Stab Magazine | Pete Devries – Cold and happy

Pete Devries – Cold and happy

Seen/unseen from Peter Devries on Vimeo. Canadian Pete Devries is the Bear Grylls of progressive surfing. Not ’cause he eats weird stuff for a living, but for his love of the wilderness. He loves isolation and serenity, and prefers to surf in booties. The guy reckons warm water is a novelty, but no biggie, and […]

cinema // Feb 22, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Seen/unseen from Peter Devries on Vimeo.

Canadian Pete Devries is the Bear Grylls of progressive surfing. Not ’cause he eats weird stuff for a living, but for his love of the wilderness. He loves isolation and serenity, and prefers to surf in booties. The guy reckons warm water is a novelty, but no biggie, and has no interest in warm water surf trips. Oh, and he loves finding new frontiers to surf in Canada. Pete’s a real cool cold-water surfer, but he’s more than the places he surfs.

Stab: What was it like growing up and surfing in Canada?
Pete: It was definitely different growing up here. When I was growing up, there wasn’t many other guys surfing. You could be out there five days a week and only see one or two guys in the water. We lived right on the beach and I started surfing at seven. It was a pretty mushy beach break, like most the beach breaks around here, and I stood up for the first time on a boogie-board! (laughs), a sponge, I totally remember that. By that time Dad figured he should get me on a surfboard.

What predators did you have to worry about? There isn’t too many dangerous animals; we don’t get many sharks, and even if we do, the sightings are offshore. But there is sea-lions and orcas. Orcas are rare, but they would be the most dangerous animal out there if they mistook you for food. The sea lions come up to you and bump you. They’re just a little curious, but big – 2000 pounds, which was super daunting growing up. But I’d be more worried about sharks, for sure.

What about bears? You don’t really worry about them around town getting into your garbage, more when you’re camping remotely, looking for waves. You have to keep your food pretty contained, ’cause that’s when they’ll wonder through the campsite. They’ve come through the campsites, but they are pretty scared of noise and humans. We had one pretty close once, sitting in a tree above our tent and it wouldn’t go away. It would’ve weighed 350 to 500 pounds, and probably double us in size. We ended up shooting a flare to scare it off.

Is walking home in the dark after a surf dangerous? Not really, bears cross your mind, but the animal you have to worry about in those situations is a cougar. You don’t see them very often, but if you have a hungry cougar that wants to eat you, there is nothing you can do. If it’s stalking you, there is nothing you can do to protect yourself or get away. I’ve only heard about it from hunters deep in the bush, we don’t see them very often, and I haven’t had to deal with them camping or around town.

Does surfing in wetsuits inhibit you now? Not these days. Wetsuits have gotten so much better in the last 10 years, if you keep paddling and keep catching waves, you stay warm. I’ve surfed seven hour days in winter! You can get away with it these days with a good suit.

Do you remember your first suit? Yeah, it was a Farmer John – like, a jacket with a zip up the front. Terrible. Baggy in the arms. When I really started to get into surfing at about 13, I was using a Hotline, with a chest-zip that came basically arm to arm. So uncomfortable. Now the wetsuits are thinner, warmer, lighter. And chest-zips are on a whole new level.

Has the boom in canadian surfing taken away the serenity? A little bit for sure. In the summer, even when the waves are bad, it’s really crowded. The amount of people is unbelievable, over 100 people in the water learning to surf. Most from out of town. That’s been a massive change, but in winter I can still surf by myself some days. A lot of the better spots we go to are really remote, and they won’t be crowded anytime soon.

How much untouched frontier is left in Canada? There is so much potential, but the access is really really remote. You gotta drive three or four hours by boat to see anything we haven’t already seen. Which is time-consuming and sketchy in open ocean. But there is tons of stuff out there, we just got to get the right swell and figure it out all out.

Do you like surfing freezing temperatures? I love it, I prefer it over warm water surfing. There’s nothing like jumping in the water in boardies for your first session, but two weeks later, I’m over it. I want to come home, because I love scoring uncrowded waves up here in a full suit.

Does it inhibit your performance? I feel like I perform better. I’m so used to boots now because I wear them all year round. I don’t even really do warm surf trips anymore. I have formed this niche, so when I go on trips I’ll go somewhere cold. Anywhere warm takes me a while to get used to without booties. Surfing in my booties feels perfected.

What is surfing to you? I guess the perfect conditions that get my excited is howling offshores and pouring rain. When you don’t want to leave your house and the only shelter is getting barrelled, when it’s so gnarly you can’t even see while you’re paddling. There isn’t any people around because they don’t wanna surf those conditions. Not many people do. They aren’t the best days we have, but I love them. It reminds me of what it was like growing up here – Ziggy Alberts


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