Dane Peterson: Live Life Long and Short

Not for him the adrenalin-fuelled, thrusting world of the one board, surfing stereotype – Dane Peterson knows how to get his kicks and it’s on anything and everything he can find.

I clamber over squeaky sand hills that make my teeth itch, shake the lagging sea lice from my shorts and feel the warm Pacific run off my skin. Burying my feet, I turn triumphantly to admire the panorama. Fall is in full swing. The day has cooled itself and the water calms to mirror the sky above. A broken swell begins to find form and sweeps through a small crowd sifting for gold. The waves occasionally section with the low tide but allow a few tight turns before a sprint finish.

I glimpse a slight figure rise with a particularly shapely swell, angle right and drop smoothly to the bottom. Finding its curve, he veers towards the crest and throws a spectacular backlit rooster tail. Swooping through a quick hollow, the rider arcs around a house and returns to the soup, steadying himself on a ball of foam. The wave draws level, begins to quicken and falls in time as the surfer stoops to catch a falling lip. He is momentarily obscured by the breaking wave before making a clean exit to full deadman-kickout.

A silhouette shakes the shorebreak and bolts towards me flush with stoke: “That was so fun!” he shrieks. “This thing works insane!”

He holds aloft a 5’4, four finned, garishly hand-painted vessel dubbed ‘the biscuit’. Introducing my friend Dane Peterson.

D.P walks with a skip to his step, as if ready to break at speed. A gremmie-like energy abounds a character too big for his slender frame. At 5’7 buzzed blond, Peterson is the same height as his beloved Frye fish (a birthday present from Skip himself), neatly proportioned with a smile sure to lift even the most sodden of spirits.

A talent born of Malibu California, D.P has graduated from a curve of significant historical lineage to rest atop one of the most revered and prestigious line-ups in the world.

At 12 years young he began surfing ‘the Bu’ with his father, himself a talented and innovative surfer and shaper. D.P’s roots are set firm in a profound appreciation for the heritage, artistry and expression allied with a weighty, single-hooked approach, affectionately termed ‘loggin’. In this, he is quick to acknowledge the significant influence of elders Denny Aaberg, Wayne Rowland and Josh Fareberow among a litany of others. Reared on ‘Scrappy doo’s’ (“The only waves the boys would let me catch for years…”) a studious Peterson has since honed his extraordinary abilities to become a contemporary whiz kid and local heavy.

In 1999 a fledgling Peterson was showcased via filmmaker Thomas Campbell’s artful offering, The Seedling – a documentation of a small pod of California log riders. A speedy sepia toned 16mm sequence of Peterson stomping the ground at Malibu captures an infectious youthful vitality, which has carried to later years. Thereafter, an accomplished surfer soon sprouted to front a major shift in the paradigm.


In 2004 Campbell released his second movie, Sprout, to champion a loose and hedonistic ideal – ride everything and have fun doing it. A philosophy already well established in Peterson’s own surfing; choosing to forego the spoils of mainstream surf-stardom and a stifling competitive career, D.P instead set himself the challenge to ride the spectrum.

“I wanted to be able to ride any type of board the way it should be ridden, whether it’s a 5’5” twinnie, a 5’9” thruster, 9’4” traditional style longboard, or even a 12 footer,” he says.

Refusing to be boxed, Peterson sought to amass a holistic quiver and set about mastering the idiosyncracies of each design.

Sure to steer even the most stubborn of ol’ hogs and hold its nose for the entirety of a ride, D.P possesses an innate sensibility and deftness of touch. So to, on the very next swell will likely draw a short stick, and blaze a trail to burn with the best. Hot-footed in even the most challenging of liquid scenarios, Peterson exudes calm and cool throughout, together with a beautifully restrained aesthetic. A seemingly bottomless bag of futuristic trickery has lifted levels of performance longboarding to heady heights.

Peterson shrugs the hang-ups and surfs for kicks, infused with a unique sense of freedom. I once recall watching him fox a particularly surly pack at The Pass, Byron Bay Australia. Amongst the bustle of a mid summer crowd, D.P strokes into a smoking right-hand barrel aboard a 5’6 fish, pulls to his knees, spreads a toothy grin and drives a true groove into the tube, tipping his hat all Greenough-esque. He would later pronounce it the best wave he had ridden in months and henceforth developed a sincere interest in kneeboarding.

By extension, D.P’s surfing does much to counter an apparent mule-headed ignorance among many surfers too unwilling to explore alternatives. Fed by specialist and mainstream media apparatus which continue to push the adrenalin fuelled, pro-driven formulaic to a largely design-illiterate consumer, these surfers remain blind to the possibilities that experimenting can afford. However, Peterson’s multidimensional tack along with other visible forerunners (Joel Tudor and Dave Rastovich) could be just what is needed to get people to wake up and see where surfing should be headed, coaxing others to follow suit.

Matter of fact, surfers are a people with innumerable personalities and approaches to riding waves. Such diversity is to be celebrated and attests to the ingenuity and creativity of our kind. Peterson’s surfing espouses a simple tenet and so to this rap. My pitch: surf like no one is watching.