Vancouver Island is no place for the timid surfer. There’s the gelid rain, screaming wind, and perfect slabs. There are also bears. Being a functional surfer in this neck of the woods is no easy feat. But in the last few years, as this once-remote haunt has unveiled itself to the surfing world in full form, we’ve met the likes of Peter Devries and Jeremy Koreski, two of Canada’s favorite surfing sons. After winning the inaugural Coldwater Classic Canada and becoming an Innersection finalist, Devries has proven that he’s as talented—and as committed—as anyone. Koreski, on the other hand, has shown himself to be an expert lensmen with a penchant for enduring the bitter cold for hours on end, all the while holding his focus. Between the two of them, we thought we could learn a thing a two about enduring a winter in the toughest place to be a surfer.
To me, it’s all about big red blobs marching across the Pacific that translate into perfect barrels at my favorite slabs. Just the thought of winter fills me with anticipation for real waves. Wind and storms and solo surfs at fun beachbreaks. Darkness and hockey season. Rain for weeks on end, and hopefully, a much appreciated sunny stretch at some point. —Peter Devries
The cold doesn’t affect the gear as much as it does the shooter. Batteries may not last as long, but shooting in Canada when the waves are good quite often means shooting in the cold, the wet, the dark… —Jeremy Koreski
Fresh. The air in Tofino is the freshest air you’ve ever smelled—like pine trees, wood smoke, and in the case of my house, a little bit of wet dog. —P.D.
The yellow Sex Wax 6X is pretty money. —P.D.
Yeah, usually after October the salmon have spawned and we don’t have to worry about the bears too much. But over the last couple of years more and more Grizzlies are swimming from mainland Canada to Vancouver Island. We were on a trip last year and there were a bunch of Black bears, and we spotted a Grizzly as we were leaving. Up until then I hadn’t realized they were on the island. But for the most part, bears hibernate in the winter so we don’t have to worry about them too much when we we’re camping. —P.D.
Personally, that’s what keeps photography fun to me. Shooting from the water on the west or east coasts of Canada can be really challenging. Your hands and feet get extremely numb. I wear a 5- or 6-mm wool-lined wetsuit from Patagonia, but I still really love shooting from the water in the winter. —J.K.
I always try to suit up at home and take my suit off in a hot shower if I’m surfing the beaches close to home. If we’re camping, that’s not an option, so I try to stay warm by catching a lot of waves and by making sure I get out of the water before I’m frozen. Having a fire to come back to is nice also. —P.D.
I love the out-of-the-way places with temperate climates. I can’t handle the heat and would never see myself living somewhere warm. My wife, on the other hand, thinks differently… —J.K.
I really like living in a small town where you know everyone. I couldn’t handle living in a city. On top of that, Tofino is a really beautiful place that I try not to take for granted. It’s home. —P.D.