Peter Pichler's memory lives on in St Francis Xavier's College Surfing Competition

STUDENTS from St Francis Xavier’s College in Hamilton have swapped school for the surf to celebrate the legacy of much-loved teacher Peter Pichler.

Mr Pichler, who passed away from pancreatic cancer on July 3 this year, established the Show Day board competition in 1974 at the school, then known as Hamilton Marist Brothers.

It has run every year since, although it was cancelled last year due to poor conditions.

Teacher Justin Gordon said the event – rebranded this year as the St Francis Xavier’s Surfing Competition, was the first time it had been planned for a school day, at this time of year and without Mr Pichler’s assistance.

“This would have to be close to the longest running school surfing competition in the world,” he said.

“Pete continued to be involved in it and would be doing the barbecue and judging all day for us.

“It’s nice to be able to continue his legacy in this way – we really feel his absence and he’s still really missed across the whole community.”

Mr Gordon said 45 year 11 and 12 students, including around 14 girls, participated in the “give it a go” event.

“There is a competition aspect to it but it’s more about getting in there and having a good time and being involved,” he said.

“Some are getting through heats based on enthusiasm, not ability.

“It’s community building – school isn’t just about what happens in the classroom, it’s about interacting with each other, and everyone helped set up today.

“It’s another part of growing up.

“Plus a lot of students are fine-tuning for the Higher School Certificate, so a day off isn’t too bad.”

Boys competed in heats and progressed through to a semi final and final.

Joshua Morgan won the stand-up section, while Michael Kelly won the body-boarding category.

The girls opted to have their winner drawn from a mass body-boarding session.  

Ruby Voyzey and Rose Davies shared first place.

First-time competitor and year 12 student Keith Moody said he knew Mr Pichler through the school’s cricket team and described him as a “good bloke”.

“I thought this was a great opportunity to get away from the normality of the classroom,” he said.

“This is about having a fun day without looking at laptops or books all day and enjoying the sun with your mates.”

Mr Gordon said Mr Pichler, who taught economics, was a humble man and didn’t want the event named after him. But he said organisers were considering awarding a prize to the “most involved” volunteer in his honour.