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Deerhurst, Ted


English viscount, son of the 11th Earl of Coventry, who engineered what Australia's Surfing Life magazine called "a strangely beautiful surfing career."

Edward George William Omar Coventry, Viscount Deerhurst,was born in 1957. His Eton-educated father was a champion fencer, and his mother was an American starlet who briefly dated King Farouk of Egypt before marrying the Earl of Coventry. The marriage ended when Ted was a child, and in 1972 the 15-year-old Viscount was the subject of a long and bitter custody battle, after his mother spirited him away to live in California, where Ted discovered surfing. The Earl won the case and Deerhust was forced back to England, but at 18 he broke from his family and moved to Hawaii. Father and son reconciled not long afterward, when Deerhust was choosen to represent Great Britain in the World Amateur Surfing Championships.

Despite the fact that he had only middling success as an amateur, Deerhurst turned pro in 1977. He was handsome and likable, and while some pros resented the fact that he had essentially bought his way into the profession, he was for the most part a popular addition to the world tour. For years, Deerhurst was the only touring British pro. He came to the attention of the surfing world in 1982, when he was featured on the cover of Surfer magazine, posed with five custom surfboards and two hunting hounds on the rolling lawn in front of the family manor. He was nicknamed "The British Lion," although his world tour friends called him "Lord Ted."

Deerhust world tour trials and tribulations, year after year, became both a source of amusement and inspiration. "Try as he might," surf journalist Nick Carroll later remembered, "Ted could not get through a heat. Even when he was in form, something would go wrong; he'd miss his third wave, snap his leash, lose the shorebreak reform. But somhow, next event, Ted would be back, the British Lion, trying as hard as ever."

Deerhurst died of heart failure in 1997, brought on by an epileptic seizure, in a North Shore hotel room. He was 40, a law student at the University of Hawaii, and still surfing competitively.

Deerhurst made brief appearances in Storm Riders (1982) and Rolling Thunder (1991). Over the years, he shaped his own line of boards, and organized charity surfing events, including the 1986-founded Excaliber Cup, which raised money for Easter Seals.