Hey All,

I have pulled a few historiographical boners in my day, more than a few, but the results by and large have been humbling instead of mortifying. I wrote that former Top 16 pro Wes Laine was from West Virginia, for example, instead of Virginia Beach, which mistake-wise is a long way from signing off on a King James Bible run with “Thou shall commit adultery” jumping off the page like Magic Mike in encore mode.

My biggest muff was from 2001, while researching the print version of Encyclopedia of Surfing. For the “sandboarding" entry we got in touch with Lon Beale, aka Dr. Dune, Harvard grad and gatekeeper of all things sandboard-related—the Matt Warshaw of his sport, let’s say, except I know when to give up the mustache, ironic or not. Beale was nothing but gracious and knowledgable and when he shared with us the amazing fact that sandboarding dates back to ancient Egypt, that choice bit of sporting history went straight from his lips to EOS.

Sixteen years later, when the sandboarding page was due to post on the EOS website, I again reached out to Beale to see if the text still held up. I opened by reminding him we’d already met and gone through the same process back in 2000.

BEALE: Yes I remember and I’m happy to help. How accurate do you want this to be?

ME: Accurate! But tight. Have to keep the length down.

BEALE: Okay, the whole story about the ancient Egyptians is bogus. We just made it up to mock the media as gullible.

ME: Ha! That is so in print in my book!

BEALE: Yeah, we see it everywhere and it always makes us laugh but we only released it to one source and it was just picked up over and over again. Sorry Matt, I’m fessing up. We figured the alien story would likely be unaccepted so we went with the Egyptian story.

Encyclopedia of Surfing

Respect to Beale for committing to the bit. I just checked, and, founded by Dr. Dune, is still pushing the Egypt story, and now I’m wondering if maybe I’ve been double-reverse trolled and the Egyptians did invent sandboarding, because it still makes perfect sense, and if I’ve been played twice, in two different directions, well then—I bow down, and well done, sir.

I can say with total certainty that sandboarding existed in 1965.

A mistake that I genuinely regret is being party to the idea, handed along now for nearly 60 years, that Peter Troy introduced surfing to Brazil. Troy, a tall, lanky, blond-haired, blue-eyed surfer from Victoria, Australia, cofounder of the Bells Beach contest, arrived in Rio in the winter of 1964, halfway through an epic four-year surf trip through Europe and the Americas. What happened there, exactly? In a 1968 SURFER profile, Troy was said to have “influenced surfing techniques in Brazil.” In a second profile, from 1987, edited by yours truly, it states without equivocation that Troy was “the first person to surf in Brazil.”

Encyclopedia of Surfing

Encyclopedia of Surfing

Encyclopedia of Surfing

The story goes that Troy walked onto the beach at Copacabana and spotted a brand-new imported surfboard laying in the sand next to a rich local kid who had no idea what to do with it. Troy borrowed the board, paddled out and gave a demonstration, and if you go online right now and search “Peter troy surfing Brazil” this is the creation moment for Brazilian surfing.

It is total nonsense. Brazilian surfers have always known it. So did Peter Troy.

Peter died in 2008. We never met in person, but a few emails were exchanged. He was gregarious and likable, and if there was a whiff of hustle and self-promotion about him, it never crossed over to grossness. America’s first look at Troy, in print, was the ’68 article mentioned above, and there’s our man sitting roadside in the middle of nowhere, with surfboard and suitcase, thumb in the air, “on another leg of his 125,000-mile surfing odyssey.” Dramatic and adventurous, very Endless Summer.

Except the photo was taken on a vacant lot across the street from SURFER, which maybe technically doesn’t make it bullshit—Troy was a long way from home and on the move—but we’re not fully on the level here, either.

Encyclopedia of Surfing

In other words, Peter tended to his global surf-adventurer reputation the way Greg Noll tended to his big-wave legend. When the story outgrows the facts, well, what’s the harm in just seeing how things play out. That’s how Greg Noll backdoored his way into becoming the first to ride Waimea. And that’s how Peter Troy, in the English-speaking world anyway, came to be the first person to surf in Brazil.

I won’t gainsay Troy’s claim to being “surfing’s first vagabond” (Surfer’s Journal) or a “real-life Indiana Jones” (Sydney Morning Herald), and he was for sure the sport’s first Middle East deportee after getting ejected from Syria for what SURFER coyly referred to as “trying to smuggle in kosher Mexican jumping beans.” But he missed being the first person to surf in Brazil by 25 years, give or take, and the best part about cleaning up this ahistorical and imperialistic-leaning blot on surf history is that Troy himself has performed the service for us—from beyond the grave, no less.

In To the Four Corners of the World—a gorgeous, wildly readable book made up of Troy’s journal entries and letters written during his travels and published posthumously in 2010—Troy describes in detail the afternoon he first surfed in Brazil, at Arpoador Beach. Read the whole passage here, but for now just know that he describes “local surfers” and “surfboards by the dozen,” and not only is Troy surprised and delighted, he goes straight from the beach to the home of one of the wave-riding cariocas where he is “taken in with open arms.”

Next week we’ll get into the amazing scene Troy fell into there on the beach at Arpoador, the sun and the skin, bossa nova and coup d’etat, and the best-looking surfboards you’ve ever seen.


[Photo grid, clockwise from top left: Liz Taylor in 1963’s Cleopatra; Peter Troy; Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro; Peter Troy in Ecuador; vintage West Virginia promo logo; sandboarding in 1965. Lon “Dr. Dune” Beale, 2007. Peter Troy postcard, sent from Rio, 1964. Arpoador surfer, possibly Peter Troy, 1964, photo by Tito Rosemberg. Troy sitting outside of SURFER magazine, 1968, photo by Brad Barrett. Color portrait of Troy, date unknown. Thanks to surfing historian Reinaldo Andraus for help with the part about Rio in 1964.]