Peter Drouyn Takes Surfing To China

Stu Nettle
The Rearview Mirror

In 1986 Australian surfer, inventor, and recent gender reassignment patient, Peter Drouyn, tried to establish a surf academy on Hainan Island, China.

After a decade long career in professional surfing - a career that included top-tier victories and contributions such as of man-on-man surfing - Drouyn retired without any tangible rewards for his efforts. In November 1985 he told Tracks, " Look, I've got nothing to show for all this achievement, skill and creativity. I could go and be a tyre fitter or I could stick myself back into something different and see where it goes."

So Drouyn did a course in Asian Studies at Griffith University, and whilst there got the idea of introducing surfing to China. After finishing the course he spent many months ploughing through the red tape that would allow him permission to do so.

Although it was only 24 years ago, China was very different to its current state, and gaining access behind the 'bamboo curtain' was very difficult. Officials were notoriously suspicious of anyone from the West. After Drouyn had convinced Chinese officials that surfing success was in their national interest they granted him access. He had the loftiest of goals, including entering a Chinese team at the 1988 ISA Games.

Drouyn had Chinese officials select thirty of the best young atheletes, shaped a quiver of boards and then flew over to Hainan Island, not even knowing if he was going to get surf. As it happens, Hainan does get surf, although mainly small and onshore. Drouyn stayed a month, training the Chinese groms, with some of them even getting to their feet by the end of his time in China.

The tale of Chinese surfing falls away about here because Drouyn didn't go back and China didn't enter a team in the 1988 ISA Games. Indeed, the 2010 ISA Games were completed this week in Peru and although 32 nations entered, China wasn't one of them.

That's not to say Chinese surfing ground to a halt, however.

A year later, in 1987, an American contingent comprised of Matt George, Willy Morris, John Damm and Rell Sunn went to Hainan. There they found kids playing in the shorebreak on the leftovers of Drouyn's boards. The American's affectionately called the children - some of whom were Drouyn's old pupils - the Thunderdome Kids, in reference to 'Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome', where abandoned children await the return of a hero to rescue them.

Since then a mix of Western expats and curious travellers have slowly spread surfing into China. It has been very slow on the uptake, especially compared to other countries where it instantly flourished, yet on November 6th China will have its first professional surfing competition. Fittingly it will be on Hainan Island where Peter Drouyn - now known as Westerly Windina - first introduced surfing 26 years ago.

Comments

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Sunday, 31 Oct 2010 at 10:15pm

I kinda feel guilty in commenting on Ms. Windina`s choice of lifestyle in Stu Nettles recent article `Empire of the Sun`. If you read this Westerly, my apologies.

Unfortunately, in this day and age this display of altruism is sadly the exception rather than the rule and even though it`s taken time his efforts have come to fruition. He can take solace in the fact that it is he that brought surfing to China. I hope at the start of the contest they take a moment to reflect and acknowledge the efforts of this fine man-chick.

As a footnote, Taiwan would be a good place for a contest- it`s around this time of the year that Taiwan pumps. Are you listening Ripcurl?

1173

1963-malibu's picture
1963-malibu's picture
1963-malibu commented Monday, 1 Nov 2010 at 8:18pm

Drouyn is a legend of surfing.

texwedgenald's picture
texwedgenald's picture
texwedgenald commented Friday, 28 Jan 2011 at 9:00am

Peter Drouyn was a great surfer but unfortunately has become a kook in his life choices. I think his obsession to be famous was the end of him. Sure he deserved more from the surfing community but sometimes you have to be content with the cards dealt to you. We are all a sum of the choices we make.

texwedgenald's picture
texwedgenald's picture
texwedgenald commented Friday, 28 Jan 2011 at 9:01am

Peter Drouyn was a great surfer but unfortunately has become a kook in his life choices. I think his obsession to be famous was the end of him. Sure he deserved more from the surfing community but sometimes you have to be content with the cards dealt to you. We are all a sum of the choices we make.

1963-malibu's picture
1963-malibu's picture
1963-malibu commented Tuesday, 1 Feb 2011 at 10:16pm

Drouyn invented the format for modern surfing competition and never got a dollar from it. That would be enough to ruin just about any man.

Look how big surfing became from the successful compeitions and the world champions that sell the product. Drouyn had to sit there and watch that happen, watch all those companies make all that money off the back of his idea and he never got a dollar from it.

Drouyn dealt the cards, actually, in 1977 and the corporates took the cards and ran off with them.

the-spleen_2's picture
the-spleen_2's picture
the-spleen_2 commented Wednesday, 2 Feb 2011 at 12:35am

Man-on-man surfing is overrated. Not the actual concept of it - it's never been bettered - but the story behind the 'invention' of man-on-man is overrated.

It took no visionary leap to create the format. If you ask me it was simply a logical progression and would've happened if Drouyn came along or not.

Besides, you cant credit him with 'inventing' it as he just copied a tennis draw.

1963-malibu's picture
1963-malibu's picture
1963-malibu commented Wednesday, 2 Feb 2011 at 2:45am

Drouyn changed competitive surfing. Easy to say with hindsight that the idea was so simple anyone could have come up with it. But the same could be said for many great ideas in history.

Fact, Drouyn did it and it was his lifes mission and he got sidelined, never made a penny from his work and it destroyed him on some level.