THE diminutive blond Queenslander Peter Townend was considered to be one of the best surfers in the world during the 1970s and 1980s.
His close relationship with Cronulla stemmed from his job shaping boards and doing promotional work for Gordon & Smith surfboards, Taren Point.
Townend was very competitive. In the Australian titles he came second in the junior division in 1971 and second in the men's division in 1972-76. He made history when at 23, he became the first IPS/ASP world surfing champion in 1976.
Townend's Cronulla years were inspirational for a lot of the local surfers who had been without such a competitive presence since 1960s surfer Bobby Brown was killed in a pub fight.
This weekend "PT" makes a return to Cronulla to help celebrate Surf Retrospect — 100 Years of Surfing.
It was on February 7, 1915, when Duke Kahanamoku made his auspicious debut at North Cronulla, that surfing took place for the first recorded time in Sutherland Shire.
PT never met the Duke, who died in 1968, and it's one of his only surfing career regrets.
Townend's pedigree is still-first class; he surfed 11 Duke Kahanamoku Hawaiian Surfing Classics in 1972-1982 — a record for a Haole (non-Hawaiian).
There were 20 such events and all were covered by US channel ABC's Wide World of Sports — a first for world surfing. Competitors were selected by a poll of world-class surfers for your ability to surf at Sunset beach, Hawaii. Townsend is very proud of his appearances at the event where he reached the finals six times.
He will be a guest at Saturday's sold-out Surf Retrospect opening dinner at Rydges Cronulla and at North Cronulla Surf Life Saving Club, 10am-2pm, this Sunday.
Historic surfboards will be on display and there will be surf history talks.
Author John Ogden spent several years writing and researching the Saltwater People companion books, detailing the rich history of Sydney's beaches.
Saltwater People of the Fatal Shore - Sydney's Southern Beaches documents the coastline from South Head to Royal National Park.
Ogden believes it to be perhaps the more interesting of his two historical surfing books because of interest in Cook's landing and the arrival of the First Fleet. There are stunning photographs afforded by places such as "Ours" — a surf break at Kurnell and other world-recognised surf spots.
Ogden will speak at the Surf Retrospect Sunday session along with Graham Cassidy, of Cronulla, who was ASP's executive director in the late 1980s-early 1990s and helped push surfing into the professional realm, setting in place the WCT/WQS format and seeking mainstream sponsorship.
A retro surfboard display can be seen at 10am-4pm, this Sunday. Entry is by gold coin donation and anyone wanting to show off their boards is welcome to bring them along.
North Cronulla beach will host a surfing competition this weekend and there will be surf-themed markets in Dunningham Park.