PETER DAVI (far left) attempts to paddle into a wave by hand while most surfers in the water at Ghost Tree.
Credit: Alamy

The next day Peter Davi would be less fortunate and leave several on the water that day wishing they'd stayed with him. 
To hear locals tell it, Davi was the most loved, feared, and respected surfer from the Monterey Peninsula. He chased wintertime swells from Big Sur to Santa Cruz to Mavericks; in his teens he left for Oahu's North Shore to take on the world's most towering waves – and outsize egos. With his size, talent, and sheer force of will, he befriended Oahu's most imposing watermen, from Marvin Foster and Johnny Boy Gomes to Michael and Derek Ho to Garrett and Liam McNamara. "Because Pete charged hard and was so big, he could have been a bad boy if he wanted to," Liam McNamara says. "But he was a gentle giant, a soft-spoken family man who earned respect. He took care of you like a brother." 

In the mid-1980s Davi lived on Sunset Point, where he earned the nickname Pipeline Pete. "I had my most memorable sessions at Pipe with him," says McNamara. "I remember him and Derek Ho coming out of double barrels together, waves no one else could have made." 

"He was a good surfer, built like a lumberjack," Hamilton says. "There weren't many bigger. And he was always a gentleman."

"The big Hawaiians really loved the guy," says Ruffo, whom Davi called "Ledge," for "Legend." "He was a big haole [foreigner] who had their respect when the locals were still punching people out. He opened the door for a lot of Santa Cruz guys like me and Peter Mel." 

With money he earned fishing in 1986, Davi and his girlfriend Katrin Winterbotham bought some Big Sur property, where they planted fruit trees, fertilizing them with the guts of fish he hauled in. Two years later they had a son, Jake, who grew up with his dad hunting wild boar, surfing lineups from California to Oahu, and scouring the beaches and hills for shark teeth, arrowheads, and slabs of jade. A picture in Jake's room shows a father beaming with pride, wrapping a burly arm around a towheaded little kid in a pink wetsuit. 

"Pete had a huge heart," says Katrin, "and Jake was his favorite thing in the whole wide world."