Pete Devries might have been the longest-standing Hurley athlete of all time, logging 20 years with the parenthetical “H” on his beak.
That all ended this January, where amidst its sale to Bluestar Alliance, Hurley culled a large portion of its surf team. Other casualties include Michel Bourez, Lakey Peterson, and of course the 2x World Champion and owner of the highest contract in surfing’s history ($4M per annum from Hurley), John John Florence.
Pete, who is now 36, was left wondering where his next meal would come from. After solving that problem by wrestling a freshly-caught salmon away from a grizzly bear, the question became who would provide his 6/5/4 wetsuits and general outdoor apparel for those frigid Vancouver surfs.
Somehow, just before all this covid business got out of control, Pete signed two healthy deals with companies that have recently taken a leap into the world of surfing. You can read about them, and Pete’s broader thoughts on the pandemic, below.
Stab: Hey Pete, tell me about Tofino right now.
Pete Devries: I think Canada was probably one of the last places to get hit, and Tofino is like a full-on tourist town. So we have a lot of people kind of coming and going and, but over the last two weeks it’s really started to shut down. All the businesses have pretty much closed their doors. Any sort of tourism industry has taken a back seat, and everybody’s kind of encouraged to stay away. So yeah, there’s a lot of people without any work right now and everybody’s just kind of in the same boat, you know, seeing what is going to happen with all this.
Just to get a lay of the land, if you’re going to Tofino, are you typically taking the ferry over or do people fly a lot?
I would say most people take a ferry and drive. Flights are fairly limited and the airplanes are fairly small, so the majority of people would be driving. It’s kind of far but accessible at the same time.
So on a personal level, what are your thoughts on this whole Covid thing? Doing these interviews, we’ve heard from people who have conspiracy theories to people who are taking it really seriously to people who think it’s actually not that big of a deal. Where do you kind of fall in all that?
I’m definitely taking it seriously. My mom lives in town here. My wife’s parents live in the next town over. You know, for me, maybe getting the disease wouldn’t be that bad. But the thing is, this is a brand new thing. You never know. You don’t know how your body’s going to react to it. So for me, I’m taking it seriously. Basically, school got out for my son on March 13th, and we’ve been quarantining since then, just in our family group.
Then I went through a period where I was like, ‘Okay, what if they close the beaches? I’ve got to surf my brains out right now.’ But other than that, I’ve just been busy with kind of normal life stuff. When you’ve got a 10-year-old who’s not hanging out with friends, you’re a pretty busy parent, I would say.
Oh yeah. I can’t even imagine.
And then we’ve kind of implemented getting back into schooling this week. So doing some homeschooling and all that. So yeah, it’s been, it’s been pretty busy honestly.
And did they end up closing the beaches up there, or are you still able to surf?
They haven’t yet. The national parks are closed, so that takes some of our beaches out of the equation and essentially condenses our surfing population into a few other beaches, which, you know, I wish they had kept the parks open ‘cause it would help give everybody more space. But yeah, it’s been kind of interesting because we are in such a tourism sector here. There’s a lot of people that are not working right now. They’ve either been laid off or. you know, there just is no work because there are no tourists right now. So the surf’s being kinda up and down—really busy some days and then really slow other days and I’m trying to get a handle on kind of why that is. It’s also Easter weekend up here right now, so it’ll be really interesting to see how many people we get in town even though they’ve been told not to come. Nothing can be done legally yet to stop them.
Do you tap into that tourism industry at all, or are you just pure surf?
My wife and I have bought vacation rentals here. We have a couple of them actually. And so that a big part of our income, which is now zero income at the moment. So yeah, we’re hoping that we can get back to tourism sooner rather than later here.
That inevitably brings us to your recent split with Hurley. You were on the team for like 20 years, right? How did you feel about that relationship ending?
I was disappointed and sad, you know. I’d never had another major sponsor up until that point. I started working with Hurley when I was 16, just a grom who wasn’t really involved in the surf industry, being from a small town in Canada. I’d been with them for a long time and they were nothing but good to me. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about the people that I worked with there, but yeah, it was definitely a change.
So I went through a period where I was talking to a bunch of different companies, and had different interests from different companies. But I’ve found a nice fit with a Canadian company called Arc’teryx and just kind of jumped on with them as they were branching out from their main sector—which is more mountain sports, climbing, and snow sports—and into surfing. So yeah, I’m really, really happy to be with Arc’teryx, and that all happened just before all this pandemic stuff went down.
Well that was exceptionally good timing on your end because, yeah, I’d imagine that it would be hard to get anybody to sign any sort of contract nowadays.
Yeah. I think conversations will be very different around the globe regarding free agents in any industry going forward.
It’s also great that you’ve found a brand that’s well suited to who you are and obviously where you’re from. So, what kind of products are they going to be producing on the surf side of things?
Their products speak for themselves. Their outdoor gear is exactly what I’ve been using within the surf world for years. Because basically, for me, the type of surfing and surf trips that I like to do revolve around the cold, and where I live kind of revolves around the cold.
That said, we haven’t really discussed surf-specific products too much yet. They’re not stepping into the wetsuit side of things. And, um, just so you know, I’ve actually signed with the different wetsuit brand recently, so it’s a nice combination with the two.
Wait a minute…you’re telling me you’ve signed with two new brands? Even JJF can’t find a sponsor right now and you’re practically bathing in them!
Yeah, well, like I said, these deals happened just before all this covid stuff, and I’m obviously super fortunate for that. But anyway, I’m sure you’re familiar with Manera? The brand that Dion [Agius] and Brendon [Gibbens] just dropped that clip with. So yeah, I’m going to be jumping in with them.
Ahhh, so you’re basically connecting with these brands who didn’t previously do surf that are trying to branch into it.
Yeah, basically [laughs]. I couldn’t be happier with how things worked out and just the timing of things.
So tell me, what are your three quarantine food essentials?
For me, it’s definitely coffee. Can’t live without my coffee. Um, avocados, that’s a must, and I got to go with eggs.
Okay. Staples. Nice. What about three non-food items that you can’t live without?
I guess right now it’s been kinda cold, so I’m going to go with firewood for the woodstove.
Mmm, very Canada! What else?
[Laughs] Funny you should say that, the next thing on my list is actually hockey sticks for me and my son to play hockey on the road. How’s that for Canada?
That’s the most Canada.
We play hockey pretty much every day.
Incredible. And what about the last one?
I guess my barbecue. Ties back to food, but so useful.
Now the real question: what is your weekly screen time on your phone?
Oh God, I have no idea. That’s an interesting one. I’ll just leave that one unchecked.
Yeah, fair enough. Where’s the first place that you think of going once all the travel restrictions are off?
Oh wow. That’s a tough one. I guess it just depends what time of year it is. You know, if it’s summer, maybe somewhere in the Southern hemisphere. Like New Zealand.
[Laughs] Of course you’d go to like the coldest place in the southern hemi.
Oh yeah, I’m all cold all the time [laughs]. I never think about warm water.
Since you mention it, there are some surfers actually who I’ve always felt that just don’t look natural in board shorts, and I’m afraid that you’re one of them [laughs]. I would also put Brendan Gibbons in that category.
Yeah, I’d be pretty white if I was in boardies, that’s for sure.