In Narragansett, Peter Panagiotis is a household name. But, if you’re a surfer, you’d know his name anywhere in the world. Nicknamed “Peter Pan” by the announcer at the 1968 Newport Surfing Championships, he’s a local legend and a surfing icon. Remaining true to the “find something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” motto, Panagiotis’ life has revolved around surfing since he started the sport at 13 years old. His involvement with Bic Sport Surfboards began in 1979 when the company introduced the first ACS production 7’9” Natural Surf Model, and he has never looked back. Remaining true to his local routes, he owns Narragansett Surf and Skate, which his daughter (also an avid surfer) now runs. They design their own clothing and surfboards to the local surfers and skate boarders, and are the only surf shop in New England that rents gear and teaches lessons all winter long!
His worldwide surfing accolades are long, including being the only surfer on the East Coast to win four separate events at one contest at the 1993 Northeast Championships, as well as becoming the oldest competitor to win the Ironman Trophy at the 2017 East Coast Championships Northeast Surf-Offs.
Pan’s surfing photography from the 1960’s was a major element in the design of The Break Hotel and we thought we’d take a few moments to play 20 questions with Pan. Enjoy!
- Give me three words to describe yourself. Dedicated Surf Addict.
- You’re a new addition to the Crayola crayon box. What color would you be and why? Blue/Green! The color of our ocean water.
- What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your resume and long list of surfing championships? I have lost just as many as I have won.
- When did you begin to surf and how did you first become involved with surfing? I began surfing at the Narragansett Town Beach in the summer of 1963, because my friend, Russell, said it was a good place to meet girls.
- What’s your first memory of surfing? Actually, catching a wave near the seawall on my first surfing experience, and feeling the thrill of flying on water.
- Tell me about someone who has influenced your surfing and why. Gary Propper, the first true East Coast surfing professional, who took me under his wing, and helped me to improve my contest surfing.
- As you look back on your life and your surfing career what was the most painful lesson you were required to learn? The older you get in this sport, the more you have to train to be able to even maintain a half way decent riding skill. You also have to know when to back off, or increase your chance of injury. No matter what anyone says…in surfing…age matters.
- Do you have any words of wisdom for those who have never surfed before and want to? If you are really serious about learning to surf, take a lesson from a professional instructor that is certified by the National Surf School Instructors Association. Aspiring surfers need to take a lesson. Your friends are not going to teach you correctly.
- You seem like someone who is always growing and learning. Is there any one thing you would like to take the time to learn more about? It seems to help you in everything you do…sports or otherwise!
- Tell me about an accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant. Bringing up two normal children who are functioning adults.
- Favorite surf spot in the world? That is easy! The reef breaks right near the Break Hotel. I have been surfing there since the 1960’s.
- Favorite time of the year to surf and why? The dead of the winter right here in Narragansett! No crowds.
- If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Swim like a fish. I am a really bad swimmer!
- If you met a genie and were granted three wishes, what would they be? Win the lottery so I don’t have to work… surf in good waves with no crowd…. and have great snow at Yawgoo Valley in the winter so I can snowboard there (I’ve been working there for over 20 years).
- What do you do when you’re NOT surfing? Working for Bic Sport Surfboards in West Wareham, Massachusetts, or teaching group fitness classes at the South County YMCA for the past 6 years.
- Why is Narragansett so near and dear to your heart? Because this is one of the best surfing areas in the world, and you can still surf by yourself here if you are willing to look around.
- Your photography really inspired the retro-surfer vibe of The Break Hotel. What does it mean to you to have your personal photos showcased to their guests? I am honored that they used my photos. I think they did an awesome job of displaying them as well!
- You’ve been referred to as “a Rhode Island diehard” … For guests coming to stay at The Break Hotel, what are your top three “must see and do” places/events in the local area? Do a trip up the Narrow River with either a paddle board or a kayak…go surfing at one of the many surf spots on and around the hotel, or take a private surfing lesson…take a ride on the Block Island Ferry and check the island out.
- Tell us a little about Narragansett Surf and Skate – what makes it unique and what can visitors find there? Narragansett Surf and Skate is the descendant of the original Narragansett Surf Shop, which I ran for Bill and John Spicer in the 1960’s, which was located on Beach Street, across from the sea wall. Once it closed, we opened up the Watershed in Wakefield, with the same products and dealerships. This ran from 1975-2000. We then moved out of Wakefield and opened our current location. Other shop owners claim that they have been around for decades, but we are the real thing. Our shop has always catered to the locals, and we encourage new comers to the sport. We design our clothing and surfboards to the local surfers and skate boarders, since we do it ourselves. We are the only surf shop in New England that rents gear and teaches lessons all winter long.
- Is there anything else you would like to share with us? I think that the Durkins have done an insane job with the hotel, and it blows away anything similar in Southern Rhode Island. From the rooms to the restaurant, the bar to the pool, The Break rocks! And it should.