… an interview with Kieren Perrow
Story & photos Eve Jeffery
Local surfer Kieren Perrow became the man of the minute, a local legend and king of the world in 2011 when he won the Pipe Masters on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.
Byron Bay born and bred, Kieren has moved, changed and grown with the sport of surfing and he is excited about the future. I caught up with KP as he prepared to head to the Billabong Rio Pro which starts in Brazil on Wednesday.
Though Byron and beyond sees KP as one of the axis of awesome, there was life before the Pipe – Kieren was actually an excellent student in his school years and rumours of straight A marks and echoes of math and physics are part of his make-up. Kieren completed his HSC by the time he was 17 and he then moved toward his surfing career, but says things have changed in the attitude of junior surfers and they have their eye much more on the the prize in the 21st century. ‘It’s different now. When I was going through school, the juniors were just getting strong and there wasn’t the focus of 10, 11 and 12-year-olds to start competing to get a career, so I didn’t really start travelling internationally until after I left school.’
Kieren was accepted into university but deferred. ‘I gave myself a year to do the juniors to see where it led me. In that year I won the world junior champs.’ The rest, as they say, it history.
Kieren is looking forward. The big news is that next year the ASP structure will be reborn. What started and grew as an organic ocean mix has matured into a pearl and it’s about to be polished.
‘The structure of the ASP is changing’, says KP. ‘The sport up until now has been run by a collaboration of surfers and the brands, and that has been at the top level, at the board level, and both the surfers and the events, that is the brands, had co-ownership of surfing.’
Kieren feels that the ASP and surfing as a sport has been held back to a degree, by a lack of resources and that an injection of different eyes will take it into the future. ‘The new structure, in essence, is a new partnership with a group of people who have come in and made a proposal to take over the sport of surfing and to take it to the next level.’
Kieren says he is very comfortable with the new regime which was presented to the people of the ASP from the start. ‘It’s great! All the surfers, everyone got to see their plan and structure and how it will be implemented and we had a decision to make on whether it was good or not. I mean, there is always an element of trust and rolling the dice but the surf industry is hurting so it’s given them some relief and they are bringing some amazing people into the divisions.’
Kieren, you were accepted into an architecture course at university, which you deferred. Rumour is you were a ‘straight A’ student at school. Why did you chose pro surfing instead of going to uni?
‘I gave myself a year to do the juniors to see where it led me. In that year I won the world junior champs.’ The rest, as they say, is history.
KP says it is important that the junior surfers these days get educated. He feels that attaining the HSC gives you the option to slip back into the uni path at a later stage if you want to. ‘You have to study. There is no doubt. Finishing school, even though you might feel at the time that the subjects are irrelevant, it sets you up.’
In saying that, Kieren does feel that the Byron area is fertile soil for world champions and he sees much promise in the local youth.
Do you think any of the young kids in Byron have what it takes to make it on the tour in the future? Any tips for these grommets?
‘Byron has always had someone as a representative for the area. Danny Wills and Brendan Margieson were doing really well for a long time and before that there was ‘Timpo’ (Gary Timperly), and a lot of guys who were successful through living in this area. It’s always had someone. For a small place that’s great. It’s got a good local boardriders club so those kids start competing amongst themselves and get a little bit of attention. There are some great young kids around. Kyuss King, he’s a great little surfer and Garrett Parks has been through the junior process already and now he’s starting to get out and qualify. There are a bunch of kids that are great.’
Kieren says that he doesn’t have a lot of advice for the juniors but says, again, that education is important. However he also feels that if surfing is what you want, then you should go for it. ‘If you believe in it and really want to do it, just give it your all.’