077: Peterson & Naughton/The Search For The Perfect Wave

Craig and Kevin at the height of their odyssey. Photo: Craig

“Some people just have the travel spirit in their blood. That’s how it was for us”.

I’ve been wanting to bag this one for years. Craig Peterson and Kevin Naughton are surfing’s very own Lewis and Clark, two Orange County boys who in the early 1970s embarked upon surfing’s most legendary odyssey, traversing the world looking for waves and defining the golden age of surf travel and exploration.

Kevin in El Salvador, 1973. Photo: Craig

It was an impossibly romantic journey that saw them spend a decade questing their way across the Americas, Europe and Africa, documenting the entire thing in a series of massively influential dispatches for Surfer Magazine, and creating the wave hunt template that everyone from Kepo Acero to Chris Burkard follows today.

Early Baja explorations. Photo: Craig

I first interviewed Craig over 15 years ago, and once my California road trip was confirmed I got back in touch with Craig and arranged to meet them and record an episode while I was staying in Huntington Beach. Which is what myself and Owen Tozer did, heading to Kevin’s SoCal residence to sit down and go over the entire story.

On the road again. Photo: Craig

And what a joy the resulting conversation was, enlivened by some of surfing’s greatest tales and the generosity of Craig and Kevin themselves. Sure, they might not enjoy the same renown as some of their peers and contemporaries, but their contribution to surf culture is as great as anybody’s. It is a true pleasure to help the duo bring their story to a new generation.

A legendary Surfer magazine cover from 1980. Photo: Craig.

I’ve got to thank Craig and Kevin for their hospitality and for being so enthusiastic about coming on the show. Hope you enjoy this glimpse into a classic period of surf history as much as I did.

Me with Craig and Kevin, April 2019. Photo: Tozer

Show Notes

  • A recent Surfer article about Kevin and Craig.
  • Barry’s Tea
  • Local effects of climate change.
  • A legendary Del Mar contest.
  • Having travel bug from an early age.
  • Craig becaming staff photographer at Surfer aged 15.
  • Stealing Ron Stoner’s lens.
  • The moment Kevin and Craig first met.
  • The travel articles that got Kevin’s interest in surfing as a teenager.
  • The surf scene in Ireland in 1969.
  • The surf scene in Biarritz in 1970.
  • Camping in the woods and working at youth hostels so Kevin could surf in France in 1970.
  • The old photo of Bernie Baker at El Zunzal, El Salvador.
  • The 70s ethos.
  • The “test” Kevin set Craig to meet him in the remote El Zunzal.
  • First travels together in Central America.
  • Naming surf breaks after former and future girlfriends.
  • Tracking new surf breaks with nautical charts and word of mouth.
  • “The primitive way of travelling”.
  • Travel philosophy: “the less you know, the more fun the adventure gets”.
  • Discovering the best right hand point in Central America.
  • Discovering Tamarindo, Costa Rica.
  • Revisiting Tamarindo 40 years later.
  • The hunt for points and river mouths.
  • Freshwater crocs
  • The legacy of Jaco.
  • Surfer Magazine’s initial concerns about them travelling to Central America.
  • Hitchhiking with backpacks and one surfboard each.
  • Meeting very few surfers during their travels.
  • The likelihood of skunkdom
  • Local reactions to “riding on water”.
  • Scepticism from authorities.
  • Being a traveller in the 1970s: “things were more innocent”.
  • “It should be mandatory for people to live in a different place before they go to college”.
  • Tapping into Europe before the surf scene exploded.
  • The impact of warm water wetsuits and improved kit
  • Not returning to places where you hold such great memories.
  • Their modern hunt.
  • Where Kevin and Craig surf now.
  • When the ten year travel heydey slowly ended.
  • Being the first few guys to discover surf in Tavarua, Fiji.
  • The 80s boom in surfing and start of the ‘surf resort’.
  • The need for underground culture.
  • The new era of not being secretive with surf spots.
  • Their top 5 best waves.
  • “We’re still travelling for the perfect wave”.
  • Sketchiest moments from their travels – including close calls with illnesses and arrests.
  • How surfing is becoming more territorial.

People Mentioned

  • Herbie Fletcher
  • Matt Warshaw
  • Jim Banks
  • Timmy Turner
  • Kepo Acero
  • Greg Long
  • Chris Moran
  • Owen Tozer
  • Jeff Divine
  • Ron Stoner
  • Hugh O’Brien
  • Alan Duke
  • Martin Lloyd
  • Ted Alexander
  • Bernie Baker
  • Greg Carpenter
  • Miki Dora
  • Belinda Baggs
  • Jamie Brisick
  • Chad Smith
  • Colin Kennedy
  • Mark Martinson
  • Bill Hamilton

Places Mentioned

  • Huntington Beach
  • Tramore, Ireland
  • Rossnowlagh, Ireland
  • Lahinch, Ireland
  • Bundoran, Ireland
  • Biarritz, France
  • Le Barre, France
  • North Shore, Hawaii
  • Oregon
  • El Zunzal, El Salvador
  • La Libertad, El Salvador
  • Puntarenas, Costa Rica
  • Punta Roca, El Salvador
  • Tamarindo, Costa Rica
  • Jaco, Costa Rica
  • Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica
  • The Canary Islands
  • Barbados
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • Dakar
  • Liberia
  • Portugal
  • Anchor Point, Morocco
  • Aglou, Morocco
  • CasaBlanca, Morocco
  • Cape Mount, Liberia
  • Dixcove, Ghana
  • Ivory Coast
  • Waikiki, Hawaii
  • Afghanistan
  • Hossegor, France
  • Tavarua, Fiji
  • Cloudbreak, Fiji
  • Restaurants, Tavarua, Fiji
  • Baja, Mexico
  • Bundoran Peak, Ireland
  • Scorpion Bay, Mexico
  • Jeffreys Bay, South Africa
  • Mundaka, Spain
  • Portrush, Ireland
  • Mammoth
  • Ventura
  • Malibu
  • LA
  • San Diego

Companies/Brands/Organisations Mentioned