Canada in February. Quick, what comes to mind first? Rocky mountains covered in snow? Backyard hockey rinks? The surface of the moon if the moon was covered in ice and road salt?
All of the above are accurate, but not the entire picture. This is also the time when cult outdoor design and apparel brand Arc’teryx chose to unveil its first-ever surf film, Happy Recluse, starring pro surfer Pete Devries.
The film, also featuring photographer Jeremy Koreski, delves into the mindset required for cold water surfing, following Devries up and down the Vancouver Island coastline as he looks for spots that meet his short, but specific, list of criteria: Good waves. Dramatic backdrop.
It may be about as far away from classic Hawaiian pipeline or SoCal image of riding waves, but it also imbues the sport with a unique sense of adventure and discovery that many of surfing’s warmer staples have long lost.
“It’s raw, it’s stormy, the conditions rarely align,” says Devries. “No one’s going to tell you where the good waves are. It’s hard-earned lessons that get you there. The cold isn’t for everyone—but it’s for me.”
It’s a fun film, beautifully shot, and makes perfect sense for a brand like Arc’teryx, which prides itself on creating gear that can survive just about anything. Yeti blazed a similar trail back in 2017 with Bruhwiler Country, giving us a peek at another group of Vancouver Island surfers pushing the envelope of the sport.
If Happy Recluse does make you feel the pull of cold water, you may also like Ben Gulliver’s The Seawolf (2017), also featuring Devries, or Chris Burkard’s amazing Under An Arctic Sky (2017), or the adventures of New Jersey’s cold water kings at Numbskulls.
As branded content goes, surfing is still pretty cool, but what’s really cool is surfing remote locations in the middle of winter.