Vancouver Island’s Pete Devries and filmmaker Nate Laverty clocked up the hours on Canada’s beautiful Pacific coast making the stunning Manera short film, Born Pacific. Physically and climatically a fair hop from surfing’s tropic origins in Polynesia, nevertheless the British Columbia coastline is blessed with raw North Pacific energy, a suite of lesser known breaks in various nooks and crannies, and a thriving surf culture to rival anywhere on the planet for raw stoke.
We invite you to sit back and enjoy 14 mins of as-good-as-it-gets cold water, high performance wave riding, then find about more about intriguing Mr Devries, in our interview below.
If there’s a man or woman alive that’s ever wafted more tail and threaded more green walled slabs in single digit air and water temps, we’ll eat our Manera Meteor Magma’s fleece-lined hood…
WL: Lots of people surf lots of places in the extreme cold these days… but not lots of people get really really good. How’d that happen?
PD: I just really enjoyed how difficult it is and always wanted to get better. I had a few friends growing up who surfed well but I guess I just enjoyed it more. When they would get interested in another sport or take some time off I would just keep surfing. I started surfing at 7 after watching my dad surf in front of our house on North Chesterman beach. The wetsuits were horrible so it was only something I could survive in the summer when the water is a bit warmer. At 13 I could fit into an adults wetsuit so surfing in the winter was an option. Winters were tough, especially during high school when daylight was a big issue. My friends and I would get off the bus, jump into our wetsuits and get about 25-30 minutes in the water until it was dark out. I didn’t really skip school to surf so by the time the weekend came around I was fired up to surf for 6 hours a day.
What about other sports? Maybe you’re not quite buff enough for pro hockey? But did we nearly lose you to curling?
(Laughs) I feel like Tofino is one of the only towns in Canada without an ice rink. We really need one! I have always loved hockey as a sport but I grew up playing floor and street hockey as our closest rink is about 2 hours away so I never had that opportunity. Ironically my son, Asher, who is 11, plays hockey in Port Alberni… 2 hours aways! Hockey is his favourite sport right now and I think it’s mine too, we do the drive 2-3 times a week and games can be even farther. It’s so much fun, but he is a way better player than I am already. My skating really needs some work.
Innersection was pretty groundbreaking at the time, throwing up brand new names like Albee Layer – and yourself. That must have been a breakthrough moment for you?
Innersection was super interesting and fun. I remember talking with Pat O’Connell, who told me it was going to happen and I should think about entering. I had no idea what the reaction would be when I put my entry online and I was surprised how well it was received. I’m always very critical of my surfing in everything I put out so I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been truly stoked on a part or a project I’ve done. I’ve always wanted to do something better.
Which brings us nicely on to Born Pacific… With people having travel restrictions that last few years, you must be stoked to have had such a beautiful, cinematic coastline right on your doorstep to make a film?
I’ve been so lucky to shoot surfing around here for years. It was fun having a project with Nate over the winter. I think he did such a great job of portraying how beautiful but also how dramatic it can be. It’s a very tricky place to score video quality waves and I felt like winter was average for me. I was dealing with a bit of a knee thing so my performance wasn’t right where I wanted to be. It really helps that we were able to get a few barrels and some great lighting also. I really like how the film came out and all the credit goes to Nate for the direction and style of the project.
With winter just around the corner, what about any tips for fellow cold water warriors? You must have a few hacks…
The right gear for the situation is crucial. Having the proper wetsuit/boots/gloves is a must. It really depends on the type of waves you are surfing also. In beach breaks you can stay moving and ride a lot of waves. This is something I like to do, not only to stay warm, but to get moving, have fun, and get into rhythm also. If I’m surfing a reef or a slab, especially if it is remote, I usually wear warmer gear than is required. That also includes getting to and from the surf. If you are warm when you start it will help you to stay warm during and after. I sometimes wear a thicker suit or boots if I know I’m going to be sitting at a slab waiting for the right waves. The old warm water for a rinse off is a nice touch as well!
Lots of wildlife on the Canadian coast, big mammals on land and in the sea. Do you have regular bear scares?
Bears and sealions are two things I see fairly often. Bears have been frequenting my deck and yard a lot this fall and we see them in the bush when we are camping a fair bit. They usually keep to themselves and are more worried about eating berries or rock crabs than what we are doing. Sharks are not something we think of here luckily, and orcas in the lineup are pretty rare.
What’s next in terms of projects? With winter rolling in, you planning on stealing away somewhere far south?
I’ve got a cold water trip to finish up a film with Ben Weiland that we started years ago. Covid is still a little tricky in some locations so really just digging into the fall here and happy the swell has started early. I don’t do many warm water trips to shoot but I’d be stoked to put on a pair of Manera boardies. I’m really looking forward to a vacation with my family somewhere warm this year. Hopefully get some fun waves for my wife and son, and get some sun!
Photos by Paladino/Manera