Be Prepared for the Unexpected: Innersecting with Jeremy Koreski and Peter Devries

Peter Devries in a greener pasture // photo: Koreski

Peter Devries in a greener pasture // photo: Koreski

At the side of a road on the North Island there's a car that was crushed, sometime long ago, by an old-growth cedar tree. A sign now stands over it as a darkly humorous warning to drivers: "Be Prepared for the Unexpected." Those words are a good summation of surfing in this part of the world, and they could also double as a pretty apt tagline for the work that Peter Devries and Jeremy Koreski have been producing through the last few years.

Until, Taylor Steele's surf-film-meets-social-media effort, the two British Columbians had stayed mostly on the fringes of the international spotlight. There were people who knew they were hugely talented, of course, but other than some shots and stories in the magazines it seemed that Devries and Koreski hadn't quite cracked the code. A win at the O'Neill Cold Water Classic Canada turned some heads last fall, but there weren't many people who would've predicted that, after the first week of voting, a new father from Tofino would have the highest-rated and most-commented clip on the Innersection site. There also weren't many who would've predicted that the clip the two friends collaborated on would be getting comments like these:

"This is the best most interesting part for me so far." —Thomas Campbell

"This is insane. Ripping that hard in cold water is just baffling to me." —Matt Meola

"Great Edit. Best feel of any section I’ve watched yet for taking you there. Nice variety of waves and surfing. Who da guy? Really sick part." —Kelly Slater

Surprising? To most outside Canada, yes. Unexpected? Again, yes.

It's apparent to anyone that Devries's surfing is full-on, but it seems that the most striking quality of the work he and Koreski are producing lies in its combination of progressive performance with a strong compositional eye. The two of them are not only concerned with surfing, but also with the pictorial context that surrounds it. The clip is a case in point—in its two and a half minutes, you're shown thick temperate forest, 5/4 fullsuits, windy beachbreaks, predatory animals, barreling points and a super-serious backcountry slab. In short, a fairly accurate cross-section of the world in which the two are fortunate enough to spend their lives. But behind the scenes, what they're doing is also a significant accomplishment simply because of the challenges posed by the place they live—a place that requires a full set of survival skills before you even break out your suit. Or, as Devries says, "you have to know your way around some dangerous waters, and you have to know how to get a fire going when the driftwood is wet."

But perhaps some biography is in order. Devries and Koreski are good friends, both born and raised in Tofino, a tight-knit town where the closest stop light is an hour and a half away. Koreski, the son of a commercial fisherman, left town temporarily after high school to study photography in Vancouver. Devries, the son of one of the area's original surfers, grew up on the beach and scored a sponsorship with Hurley that allowed him to surf full-time after graduation. After returning to Tofino, while slowly carving out his career as a still photographer, Koreski bought a welded aluminum boat with the proceeds from a whale watching job, and that trusted little craft has served as one of the foundations of their partnership ever since.

"We've had so many trips [in that boat] to our favourite slab," Devries says, "with no one around and Jer shooting from the water. Anytime I come out of a big barrel and he's hooting because we got a good shot is the best."

The collaboration has been great for both of them, and they've set themselves apart by capturing the essence of surfing on one of the world's most untouched coasts. "We've definitely fed off each other's growth," Koreski says. "And when you work together with a surfer for a long time they learn lighting and composition and start to come up with ideas for clips and photos themselves."

But, as Devries replies, it's still a work in progress. "I’m never satisfied with the way I surf, and I’m always looking to learn new things and new approaches to riding waves. I think for a two minute film we did a good job of capturing what it’s like to surf here, but we’ve got a few really good ideas for the final edit if we get in."

Whatever happens with, it's safe to say that their initial submission has won them a lot of respect beyond the rainy confines of home. And the stuff they're focusing on now is as gnarly as it gets. "We had a 10' @ 20 swell last winter," Koreski remembers, "and we found a new and really remote spot. Swimming there was heavy, like 8- to 10-foot Off the Wall, but the inside was rocky cliffs with nowhere to go. The hospital is 50 miles away by boat, so being in the water there is pretty scary."

With footage from spots like that still to be bagged, they're a long way from finished. There aren't many pairs who are able to work in the way that the two Canadians do, and it'll be interesting to see what they produce as a follow-up. But what's for certain is that Devries and Koreski are on the path of all great surf media, in that their work is turning the recording of sport into something that's much closer to art. And that field of give and take, that fusion of physical and photographic styles, is probably the most exciting thing about shooting our sport­. Malcolm Johnson