Local Tofino surfer Peter Devries beat out a gathering of some of the best professional surfers in the world last year to be crowned champion at the inaugural O’Neill Coldwater Classic Canada. He had a good run this year, but fell short of the quarterfinals to eventual contest winner and former World Tour surfer Josh Kerr. I caught up with him after his loss to talk local knowledge, community support, and, of course, surfing.
What’s the mindset like going into a heat with a big name like Josh Kerr?
I just wanted to surf and not really think about his name or that he’s gonna do airs on every wave. I didn’t get to catch many waves; I just ended up sitting a lot. I’m disappointed I didn’t get more opportunities in, but that’s just the way it goes. Sometimes the ocean doesn’t cooperate.
Describe your run in the contest to me.
I felt pretty good throughout the contest, surfing pretty well. I was a little bit rushed on some waves but on other waves I put it together. It was hit or miss. My board’s feeling really good though, going fast.
How’s the feel in Tofino this year?
The support from the beginning was greater this year. People were more into it from the start this year, whereas last year it was kind of building momentum as we went towards the final and everyone was out the final day. It was crazy here. Having all these guys come to town to surf the waves we see everyday is great.
Does being a local help?
Yeah, you’ve got the support on the beach, which is huge and you know the waves. So it definitely helps out.
Were you feeling pressure from the win last year?
Maybe a little bit. There’s definitely more expectations. I wanted to put in a good performance. I wanted to make it to tomorrow, to the quarters. Josh is such a great surfer, anyone at this point in the contest can win. It’s really hard.
How is it going from free surfing to being in front of a crowd and being broadcast across the world on the webcast?
You’re trying to forget about it, but it’s always there. I don’t surf contests that often so it feels a little weird and a little different but it’s a lot of fun at the same time. It’s nice to have that pressure once in a while. When you’re freesurfing you can just try and go big. When you’re filming there’s pressure but when you fall it’s not a big deal. You can surf all day if you want.