

  • candice

    very sad,
    Rest in Peace.


  • Whamo

    I watched in awe as MP destroyed Sunset Beach during the “Hang Ten Pro” back in the day.

  • bcsilver

    Surf the endless ride from the heavens friend!

  • Handsome Rob

    Wow currently halfway thru reading his book and to find out he has passed away at 59 very sad to hear. but now the struggle is over and he can rest in peace. RIP MP. you were awesome.

  • derek

    Ocean Avenue Gold Coast 1972, we met, we smoked a joint, we went for a surf, we became friends. I still have that single pintail you gave me bro. Aloha

    R.I.P. M.P.

  • scott putnam




  • mieke

    ~ <3 may your wave you now ride be a lovely long one … blessings into your new place <3 ~

  • David Burke

    My heart is broken this evening. I recommend the 2009 doco “Searching for Michael Peterson”. Just watched it on the Sydney Morning Herald site –
    The biography ” MP – the life of Michael Peterson” also superbly fleshes out the man behind the legend.

    I can’t adeqautely describe what this man meant to me particularly as a teenager discovering surfing in that peerless decade of the 70’s. My best mate and I saw MP and all our other heroes at the first 2SM Coke Surfabout in Sydney in 1974. That day at Fairybower (around from Manly) when the waves were at 8-10 feet was magic.

    RIP Michael Peterson – I will never forget you.

  • Mauricio Melo

    Legends never die!

  • Frank Cicoria

    Very Sad….. MP rest in peace.

  • Paul Upton

    Gone but Never Forgotten.
    R.I.P MP
    STYLE ,INDIVIDUALITY, an inspiration for us young 40 + crew !!!
    Thanks for the memories !

  • Rob Wagner

    Lived w/ Mick (MP) on the North Shore winter 73-74……quite man that loved to surf, but not the limelight….made the cover of Surfer Mag that winter, backdoor……amazing quickness at Sunset, the guy was all over the wave with so much speed to burn.

  • jackson kai hayward

    MP loved the ocean…the ocean made him happy…some people never get to “feel” what its like to love the ocean, so MP was blessed in his life…may MP rest in the peace he so desired…sad day for many…and the ocean loses a partner…

  • Chris Funk

    It’s always sad when the people that got us stoked or shared our love pass from this world, but never forget the good moments in their life and the good moments they shared in your life, even if they never knew. RIP brother.

  • Whamo

    MP did for power surfing what Larry Bertlemann did for hotdogging.

  • John Arsenault

    I only met MP for a short minute between heats at Sunset Beach, but watching him slashing the lefts at Sunset inspired me to take the path less travelled. To surf as crazy radical as he did, yet make it look so easy was truly a special gift. My condolences to his family. MP fan 4 life RIP

  • Shane Egan

    MP was a “freak” with absolutely uncanny talent in the water. He was born to surf. He paddled like a jet-ski and probably could have towed-in another surfer. His wave-sense, timing and tube-riding was alien. His lip smacking and cutbacks were manic. His persona was magnetic and mysteriously Hollywoodesque- a supernova of the seventies. The star has gone but the light will shine forever!

  • Ria

    So beautiful, so talented, ride with the waves forever