Peter Pan: This surfer might be grown up, but he has no plans of slowing down

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By KELLY SMITH
 
"It's all I do," said 56-year-old Peter Pan of Pawtucket. "That's why I don't make any money."
Though he was half-kidding, since he was a Cranston teenager in 1963, Pan has been hitting the waves of Rhode Island, surfing non-stop, turning a hobby into an addiction.
"When I was a teenager growing up, The Beach Boys were very popular and surfing was the thing to," he said. "All the guys wanted to do it. If you wanted to go meet girls, you go surfing. As we got older, everybody else quit, but I kept going. I just never stopped." Over time he competed in scores of surfing competitions all over the place, winning several awards and was even inducted in the Surfing Hall of Fame.
"I was one of the first 21 surfers inducted from the East Coast," said Pan. "That was 1996 and I was the only one in the Northeast picked."
Pan was also the first surfer from New England to ever place in a professional contest and has been a finalist in several East Coast championships and is also a national body boarding champion.
In fact, Pan had surfing to thank for his name. Shortened from Panagiotis, an announcer at a late 60s surfing contest had trouble with the Greek surname and dubbed the surfer Peter Pan. (And you thought it was because he refused to grow up!)
Pan said he worked "normal" jobs for a few years, like the seven years he worked in New York City as an art director for a magazine, but as surfing became "an addiction [he] couldn't stop," Pan found other ways to earn a living. Between designing surfboards for big name companies like Hobe and Dick Surfboards and giving lessons, surfing has become profitable for the father of two adult children (one of whom, a daughter Trisha, also surfs). He also teaches cardio-kickboxing for Gold's Gym, gives snowboarding lessons in the winter and is a freelance sports writer.
"It's the best thing there is," he said. "It's not just a lifestyle, but an addiction. It's a fix, a natural fix. People who surf aren't just getting exercise, but having fun. It's just a good thing to do."
When asked when he plans to give up skating, Pan said, "Never. I'll stop when I'm dead."
Though Pan says he's surfed all over the world in places like California, Australia, Peru and the Caribbean islands, he said the best place to surf is right here in Rhode Island.
"Narragansett Town Beach is my favorite place in the world," he said. "It's the best surf there is. I know where everything is, every part of the beach. I know just when to go and it has the most consistent surf."
What about the winter, one might ask.
"It's even better in the winter," he said. "It cuts the crowd down. I love it.
"I surf no matter how cold it is," he added. "The best waves are when it's a blizzard."
But, Pan warns, surfing in the winter isn't for just anybody.
"You've got to make sure you work out all the time and exercise," he said. "You have to be in good shape to deal with the elements. You have to wear thick a wetsuit and it takes a lot more to move around in it. You use a lot more energy and burn a lot more calories. It takes a lot of strength to surf in the winter. People out of shape can't even last out there 10 minutes in the wetsuit."
So, what's so great about surfing?
"The thing is every wave is different," he said. "I'm never bored and it's always a challenge. If it wasn't, it wouldn't be fun anymore. You practice to get good, but practicing surfing is fun. I ran high school and college track for years and it was a lot of work. Practicing running 10 miles in the sun is not as much fun."
Pan said he's given surfing lessons to hockey players who have decided hitting the waves beat hitting the ice and switched their sport of choice.
When asked how wife Jane feels about his surfing, he admitted though she is a "surfing widow," she finds ways to occupy her time.
"She kind of resigned herself to that a long time ago, but she does her own thing," he said. "She used to skateboard, but she wrecked a few times so she stopped that a while ago."

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