Drouyn, Peter


Innovative and drama-loving Australian surfer from the Gold Coast of Queensland; winner of the Australian National Titles in 1970 and world-ranked #6 in 1977; inventor of the man-on-man surf contest format; the sport's only surfer of note to come out as transgendered. "An immensely likable bundle of neurotic nervous energy," as surf writer Phil Jarratt noted in 1978.

Drouyne was born (1949) in Surfer's Paradise, Queensland, the son of a clothing store owner/jazz saxophonist, and began surfing at age nine. The sad-eyed, scruffy-haired regularfooter had an excellent run in the Australian National Titles, winning the juniors division in 1965 and 1966, placing second to Nat Young in the men's division in 1967 and 1969, winning in 1970 (the first Queenslander to do so), placing second in 1971, and finishing fourth in 1974 and 1976. In 1970 he also placed fourth in the Smirnoff, second in the Duke Kahanamoku Classic, third in the World Championships, and won the Makaha International. He finished second at the annual Bells Beach event in 1971, 1974, and 1977.

Drouyn made the late '60s transition from longboards to shortboards with ease. He rode aggressively, but with consummate control, and was one of the period's great stylists, using an open-knee stance, keeping a slight curve to his back, and combining elegant moments of trim with swooping arms-extended power turns. The theatrical Drouyn style was expressed just as strongly on land. "He demonstrated to me what show business was all about," fellow Queenslander and 1978 world champion Wayne Bartholomew said. "He had a caddy who would carry his boards around everywhere, while Drouyn walked around supreme, like Marlon Brando."

Drouyn was hired as contest director for the inaugural Stubbies Pro in 1977, held at his home break of Burleigh Heads, Queensland. Surf contest heats had up to that point been filled with anywhere from four to eight surfers; to put the spotlight more on the individual, Drouyn introduced a man-on-man format, which proved an instant success and was adopted for virtually all world tour events thereafter. (Drouyn's attempt to incorporate what he called "effective cheating"—to broaden the sport's audience appeal by allowing full contact between riders—was a failure.)

Long retired from competitive surfing himself, Drouyn nonetheless called out four-time world champion Mark Richards to a man-on-man "World Masters Super Challenge" in 1984, and promoted the event with full-page surf magazine ads of himself splayed out, wearing nothing but underwear, and splattered in ketchup, next to copy reading "I'm going to kill or be killed." Drouyn quit near the end of the event and declared the contest a tie (though Richards was well ahead on points), claiming he'd been struck by lightning.

In 1985, after receiving a B.A. in Asian studies from Brisbane's Griffith University, Drouyn introduced surfing to China, on Hainan Island in the South China Sea. He hoped to become China's national surfing coach, but was instead, for reasons unknown, asked to leave the country four months after his arrival.

Drouyn also studied acting (and briefly ran his own drama school), oceanography, and engineering. He sold life insurance door-to-door, owned three surf shops, drove a cab, worked as a surf coach, received a patent for the "Drouyn Wave Stadium," helped develop a Philippine surf resort, and made an unsuccessful bid to open a surf resort on an island off Yemen. Meanwhile, he also claimed (and not without some justification) that the surfing "power structure" had ignored or spurned him through the decades, viewing him as a grandiose troublemaker. "Drouyn was a good-looking kid," he later said in a typically mischievous half-ironic comment, "and that was a real problem for them. I'm sure there was some jealousy."

Drouyn started thinking about gender identity in 2003, after bursting an eadrum during a wipeout at Burleigh and nearly drowning. "I think Peter in fact died that day," he later said, "and the girl in me just popped out." Drouyn later began hormone replacement therapy, and took the name Westerly Windina. In early 2013, in Thailand, he had sex reassignment surgery.

Drouyn starred in the 1974 surf movie Drouyn and Friends, and was featured in more than a dozen others, including A Life in the Sun (1966), The Hot Generation (1968), Oceans (1972), and On Any Morning (1974). As of 2013, surf writer Jamie Brisick was producing Westerly: a Man, a Woman, an Enigma, a feature-length documentary on Drouyn's life.

Drouyn was married once and has one child.