Backside air way way back when. Photo: Flame/A-Frame.


The most radical man in the history of surfing. Not only did Pottz do it all, he did it with a style purely his own, and a style one that would influence the sport for generations to come. 1989 ASP World Champ, the first surfer to stick an aerial, a feared competitive firebrand and one of the few haoles to
win respect on the North Shore in his era, Pottz represented everything that was hard and fast about surfing in the 1980’s. After fleeing the violent political turmoil of mid-seventies Rhodesia, Pottz was raised in Durban, South Africa. As a 15 year old he won his first professional contest, at home, beating the then king of South African surfing himself, Shaun Tomson. His introduction to the top flight was a baptism of fire. Post-Busting Down the Door, competitors would often survive off solely their contest winnings. With a gruelling 20 plus event schedule, most of which were held in small beach breaks with no priority rule, this was no atmosphere for the meek. In one of Pottz’ first heats the usually passive Mark Richards ran straight over him with his signature twin fin. By the time he’d come of age, Pottz was
a competitive animal that new no bounds. When it came to big waves, however, his reputation was destroyed during the North Shore season of ‘81 after he fled the islands when a 20 foot swell was forecast to hit a contest he was supposed to compete in. The following season, with much to prove, he rode what is still rated as one of the ballsiest waves at Pipeline ever – a heaving 10 to 12 foot throater in a heat with Derek Ho. Pottz was 17. There was no doubt he was the most radical freesurfer the sport had ever seen, but it remained to be seen whether he could put it together in a world title year. Not helping his cause was the fact he was one of the wildest party boys going. In 1989, with the help of his manager, he trained the house down and destroyed his competition to claim the world title by the largest margin in history, the only record Kelly has yet to break.

– JS

Portrait: Timo


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