The SURFER Interview: Kieren Perrow

Each season on the ASP merry-go-round there’s one surfer whose quiet story sometimes becomes the most intriguing. This year, lurking in the shadows being cast by all the bright lights on Kelly Slater, Any Irons, Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson sits the soft-spoken and rarely recognized Australian Kieren Perrow. What little fanfare he has received during the course of his career has come primarily from his amazing session in Tasmania a few years ago, where he and his friends unveiled Shipsterns Bluff to the world. The wave was instantly placed on the list of the world’s most dangerous breaks, and the hard-harging Perrow earned a rep as a big wave hellion. Since that time, however, Perrow has been flying under the media’s radar while quietly shocking the competitive surfing world. In fact, at the mid year point of 2003, he was sitting as high as 3rd place in the WCT rankings. Heading into the final stretch of 2003, the 26-year old regular footer from Byron Bay remains firmly entrenched in one of the best World Title hunts ever. Obviously, there’s more to Mr. Perrow than meets the eye, a lot more, so we caught up with him to uncover his current position as tour frontrunner, ASP board member, surfboard design aficionado and second-generation surfer. -Chris Mauro

SURFER: You’ve had an amazing run of late. Do you ever look at the WCT ratings and just think, “Wow, how did I get here?”

All the time (laughs). Every time I look at it I still can’t believe it. If someone would have told me three years ago that I’d be sitting in the Top 5, let alone the Top 20, I would’ve laughed them out of the room.

SURFER: This year the WCT has lived up to the “dream tour” billing even more than last year, especially with Slater coming back and being on his game, does that make it all the sweeter for you to be right in the middle of it?

Yeah, even the guys on tour feel that way. There really hasn’t been a better time to be doing what we’re doing, it’s more complete than ever with the surfers involved and the waves we’re hitting, so I’m thrilled to be a part of something like that, and it looks like it might get better next year with Bruce Irons hopefully qualifying, and Beschen will be back for sure. That’ll give it even more validity.

SURFER: You’re one of the surfers reps on tour. It must be a difficult position since on the one hand you’re trying to please everyone and on the other you’re trying to kick some ass.

Yeah, I don’t think I realized how much of my time and effort it would consume when I first jumped into it. I was in a meeting this morning for 2 and a half hours, I’ll be going into another one this afternoon, and then another at the end of the week. It gets overwhelming.

SURFER: I know one of the big challenges is for you guys to get the WQS events to mirror the WCT in terms of wave quality and format. What kinds of strides are being made there, if any?

Well, it’s something we’ve been meeting on all year, in fact that’s exactly what I’m about to go meet on. We’re coming out with whole new methods for the WQS for next year, where you may have to qualify to get on the qualifying tour. That will enable us to limit the number of surfers involved and go to better venues with some waiting periods. I know what it’s like to be on the WQS and be surfing crappy 2-foot waves, and it’s horrible. Now that we’ve turned the corner with the WCT that’s something we can focus on. It’s pretty exciting.

SURFER: The X-Games format really shined a light on the weakness of the WCT package, which seems pretty outdated and boring by most standards and even Kelly Slater has proposed new formats. In your opinion is the ASP even open to changing things around?

Yeah, they are for sure but it’s really up to us, the surfers, to follow through on those ideas and flush them out. Up until now that resolve hasn’t really been there, we’ll talk about it and everyone just sort of walks away without anything being done. But I think more people are seeing the value of sitting down and hashing it out. Kelly has some new ideas and there are some other guys who have some of their own. We’re well aware of the fact that the format has to change to keep it more exciting.

SURFER: Pro surfing had a pretty profound effect on you and your family even before you were standing on a board, correct?

Yeah, my dad [Neil Perrow] moved to Australia from South Africa when he was about 18. He met my mom in Byron, then got really into shaping. Bare Nature was the label he worked for in Byron, a big label there at the time. Pretty soon he was shaping boards for guys who were doing contests. One of them just happened to be Shaun Tomson. This was late ’70s, when he was the World Champion. Before long my dad packed us up and moved us back to South Africa so he could work more closely with him.

SURFER: So did you learn to surf in South Africa?