Surfing Vancouver Island  

Conversation with Peter Devries By Malcolm Johnson  

Conversation with Peter Devries

By Malcolm Johnson

Conversation with Peter Devries

Peter Devries had a classic surf kid upbringing as the son of one of the original Tofino surfers. He's now one of the best technical surfers in the water in Canada. This summer he's been surfing super fast and loose, getting huge speed down the line, throwing spray, hucking airs, and just generally surfing really, really well in the local beachbreak. Now sponsored by the American company Hurley, Peter has been venturing into the crazy fray of big-time surf competition in California, and has a segment in Jeremy Koreski's upcoming surf film. Despite his comments in this interview about wanting nothing but money, Peter is a good and genuine guy, well spoken and intelligent, and remarkably focussed for someone who's just finished high school. On his balcony overlooking the beach, caught up with him to get some of his perspectives on surfing, competition, the US Open, and life as a Tofino surf rat.

So let's start at the beginning, you were born...

Born in Tofino, British Columbia, Canada, and raised on Chesterman's Beach; I'm 19 now, just turned 19 on April 30th.

Your parents...

Ralph and Alice. They're divorced now. My dad's actually from Holland and came over here after World War II; he's like 71 now or 72. And my mom's 52, she was born in Victoria. They met at the Wickanninish Inn, the old Wick, and they worked there for a few years and just kinda fell in love with the place, it's a kinda cheesy story. But they worked there for a few years and bought a lot on Chesterman's Beach for a very, very cheap amount of money back in the early 70's. They had a little cabin, and, uh, my sister's four years older than me, they built the cabin when they first moved in and then when I was born they needed a bigger house and built one. But yeah, it was nice, just a perfect place to grow up. You could see the whole of Chesterman's Beach, the whole of North Chesterman's right out the window. So it was pretty inevitable that I was going to surf, because of where we were, and my dad surfed in the 70's...

That's a good life for you. And a rare life too, second-generation surfers are pretty rare in Canada.

Yeah, it is very rare. But my dad started surfing here and he used to surf with like, I don't remember all of their names, but some of the McDermotts, like the old old generations; the Sadlers too, and George Patterson. He didn't really surf with Bruce and Owen, the Atkey brothers. I'm sure he kinda knew them, but I didn't hear any stories about him surfing with them.

Can you talk about your early impressions of the beach and living here, what it was like to be a little kid in Tofino in the 80's?

Yeah, I don't even really remember my first times at the beach because I grew up right there. What really stands out in my mind is getting my first surfboard when I was seven. I had these little bodyboards; every summer we'd go to Live to Surf and buy their old rental suits, and they were like 2 mil suits with, like, nylon sleeves, and they were just so cold...

Heh. Were they neon?

Heh, yeah, like neon yellow, and the bodyboards, you'd flex them in half after about two weeks. They were so, so bad. And the wetsuits were so bad that I couldn't go out there for much longer than, like, half an hour, even in the summertime. I'd just freeze, I was a skinny little kid. I was super athletic though. I was super into anything. My dad would take me out and, like, help me get into waves on my bodyboard, and then after a while I started to stand up on that, because I was so tiny it was like a surfboard for me, so I just kinda went from there. And I remember I was like six years old, and I'm sure my parents just gave me money basically but I pretended to do these little chores around the house; like I'd sweep the floor or something, and they'd give me like five bucks an hour or something, and I saved up a hundred bucks and bought this little O'Neill fish. I don't know if it was actually an O'Neill board, I think it was made in Tofino, and it just had the sticker underneath the glass, so they kinda tricked me I guess. It was shaped by a local guy, I think his name was Peter also, but I forget his last name. It was like this 5'4" twin fin, round tail... it was so funny. I rode it a couple years ago, and you can't even get the speed because it's twin fin. I don't know how they used to surf those. But it was perfect for me learning because it was so short, 5'4", and had tons of volume, it was real thick, old school fish. I started on that, and then my friend Dylan, who used to live here and used to surf, he plays basketball for a college in Vancouver now, we used to surf together all the time and we were always super competitive and always trying to show each other up... you know, "I did a turn, you gotta do one now!", that kinda thing. And I'm sure we weren't really good or anything, because we were so tiny, just standing up and riding in...

It's pretty much the classic stereotypical surf kid upbringing for you.

Yeah, totally. Very classic. And I did that until I was 12, I surfed just in the summertimes, because I couldn't really withstand the cold, it was too cold for those wetsuits. But then I was able to fit into a women's four when I was twelve, a women's size four winter suit, Hotline front zip. Those things were terrible but it let me start to surf year round when I was twelve. And things were definitely different in town back then.

When you were a kid what kind of life did you picture yourself having? Did you know you were going to be really deeply involved in surfing?

At that point, not at all. At that point I was just kinda fooling around. I wanted to be a professional basketball player, that's all I wanted to be. And then I'm sure other sports crossed in there at some time or another... I was definitely wanting to be an athlete. But who isn't when they're a kid.

But I guess the growth spurt didn't come, so no NBA...

Heh, no, the growth spurt never hit... I've been the same height for four years.

OK, growing up in Tofino, for some people small town life can be a bit of trap, it can get pretty stifling and some people never really manage to get out, their horizons stay low... did you have to deal with that?

That's very true about some people never getting out... but honestly, by the time I was thinking about those things I wasn't really stuck like some people. But if I didn't surf I would be in the same boat. Just growing up here, I mean, it's beautiful for people to come here when they've lived other places, but growing up here, going to school a forty minute bus ride every morning to Ucluelet, and sitting through that, and then a forty minute bus ride home, and then you do nothing. What do you do, like, hang out with your friends, but there's only like ten people your own age. So it's kinda hard. But I think when I was twelve and I started to think about those things I was surfing every day after school, and it was just... it becomes your life, basically. When you really get the surf bug, I think it becomes your life.

It seems like the major issue in surfing in B.C. right now, the issue that's behind all the little stresses and controversies that are coming up, is the growth thing. There's been a huge influx of tourists, and this summer is probably the busiest ever up here, and board culture is the cool thing right now and surfing is all over the media. Plus the technology is getting better so people can be more comfortable in the water, it's not as miserably cold anymore, so anyway, all the factors, there's massive growth going on, and all the issues that people are dealing with come out of the fact that there's suddenly hundreds more surfers around. Being somebody who's born-and-raised you must have some perspectives on that...

OK, well I can talk about materials and about people as well. Wetsuits have definitely changed a lot. That's a good thing for us as surfers, because when I was first surfing year-round it was Hotline front zips that you can't move at all in; now I'm into zipperless suits and it feels like you're wearing a 3 mil suit instead of a 5 mil. So that's a great benefit, it helps you stay out there for longer, and your stamina isn't as important because you can move better.

It's still pretty miserable in the winter though...

Yeah, that's true... I hate gloves, and hoods are just not fun. I like California's climate, it's perfect, it's like a 3/2 in the winter with boots and then shorts in the summer, or a shorty, and you're perfect. But yeah, the sport in Tofino is definitely growing very fast, because it's one of the only places to surf that's accessible and has consistent waves. I notice it a lot; I've worked in a surf shop for the past six years, so just by the amount of rentals we do and the amount of sales, it's been growing every year since I started to work there. But when I was first getting into it year-round at like the age of twelve and thirteen, I'd notice a few guys that were doing it a lot, like, you'd see the Bruhwiler brothers, who were surfing really well; Ryan Erickson, Jack Gregg, and a couple other guys, Brian Gregg, the Sadler brothers would always be out there... and then a few other guys like Allister from the surf shop, the guys who kinda transplanted here in their twenties and got into it and wanted to start out. But there wasn't many people at all. You'd see maximum 25 people in the water on the best day of the year; now there's up to seventy, eighty, a hundred.

And twenty-five on the worst day of the year.

Exactly. It's ridiculous, there's like four peaks and one wave every five minutes and like forty people in the water.

So are you getting bitter about it?

I have my times for sure, but I mean, I've been to California so much that it's nothing when I come back here. The thing is that there, everybody surfs so well. There's so many guys and everybody paddles well. That's the thing, everybody can paddle, everybody can catch waves... they may not surf that well, but they've been brought up in the atmosphere that you have to really work for your waves. So, when I come back from there I'm like "there's only forty guys out, and only five of them can surf well," so it's nothing really. But when it's good, I tend to get bitter, because it seems people are always in the way. Somebody always seems to be on the spot on the wave where you want to do something, which is really frustrating after a while. But it's all beachbreak, so you can always go and find your own peak. What I find frustrating is especially if you catch a good wave, a lot of people are watching you; like, a lot of people watch Raph and Sepp and me, and they paddle right towards you and they try to sit on you because they think you've got the best peak. So you just paddle away, and you catch another good wave, and they do the same thing, paddle right on top of you again. It's just like "leave me alone, I just want to surf, go find your own waves."

I remember that too, about more people paddling and surfing really well in California. It's the same in Hawaii, just the number of people in the water and the level that everybody surfs at is pretty incredible. There's all these guys that are just like, contractors and waiters and everyday people, you've never heard of them, they've never had their picture taken for a magazine, but...

They rip.

And they never fall down, just going out at a place like Hookipa and watching these guys pull in time after time after time and then getting in their old trucks and going home. They're amazing. And then all these little kids in the shorebreak doing airs and 360's like they're the easiest thing in the world.

Yeah, exactly. That's what it's like in California, it's a lifestyle. It's not like here where it's just beginning to be a lifestyle. It's been that way for years and years, so that's why everybody surfs so well. It's weird to see.

The other thing that comes out of the growth issue is the controversy over publicity and the media; and I know you're like "don't ask me that," but...

It's so... it's so hard to draw the line.

It's hard to draw the line for sure, but you're somebody that has sponsors and you're getting filmed and people are taking your picture, so...

It's really hard for me to say stuff about that...

It can be off the record if you want.

Nah, leave everything on the record. Personally, me being sponsored, I need to take photos, I need to get videoed, to please my sponsors and hopefully get more out of my sponsors. I want dough, that's all there is to it, I want money. I don't want any more product. That's all I want is money. I know I sound greedy, but you gotta be if you want to make a living at something, and it's really hard to get money out of your sponsors. Basically I'd have to move if I wanted to be a professional surfer; there's no possible way of doing it here; but I've not really decided to do that yet, so we'll see.

But if people are coming on and being like, "that's wrong, man. You should not be doing that, period." Do you have a response to that?

If I get a photo in a magazine, and they say it's Canada, that's fine with me; I don't want them to give you a road map to the spot; like, say you're going somewhere up north. "OK, you take a boat ride, you go down this inlet, you go two hours up here, it breaks on this swell, this tide." I don't want them to do that, which they don't so I think it's fine. I don't know, I just like to have people recognize that there are surfers in Canada. Because every time I go to California people are like, "What? You can surf up there?" They have no clue. And then they see me surf and see Raph surf and they're like "wow, you guys can actually surf, we're impressed." I've never really had anybody come up to me while I was shooting or taking photos and being like "don't take photos here, get the hell off the beach." Everybody knows everybody here. I'm that if it was, like, the guys from Surfer that came up here and they brought Slater or some pros that were just taking mad photos and they were going to tell everybody about the spot and boat trips up here and all that kinda stuff, then people would get really bitter. I've gotten a little bit of attitude filming down on the south Island, but Tofino's mellow compared to down there. I get attitude down there just surfing. I catch too many waves; even if I'm catching waves that nobody wants to surf they don't really like it. There's always that tension, that testosterone.

What about all the mainstream media coverage of BC surfing? There's been a massive amount of it lately, and almost all of it focuses on Tofino.

I've read the two most recent articles by the Province and the Sun, as well as other articles in the past; and although some parts of them are done well most of them are terrible. They simply don't get their facts straight. They come in to Tofino for the weekend, and only ask a few people to see what the scene is about. Basically I want to see articles if they're factual and have different sources of information behind them.

OK, contests, let's talk about that.

Yeah. Contests aren't my favourite thing right now.

There's this split in surfing about contests, people who are against contests and deride them as having no soul and being manipulated by sponsors and the 'surfing is an art, and how can you judge an art' philosophy. There haven't been many contests in Canada and it's a pretty foreign thing to most people here, so as somebody who's been through the contests, been there and seen them, what's your point of view on the competitive scene?

I think that all sports have competition in them and that you need competition in order to get better. That's the main thing about competition, it's to improve your surfing. When you're surfing against other people you're going to try your hardest, especially if you've got something on the line, like a check for two thousand dollars waiting for you on the other end of the wave, or you're getting like two hundred if you fall. You're going to try your hardest and do your best. I mean, I love contests, but hate them also, they're so frustrating. They're so hard to judge. Judges make mistakes all the time, and that's understandable, because it's impossible to be perfect judging a surf contest. But they're definitely a difficult thing.

And so random as well... if your heat is the ten minutes where there's a different current running and the waves are mushing out, that's it, you're done...

Yeah. But the great thing about a surf contest is that the best surfer doesn't always win. More often than not they come through, but... this kid from Hawaii who I surfed against when I was in California... he's sixteen, and he beat Kelly Slater last year at Sunset. That shouldn't happen, but it did on that occasion; that's the great thing, you can go enter a contest against the best surfers in the world and if you get lucky and if you're surfing well, you can win. And that's what I like about it. It's great.

What about this last trip to California for the US Open?

My last trip was really good... and really bad. Freesurfing was awesome. We got this hurricane swell from Baja, and it was like eight-foot faces all the time. Huntington was good; I was getting barrelled at Huntington, and I'd never seen that before; every time I'd been there it had been horrible. I got Lowers at eight feet, just walled and perfect, surfing with Shea Lopez, Tom Curren, Taj Burrow, Mick Fanning, all those guys; it's just so cool to see those guys surf. It's weird when you see, you know, famous people that you kinda idolize. But the contests, the contests weren't that good for myself. I've gone down there in the past and done well and been happy with my results, but last time, I don't know, it wasn't working for me. Falling a lot.

Can you describe your heats?

Um... the first contest I went in was a PSTA event, Professional Surfing Tour of America, just a minor WQS event, $3500 for first place, not much prize money. A lot of local California pros do those contests. Ryan Simmons is the tour leader and there's just some lower name guys, not any of the top guys usually, but everybody for the US Open was warming up doing that contest, so I had a tough heat. I had Kekoa Bacalso from Hawaii, he beat Slater at Sunset, and he won the US Open Juniors right after that, he was kinda on a roll; and Toby Martin from Australia, he's third on the WQS tour right now so he's probably going to make the Top 44 next year; and this other kid Andrew Gahan who did really well at the high school nationals this year. So I totally do this, but I psyched myself out so bad. I do that too much, because I don't do contests enough, and I find out who's in my heat, and if I've heard of them I'm kinda iffy, I'm like "oh god, I gotta surf really well," and then I just try too hard. The bad thing is that I was freesurfing before my heat and felt really good. It was small when I first got there, like one to two foot, sideshore wind and really choppy conditions, but still little peaks that were kinda fun. But I just fell on every single wave. I caught a couple of waves off the bat and did a few turns but wasn't getting any scores because I didn't do anything big; they look for big manoeuvres in contests now, and I was just tapping the lip and wasn't really going for anything. I don't know, I didn't really feel confident in the conditions so I was just kinda cruising. And then I started to go for stuff and just fell on every wave and I ended up way behind. I'm just glad I didn't get comboed. It was so bad. I was so disappointed, so bummed on myself, but there's nothing you can do. And after that I just kinda refocused and I was like "OK, I gotta get ready for this next one, the US Open, it's big, if I do well it could mean something... " And then, of course, I had another shocking heat; I only had two guys in my heat, it was myself and Jeremy Heit and Pat Gadauskas. It was low tide, Huntington, overhead surf, and it was really glassy and hollow but it was closing out; at low tide it kinda closes out when the swell's too south. And I couldn't find more than, like, one turn on a wave. First wave I did a long floater, came down, landed it perfect, but they can only give you so much for doing one manoeuvre, so I'd get like 3's and 3.5's. And then I kept going right, but Jeremy and Pat caught some lefts and they both got a couple scores on the lefts, so they were making it through on that. They'd get like two or three hits on the left, so I couldn't really compete with that. And then this one I totally blew; I was dropping in and it was going to barrel, but I thought Pat was going to drop in and go right, but he swung around and went left at the last second just so I wouldn't catch it. There's a lot of tactics out there. These guys do contests like every second weekend and they've done them all through high school and they really know what they're doing. So it's kinda hard to compete when you haven't done too many... and yeah, I fell, and that was it.

How did you feel you were received down there, even with the freesurfing and everything... did you turn some heads?

People are definitely impressed. I can compete with my age group, so people are really impressed. When I was down there previously, like three months ago, I was in a heat with this kid Brett Simpson, who's supposedly one of the best amateurs in America, and I beat him. And people were just like "wow, you surf really well" and the announcer for the PSTA was totally hyping me up. He's like "I got my boy from Canada over here, making it through some heats..." Every time I go down there now he's announcing, and he announced for the US Open, he's like "Peter Devries, back from Canada, first professional surfer ever out of Canada." It's funny. It's cool because I'm starting to know a lot of people; I have friends down there, my friend Shawn who rides for Hurley who I stay with, and people like Timmy Reyes and a few other guys that are really good surfers.

In terms of athletic performance and the actual technical aspects of surfing, what are your goals right now, what are the things you're trying to improve on? Just contest tactics?

I actually think I'm not bad in contests for how long I've been competing and how many contests I've done. I'm patient. A lot of people, a lot of kids that I watch,they panic and they catch too many waves or they catch bad waves...I'm really patient and I wait for the good ones, it's just a matter of riding those really well. And just nerves, I guess, and the only way to get around that is to do more contests. So that's my goal, really. I'm planning on going back to California in a couple of months, and then I'm going to Australia and I'm going to do contests there. But in terms of freesurfing, which is what I'm doing here for the next couple months, I'm working on airs, and different kinds of combinations. Combinations are great to work on, like you do a big floater and then an air after, things like that. Working with whatever the wave gives you and just trying to complete the waves and work the waves and ride them to their full potential and try to get a 10 on every wave.

A lot of people that surf here are at the stand-up-and-go phase. How do people get past that point into harder surfing and faster surfing? Because it seems to be a total plateau... you get to the stage where you stand up and go, do a bottom turn and then just weave your way down the wave a little bit; that seems to be the level that the majority of people who regularly surf here are at, and it's really hard to get past.

The easiest way to get past that is just to surf every day. And if you can't do that, if you can't surf every day, visualize surfing. Visualize yourself doing those manoeuvres that you want to do. The best thing is to get videoed; get your girlfriend or your boyfriend out there to video. That's always the best, because you can see exactly what you're doing right and exactly what you're doing wrong. Watching surfing videos helps a lot, you watch hand positioning, you start to look at really subtle things that help you get better. But if you can get yourself videoed, that's the best thing. I'll watch myself and be like, "god, what am I doing" and the next day I'll be out there and be like "OK, I remember that, I'm going to move my foot back 3 inches, I'm going to move my foot forward 2 inches." You've got to think about those things. Getting better here is hard because the waves don't really provide for you. You've got to work hard. Flexibility is big... hardly anybody stretches here. I never see anybody stretching on the beach, but everybody else in the world stretches for twenty minutes before they go out, and it does help. Sit-ups are really good too, because that's where all your power comes from, from right in the centre of your stomach. I don't know, it's really hard to explain how to get better, you just gotta get out there and figure things out. Getting speed, that's key... start with floaters, then move on to cutbacks as well, and then hitting the lip. Doing the basic things well. Don't try airs, no matter what you see on video, until you've got those things down.

On a totally different topic, in the last few years what've been your most memorable sessions?

My most memorable session is probably one that happened up the coast. Honestly, in all the trips I've been on I've never really surfed waves that good. I've never had days on trip where you just go out there and get barrelled all day. The most barrels I've had in a session has been in Canada. That's the best thing in surfing, to sit in the tube and just look around... it's the best feeling. I don't know why, because you're just going straight, you're not really doing anything... but the colour of the water, you look and the sun's behind you, you look out the back and it's just the greenest green... it looks so unique. You can't tell from a video what it looks like; I mean, you can watch guys in the barrel all day, but it's so different when you're inside it yourself. But the best session was [X]; it's a righthander, and there was a south swell. It was crowded, all the guys from Sooke were up there giving us major attitude. I hopped off the boat first and there were maybe ten of them out there; it was this nice south swell, good period, but sets only once every twenty minutes, like a good ten wave set, and it was a bit overhead, offshore, clean lines, and just barrelling. All you'd do was drop in, get barrelled, come out, do a cutback, go back into the barrel, and cut out. And I'd never had so many barrels in my life in one day. I was just in heaven...

It's crazy how much easier surfing feels sometimes when the waves are good.

Oh, when the waves are good, it's like, "oh my god, this sport is pretty easy." But I love getting barrelled.

On the flipside of the good sessions... it gets pretty hectic up here in the winter, have you been in some situations where you were like, "oh shit, this is not fun, I might not get out of this one?"

Let's see... one of the scariest moments I've ever had surfing was at [X], and it was the first time I'd ever surfed it. Me and my friend Nick Killins who I grew up with and surfed with for five or six years, he just moved away to Victoria to go to school... and yeah, we went out to [X] and it was cloudy and the wind had just switched northwest and it was like all over the place because it had been blowing southeast before. I think I was like fourteen or fifteen, and I remember it being like ten-foot faces, but it was probably only head high or so. We paddled out there by ourselves, we didn't know where we were going, we didn't know where to surf, we'd just kinda heard about it; my dad dropped us off at the top of the hill and we walked down there, and he was just chilling in his truck waiting for us. And we went out there and didn't know where to take off, and we ended up paddling out to [X], and we were just sitting there watching it, because it was just this full barrel, and it spits every time, and we were just like "you can surf this??!?" I was so scared, so scared, because I'd never seen anything like it; I'd seen waves spit, but just weak little spits at [X] and [X]. But eventually we went out there and tried it and I just got smoked; I got smoked so bad. I was paddling in, and my board was getting sucked up the wave so fast that I couldn't paddle fast enough, I was just too weak. And I ditched my board, got caught in the lip, just went flying over the falls. I didn't hit the rocks or anything... but I was so petrified, now that I look back it's funny, but it wasn't funny then. I was so scared I was almost crying, but other than that I haven't really had bad experiences. You get to know your limits. But I've been cut by my fins and I've had stitches below my eye. One other scary experience was in Kauai; in Hanalei there's a right-hand point break that was really shallow. They fish for sharks off the dock there, and it's a long paddle out, you paddle for twenty minutes or so. We went out there, and it was pretty mellow, five or six guys out, but within half an hour there were forty guys out. It was super busy and I wasn't getting any waves, so I started catching these little insiders, and I fell and landed face first on the reef... and I cut my legs, my hands, my arms, everything... so I was fully bleeding, and I was really scared because there were sharks around, and I'm like "oh shit, I gotta paddle in," and these guys on the dock were fishing for sharks with the rivermouth right there... but luckily nothing happened, so I'm still here.

When my parents used to live in Australia it drove my mom crazy because there was no seasonal variation at all. When she talks about it she's like, "it's always sunny and it's boring." And here it's the total opposite, there's so much swing, there are those summer nights where you're at Long Beach with no boots and no gloves and it feels like California, and then there's February with a ten-foot swell running and it's gray and miserable and raining and there are huge chunks of ocean moving around... what's the motivation for you that gets you out there when it's pouring rain and 3 degrees and just generally horrible?

Basically it's just love for the sport. I don't even think twice about it being too cold. If you're catching waves and you're not just sitting there for an hour, you're fine. But it's just something you just have to do. I put on a surf video in the morning, I look at the surf, and it's just something inside you... I don't know, it's hard to explain, compulsion or something, but there's just something inside of you and you just have to do it. You want it so much, you want to go out there and get barrelled, especially here because it only happens, like, twice a year... you want to go out there and try something new. It's exploration I guess, exploration in surfing for me, I always want to try something new, land something new, do soemthing different; it's just a feeling.

Awesome. Compulsion is a good word for it. Moving on... can you describe [X], I know Jeremy has some really nice shots of you from there.

I'm not sure who found it, I think Raph and Ryan Erickson found it a while back. I haven't surfed it that many times, I just had those two epic days there. It's this nice little reefbreak, it's kinda like an Indo wave almost, it's weird... sometimes it gets shallow and it crumbles on the top, and then it reforms and breaks on this perfect little shelf. And yeah, it's probably my favourite wave that I've ever surfed.

How has it been for you being around Jeremy and Raph and Sepp and those guys?

Jer's been making his video over the past winter, and it's been good... he's really artistic and he knows what he wants to do, and I'm stoked on that. It's good hanging out with Sepp and Raph because they surf really well and they push me to surf better. Sepp's funny, he just a classic surfer guy, classic and typical Tofino surfer.

You've done a ton of travelling, and I know when I've gone places I've been really amazed by how different the feeling of surfing is, how different the surf community is in different places; on the Island you get a picture of what surfing is like, and it's definitely not like that everywhere. Have some of your travels changed your perspectives on home?

Travelling makes me appreciate home a lot more. Maybe not the wave quality so much... but I'm happy where I live wave-wise, because you can surf every day. I'd rather surf every day in decent to crappy waves that surf once a week in fairly good waves. But it's so relaxed here, just so nice... like, I go to California, the last trip for example was just nuts, with all the pros there and everybody there to see the contest - we had 250,000 spectators over the week or something like that, the most ever in surfing history - so it's nuts out in the water, you're just fighting for everything, nobody's relaxed, and even just going through LAX and all the traffic and the scene... so it just makes me realize how mellow it is here, even though it is getting more crowded. But then you go to other places like Portugal and it's so cool to meet the locals that surf there, and they're so stoked on travellers and just so nice, and they give you a place to stay and they give you a meal and they take you surfing; they just want to do everything for you. It's really not like that at all in North America. And in Brazil too, everybody is super, super nice; you get this image of Brazilians from American surf magazines that they're total assholes, but they're not at all. They were super cool, as long as they found out that you weren't from the States.

So what does the fall have in store?

I'm going to California for a contest at the end of October, and then I'm going to fly to Australia for probably three months, and then go to Indonesia for another two or three months; and then I'll come back here and we'll see what happens. I want to be in France this time next year; France, Spain, and Portugal for the WQS contests. I'm going to compete while I'm in Australia too, so hopefully I'll do alright over there, get some real competition... the guys in the States that compete, they're still kinda nice, they're not too cutthroat, they don't worm each other for waves and try to paddle around each other and get interferences and stuff... that doesn't usually happen, but in Oz I hear it's totally different. It's such a big thing over there, it's their sport and they try to win no matter what the cost. So I'm looking forward to some heavy competition.

OK, last question; it's always been a part of surf culture to look at movies or magazine pictures of these incredible waves and just kinda dream about surfing them someday... what are a few of the places you'd like to surf but haven't? You have ambitions to surf some of the more intense waves, Tahiti and Pipe and Tasmania and waves like that? What about getting into big wave surfing and that kinda thing?

I would definitely love to surf Pipe one day, and I was planning on going this last winter... but I hurt myself and wasn't able to go. I can't wait to surf more challenging waves that can scare the hell out of me. But I'm not into big wave riding or towing in...

-- Malcolm Johnson /

Malcolm Johnson @ capescott