Tom Petriken - Fishnets, Mr. T & Leprechauns

Posted: Apr 21,2012 Written by 
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What do Zippy the Chimp, an evil leprechaun Storm Trooper, gun blastin’ beauties, Mr T, Nancy Reagan and bikini-clad beauties with bags on their heads have in common?  Not a friggin’ thing.  But they all exist on Tom Petriken’s blog,, making it the most random cacophony of images, words and hilarious ‘Wait, What?! moments you’ve ever seen.  Smokin’ hotties from the ‘50’s holding the flippers of a giant penguin live next to Einstein and a naked mermaid holding onto the dorsal fin of a great white. 20ft. legs in fishnets frame images of the barrels he’s threaded and a water-skiing pyramid of super heroes. Famous mustached Americans pepper his accounts of living in a homemade igloo for 4 days with his husky. It’s all there (and more, much more) and somehow it all makes sense, because it’s connected by the kind of spontaneity that has defined his life and his approach to surfing. 

Spend some time with Tom and you know that his success is defined by his refusal to entertain boundaries.  In the water or out, his possibilities remain limitless, his direction unhindered.  Sure he’s faithful to his home state, his family and his Roberts surfboard (not necessarily in that order), but the rest of it is a blur of illumination and stoke.  He doesn’t worry about the ‘cool’ factor that bridles so many. He just follows his heart, works hard and seems impervious to worry. As a result, he’s carved out a sweet pro career, is developing a promising writing style and has the luxury of approaching life the way we all swear we would if only we had the means—with spontaneity, love and peace.

Read on for a bit more on this wickedly smart Garden Stater…

TSV:  Name, Age, Hometown?

TP: Tom Petriken. 23 years old. Pt. Pleasant Boro, NJ. 

TSV:  I saw that your parents competed professionally too?

TP: Yeah, my dad competed up and down the east coast in the ASP East in the Longboard Division. So, I was just always at the beach with them and my younger memories are around the contests and all, which was cool…Dad still surfs and he’s in his ‘50’s and he’s got a lung condition, but he still surfs.

TSV:  What are their names?

TP: Debbie and David.

TSV:  How long have you been a pro?

TP: Right around when I graduated high school, so 2006.

TSV:  How did the Reef sponsorship come about? What’s your role?

TP: They were actually my first sponsor from when I was a sophomore in high school at the rep level, then as I got better, it got built up to [being on ] the east coast team then  [getting added to ] the national team.

TSV: And who are your other sponsors?

TP: Insight, Roberts Surfboards, West Wetsuits, On A Mission, Vita Coco, Brave New World.

TSV:  So, you’re all about airs…?

TP: Uh…I wouldn’t say that. I mean, they’re fun to do. If it’s small, it’s always fun to mess around. But I just like getting barreled. If there aren’t barrels then I look for the next thing to keep me interested.

TSV:  So, why be based in NJ when so much of the industry is West Coast etc?

TP:  I spent a lot of time out there and I like the waves... In California, you can surf every day…like non-stop. But I was travelling so much…and certain months I wanted to be home.  Like May was the one month I wanted to be home for and I’d end up being somewhere else. So, I like to stick around, but if there’s waves somewhere else, then I’ll just dip out for a week. 

From 2007-2009, I was travelling a lot. I was doing the WQS, went to California, Mexico, Scotland, all over and I was missing stuff. It’s the worst when there are waves at home and barrels and you’re somewhere else. It’s frustrating.

TSV:  So, are you still doing the ‘QS?

TP: Nah…I stopped doing it. It was fun, but my surfing got robotic…and stopped progressing. So, once I stopped doing that and did more free-surfing trips, I realized that my surfing was so much better.

TSV: What do your sponsors expect from you?

TP:  To be a good role model, promote the brand to the area. I do surf lessons year-round….that kind of stuff is cool. It’s fun.

TSV:  I saw the sketches kids made for you after you gave them lessons.

TP: Oh yeah. They love surfing and it’s awesome to share something that I love with them. There’s no feeling like it. You can’t beat it. It’s insane. Even now [in the dead of winter] they want to go surfing.

TSV:  That’s rad!  Where have you travelled to?

TP:  Puerto Escondido 3 or 4 times.  Mexico and all the points on Mainland Mexico, like Barra. That wave is as good as it looks. It’s insane.  I’ve gone to Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Barbados, Puerto Rico. Went to Peru…right out of high school. Those were the longest lefts I’ve ever seen…That’s like a paradise. It’s so good.

TSV:  Still a little sketchy down there though?

TP: Well, we didn’t have any problems, but our tour guide was carrying a gun, so… I loved Scotland too. That was like a different world. We landed and drove like 10 hours or something from the airport….and we went by all these different castles. We saw where they had the [battlefields] of Braveheart’s William Wallace. That was stuff I’d never see and it was weird to be going there to go surf and see castles. There was even a castle on the beach at Thurso. And then there’s this hardcore surf community. It’s kinda like the same thing here. You could kind of relate to the local crew where they all love surfing and there’s the cold water...

I’ve been to Baja. Obviously Hawaii. Hawaii’s a lot of fun, but it’s a little crowded for me…

TSV:  Is the mustache the key to the surfing, the career, the everything?

TP: Yeah…I think everything, I don’t know. I’ve had it since summer of 2010. I think my sponsors like it more than my surfing. I probably wouldn’t have a girlfriend without it. (Laughs hard)

TSV:  And you’re a member of the American Mustache Institute?

TP:  Oh yeah. There’s actually a mustache-walk tomorrow or today. They’re trying to get a tax incentive for all mustache Americans that would go towards grooming, wallet sized photos of Burt Reynolds and all the rest of the stuff….should be interesting to see how that goes for them. (Laughs)

TSV:  Boards? 

TP:  I ride Roberts Boards [2011 Shaper of the Year by Surfing Magazine]. Mainly a 5’6” “Black Dumptruck” squashtail. For bigger waves, I ride a 6’0” Dill thumbtail. I’ve also ridden a 5’6” Black Thumb that goes great in all size waves.

TSV:  OK. So what is it about you and the VW Van?

TP:  Yeah! That’s Big Red!  I got her in the summer. My parents saw it on the side of the road and took a picture, thinking it was cool. Turned out it was for sale. I ended up checking it out and getting it for a good price. So everything on my blog is me restoring it, because it’s from 1971 and has had, gosh, who knows how many owners. My mechanic has been helping me out and has been a doing a ton of great, amazing work. When I first got it, it didn’t have brakes, heat…so now, it’s set.

TSV:  What was it about the van?

TP:  I just like old cars…We ended up seeing it and it was just too good to pass up. I kept driving back to it at night time and peeking in the windows and kept saying, ‘it’s pretty cool’…

TSV:  What was the deal with the igloo on your blog? Did you really stay in there?

TP:  Yeah, I stayed in there for like four days. It was that big snow storm last year and we were stuck in the house for 7 days.  I didn’t have anything else to do. So I started shoveling snow…and I thought, I might as well start doing this’. I’d done it before, but nothing this big. [it was absolutely massive. Enough room for a bed, clothes rack, his husky and a chiminaea. Check out the pics on his blog] It was definitely different staying in there at night. I was thinking of going to sleep at night and waking up to a raccoon in there (Laughs).

TSV: Alright, so what’s the deal with TheTommyLog? I love it! It’s completely random, but all somehow goes together and is fun. It made me think of other pro surfers’ artistic expressions like Ozzie Wright’s music or Dion Agius’ art/writing etc. Is that what you’re going for?

TP:  Actually, I started thinking of it when I was in the igloo. I just wondered why I’m not documenting things right now. And I thought if I posted it, maybe someone else would do a similar thing or relate to me….maybe I’d inspire someone else or put a smile on their face…

TSV:  What do you want to do next? What’s the next step?

TP:  Keep moving forward. I’m working on some different kinds of surf trips. The kind that might make people wonder how you got there. Not the traditional trips…I don’t mind putting on a 5 mil to go on a surf trip…