I first met Peter Kraus (who you see here tearing it up back in the day) walking down the street in the early eighties. At the time he was our milkman, and because he was keen to get his round finished so he could get on with one of his adventures later in the day he asked if I would help him with the remaining deliveries for the princely sum of £1. That would have bought an 11 year old me a lot of sweets back then so I jumped at the opportunity.
We hit it off straight away and I ended up helping him deliver his round at weekends, during my holidays and even sometimes before school for the next four years. I can honestly say it was the only job I have ever had that I looked forward to going to each day, purely because we had so much fun together. It is also the reason why I have never been one for laying in bed for long, and always willing to get outside in the elements regardless of the weather because I am so hardened to it.
Pete was the first person to treat me like an adult, and continued to do so even when I was getting myself into all kinds of trouble that caused many others to give me a hard time or turn their backs on me. An example of this might be that he gave me my first driving lesson.
The reason for this was that if I drove the milk float then he could catch up on his bookwork as we went down the road. However I very much doubt that the local police would have been as impressed as I was with an eleven year old driving a motor vehicle through traffic on public roads. Pete trusted me though, and I should point out that my later efforts at driving the milk float off a cliff had nothing to do with this time. The results you see here were all my own work, but if I remember correctly he had actually managed to write off a couple of his own in his time.
One day we were out on the round and he told me that there were probably going to be good waves today, and asked if I would like to try surfing. He had got into it himself years before and still loved getting into the water. Prior to that time my only concept of surfing was the Old Spice aftershave advert and the titles to Hawaii Five-O.
After getting the all clear from my mother to go we went to Pete’s house to collect the gear. I can remember the mild alarm I had upon seeing a block of sex wax lying around while I waited there, wondering what it was and then being told to bring it!
We drove across North Wales and down to the end of the Llyn Peninsular to go to the beach, where it was Pete’s spare wetsuit and his old board that I was using in the session I have described in the Why? page of this website. It was nearly thirty years ago, and I still remember almost everything about that trip, and have never lost the love for riding waves that that day gave to me. It is a debt I owe to Pete, which I will never be able to repay.
The two of us went surfing a few times after that, and also invented the sport of urban surfing a milk float where we would take turns to climb out of the moving vehicle, climb up on the roof and surf it down the road. One of my most amusing memories of my childhood is going past an elderly lady brushing her teeth in the window of the first floor as I surfed along at eye level on the roof of our float. She didn’t have a clue what was going on but waved back when I saluted her on the way past.
It would be a few years before I was legally allowed to drive, and get myself to the beach but as soon as I could Pete was only too willing to give me an old board, surf magazines to keep the stoke alive between sessions, and a wetsuit because he knew there was no way I could afford to buy any of it myself. Regardless of the fact that the water temperature was less than 10C I surfed in that tatty old Rip Curl shorty for years.
As I moved on into university and then further away from North Wales with work we always stayed in touch and occasionally bumped into each other at the rugby. He was as ardent a Wales fan as I am, and always entertaining company.
Sadly over time he became troubled with illness, and his way of beating his own path didn’t always fit in with the conservative perspective of others. Despite this, his passion for environmental issues managed to get him elected to be a councillor for the Green Party, and by all accounts he caused mayhem insisting upon more radical approach to the way things got done. I know a lot of people didn’t approve of the way he went about things, but it always made me chuckle. You need mavericks to change the established order if it isn’t good enough and I thought it might be just the kick up the back side that any of the other politicians needed.
The last time I saw Peter was shortly before I left London. You can see him in this picture taken in my flat with the 7’2″ Dick Van Straalen board he had given me some twenty years earlier. He was in town and asked if he could have his board back. I have treasured it for the interim period and had it on display in my lounge, but could not refuse the request. Your first board is like your first child and any surfer would understand that he was the only person I would ever have given it up to.
We had a fun time together during his brief visit, and he read me a load of the poetry he had written recently, and he was surprised to find that many of the bands I have discovered by myself were some of his favourites from back in the day.
We have been in touch throughout this trip of mine, which simply wouldn’t be occurring were it not for Pete having introduced me to the sport that I love. He wanted to know about the waves I have been riding, the places I have stayed in and has even been good enough to put me in touch with several people so that I might get a bed for free on my way around.
As a consequence of all the above I can’t tell you how upset I am to report that Peter has taken his own life.
Rest in peace Pete.
You were too colourful for this world in more ways than one.
I’m sure that the water is warm and the waves are pumping wherever you are.