Kieren Perrow - A C-Skins Man In Surfing's Top Flight
This is the start of a series in which we'll be talking with our team riders about their careers and relationships with surfing.
First up we’ve got Kieren Perrow: A Pipeline champion, long term surfing advocate and one of a small group of people who can claim to have been a part of professional surfing at the highest level for a quarter of a century. Kieren is an innovator both on and off the board, working with the ASP and WSL over the last decade and a half.
Kieren had the job of Commissioner at the WSL, overseeing development of the Championship Tour, Qualifying Series, Pro Junior Series, Big Wave Tour, Longboard Tour and Specialty Events and Series.
At the peak of his professional career ranked third behind Andy Irons and Kelly Slater. The man is a surfer's surfer; someone who has not needed a spot in the limelight to charge hard in professional surfing. We’ve been proud to sponsor Kieren for many years, both prior and following his famed season back in 2011 when he won his Pipe Masters title. That’s right, you heard it, Kieren was wearing C-Skins whilst winning the Pipe Masters.
There aren’t many people who can say they have been involved in the highest level of professional surfing for two and a half decades. How have you seen the sport change? Has that change been linear? Do you think the future of surfing is headed in the same direction as it has been going for the last ten?
The sport has changed many times and very significantly at a few major moments during my time. From the revolution of the Dream tour when I was just starting out on the QS and had become a Surfer Rep… through the global financial crisis of 2008 and the impact that had on the endemic brands who supported the tour which led to a re-think on surfing’s structure with less events and surfers. Then came the proposal from Paul Speaker and Terry Hardy to buy the ASP [Association of Surfing Professionals], with backing from the Ziff family and other investors, re-brand it to the World Surf League, and make huge investment in the sport's global broadcast quality and exposure. All of these changes have started with major pivots and are now on a fairly stable trajectory, with plenty of really positive additions and tweaks to grow surfing as a sport. There will always be bumps in the road and naysayers, but I believe its headed in the right direction now.
How did you come to be involved with C-Skins?
I started riding for C-skins around 2009/10, through Tomas Martin who first brought the brand to Australia then… I had known Tom from the Salomon surfboards days, and then was introduced to Mark and the team in the UK. I really believed in the brand and quality of the suits straight away and felt welcomed to the family from the beginning, which is a huge part of why I have loved being a C-Skins ambassador all these years… and stoked to have been doing so when I won the Pipe Masters!
How has surfing changed for you throughout your career as first a competitive surfer, then commissioner and now consultant? Has your style changed; do you aim to achieve different things in the water? Is it the same thing that gets you stoked now as 20 years ago?
Yes it's changed a lot! From my junior days when I was really just trying it out and having fun, to the first phase of qualifying onto the CT and doing really well in my rookie years. Combine that with chasing great swells and being lucky in the right spot a few times in crazy waves - Shipsterns, WA, Off the Wall - that really developed my love of big hollow waves. I then fell off tour and struggled to enjoy my competitive surfing for a while, finally making it back on the CT for another six years and travelling with my family helped me gain perspective and refuel my fire… winning Pipe after a heart-breaking 2nd place the year before was the pinnacle moment for me and surfing in those kinds of heavy waves has always and still does get me the most stoked! I’m just not out there as much now trying to do airs as well!
How do you balance your role with the WSL and wave chasing in general with family life?
It’s been difficult the last few years obviously, with Covid and travel not happening, though we have had some amazing waves around home… I’m still itching to get back to Hawaii or Tahiti now though!
What’s your opinion on wave pools and the different technologies that are being developed across the globe? I saw that you were involved with Kelly’s wave pool project and their involvement in the WSL. What do you think the future impact on competitive surfing will be?
It’s awesome to see so many different technologies being developed, and systems built or under construction around the world… Kelly’s really set the bar high and his is amazing to surf, but the variety of waves now is cool for surfing and competition as they start to grow and hopefully roll bigger waves! I think two foot or more on top of the waves being generated now will be a game changer.
What kinds of boards are you surfing at the moment? Has the kind of board that you surf changed over the years?
I am still riding for DHD. He is a legend, and I am lucky to still be able to push my surfing on his boards… I started with Darren around 2007/8 and for a long time the DX1 was my favourite model. I still love these, but now the DNA is my go-to: 5’10 by 18 3/16 by 2 3/16. I have dropped an inch down over the past few years from 5’11"s.
How does the tour compare now to the days of Andy Irons, Kelly Slater, Taj and Cooly kids Mick and Parko? What’s the most exciting thing that modern tour surfers are doing?
Those days were fierce, and so stacked with talent and rivalries… not only AI and Kelly but Mick, Joel, Taj… the tour talent-wise is insane these days, both men and women, with a lot of focus and discipline on performance. The air game is obviously a huge part of surfing now and can be really exciting, when it’s not overdone… also just pushing barrel riding deeper and more committed is epic to watch.
This year was the first time the women’s event was held at Pipe. Do you think there were any highlights from the event, what do you think is next for women’s surfing?
It was awesome to see the women at Pipe for a full CT. Carissa and Tyler were ripping but Moana stole the show and pushed the women in some pretty challenging surf on finals day. The trajectory of surfing and performance levels is incredible and with more opportunity in waves like Pipe, G-land and Tahiti it’s only going to be better for the future of women’s surfing.