NEW YORK — Michael Daniel Doyle, a surfer who rose to global fame in the 1960s for both his skill and his embodiment of the sport’s early carefree nature, died at his home in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, on Tuesday. He was 78.
The cause was amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, said his niece Jamie McCafferty.
Mr. Doyle’s passion and skill took him around the world. In 1964, he was the runner-up at the World Surfing Championships, according to The Encyclopedia of Surfing, by Matt Warshaw. In tandem surfing, he won both the US and world championships in 1965.
“In that first era of surfing, you represented your country, and he was one of the standouts,” said Peter Townend, a former world surfing champion known as PT, who is a co-chairman of the Surfing Walk of Fame in Huntington Beach, California, into which Doyle was inducted in 2003.
Mr. Doyle was born near the coast in Lawndale, California, on March 7, 1941.
It wasn’t until he was about 13 that he discovered and fell in love with surfing, during a visit to nearby Manhattan Beach, he said in an interview with the television show “Swell Tales.”
“To see guys riding a wave was just dazzling to me, especially with the angle of the pier looking down and watching them,” he said. “You could see the trail and the track of water. I knew that was for me the first time I saw it.”
To get closer to the action, he dove into the water to retrieve lost surfboards and paddle them back to their owners. Soon, Mr. Doyle was surfing regularly.
By his 20s, he was amassing awards and fans around the world.
“He was just the epitome of what a surfer looked like,” said Townend, who grew up admiring Mr. Doyle from his native Australia. “He was chiseled, bronzed, a great surfer, charismatic, always had a smile on his face like he was having a good time.”
Mr. Doyle began winning regional championships in the early 1960s and was competing in global competitions by the middle of the decade, according to The Encyclopedia of Surfing, which described him as “arguably the 1960s’ best all-around surfer.” In 1964 and 1965, he won reader polls held by Surfer magazine. In 1966, he was voted the top international surfer in Surfing magazine’s Hall of Fame Awards.
“Mike Doyle is flat out one of the greatest all-around surfers there has ever been,” Corky Carroll, a former world surfing champion, wrote in a 2010 ode to Doyle in The Orange County Register.
But while Mr. Doyle won awards around the world, his athleticism has never been limited to surfing, according to McCafferty. “He just did everything with the water — diving, fishing, surfing, canoeing, sailing,” she said.
Mr. Doyle has also been credited with a number of innovations and inventions, including a wax made specifically for surfboards and an idea for a “single snow ski” described by some as a precursor to the modern snowboard. In 2009, he was inducted to the International Surfboard Builders Hall of Fame for his role in helping to adapt a softer material for use in surfboards.
‘He was chiseled, bronzed, a great surfer, charismatic, always had a smile on his face like he was having a good time.’
Mr. Doyle leaves his wife, Annie Marie Doyle.
Despite his success in the sport, Mr. Doyle viewed surfing in simple terms, he said in his “Swell Tales” interview.
“The direction of surfing is fun, it should be fun,” he said. “People always say ‘Who’s the best surfer in the world?’ I go ‘The one having the most fun.’”