INTERVIEW: Peter Shaw's Big Wave Breakout

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New York actor and big wave charger Peter Shaw has had somewhat of a breakout year. In terms of ticking off the most famous of big wave surf spots in the world, Peter is well on his way to completing the list and cementing his name among the other daredevils who run the gauntlet on some of the sketchiest lumps of water on the planet.

Now though, Pete's dropped a salt water smasher of an edit about is past season, or what we're calling, Pete's Big Wave Breakout Season -- you can only make one good first impression after all. “As long as it stays fun, I’ll keep doing it," he says.

We sat down with this uber-froth dog the other day...

Peter 'Shaw' knows how to scoop into a Nazaré bowl.

Peter 'Shaw' knows how to scoop into a Nazaré bowl.

© 2022 - Gramdres

Tell us about your background. Where are you from, how did your journey into surfing begin? 
I was born in New York and learned to surf there with my cousins when I was around 10-years-old, an Atlantic Ocean surfer from the beginning [laughs]. When I was a kid I had no idea that the biggest waves in the world were just on the other side of the pond. My parents don’t surf, but I managed to score a few surf trips to Hawaii early on since my Mom worked for an Airline. I caught a few big waves on the North Shore and never looked back.

How has the past year been for your surfing career?
I’ve always been into surfing big waves, but I’d say I’ve surfed more big waves in the last 15 months than my whole life combined. I was out on Maui and Oahu for the whole of last season and there were big La Niña swells back to back to back for a few months.

I got to surf Jaws a couple times, Waimea Bay and some heavy outer reefs on Oahu. Then this winter I wanted to come to Europe and check out Nazaré. It wound up being one of the best seasons on record since people have been surfing there so I unexpectedly stayed in Europe for four months. It was an incredible experience to be able to surf big waves on a weekly basis and experiment with equipment and draw new lines. I think Nazaré is unique in that way, it’s always big there. I went and did a big wave competition in Coruña, Spain and surfed a big Mullaghmore swell too. So safe to say I’ve been scoring.

All that froth going into these hell scapes, who is your inspiration?
Good vibe warriors! I like to share the water with people that are pushing the limits and having fun doing it with a big smile on their face. You’ve got to enjoy every moment out there and bring a good vibe to the water whether it’s 1ft or 100ft. It was fun towing some big Nazaré waves with Jorgen Borsboom, Sacha Bongaertz and Fabian Compagnolo this February.

Towing in with guns and different tow boards and having some lunch right on the ski was a rad time. It was real inspiring to watch Chumbo on a few waves from the ski. He’s stomping ally-oops underneath the lips of 50ft waves. That type of commitment is next level and to see it in person made me want to train harder and step up my own game out there. I also scored a paddle session at Mully with Conor Maguire, Russell Bierke and Tom Lowe; to see those legends sending it over the ledge with boils gurgling just below them on the drops was insane. It definitely pushed me to put my head down and just send it on a few crazy ones.

How did you get into acting and how does the acting/surfing balance work?
I’ve got the look [laughs]. I used to take the train into Manhattan when I was 14-years-old and audition for TV and film parts, mostly the skater roles. That helped fund a few Hawaii trips early on.

It was cool to be in the city and meet people, but I got more into it later on and went to a world renowned studio in Manhattan to study for three years. I think it’s good to pursue other things in life besides just surfing. Acting is an art form and I enjoy it. I think it actually helps my surfing in a way. It makes me focus and it’s easy to find my happy place when I’m being held underwater by a Nazaré avalanche. A good skill to have.

What are your personal highlights from the edit and can you tell us a bit about the production process?
I think the first Nazaré wave in this edit was the most special one. That was my first big day out at Nazaré and I was stoked to catch one massive wave and make it to shore in one piece [laughs]. I paddled out December 13 right after the WSL contest ended with a few other paddlers in the water.

We all got cleaned up and no one was really catching waves and it was starting to get dark, but when that wave came rolling in it had my name all over it. I just put my head down and paddled as hard as I could with the helmet going over my eyes. The wind got under my board when I stood up and I went into an airdrop staying centred over my board and in my head I was shouting to myself ‘stay on'. Stoked to make that drop.

© 2022 - Devon James

Any nasty wipeouts?
It’s funny, this winter I actually wanted to have a wipeout at Nazaré, just to get it over with. Once you pop up from a wipeout or a cleanup set, sometimes it kills all the nerves and you’re like 'okay that wasn’t so bad, I survived. It’s just surfing. Now let’s catch a bomb!' My first few sessions out there went pretty well. I got cleaned up by some sets and had a broken leash but nothing too traumatic. Later in the season I’d broken my 10’6" on a cleanup set and paddled out on a much smaller 9ft board.

I paddled into this wedge wave down at third peak and couldn’t get down the face as it was reforming and doubling up so I just jumped from the lip of this 30ft barrel. I landed in the barrel on my stomach almost bodysurfing and got rag-dolled and sent over the falls. I took a good beating but it was actually pretty fun. I came up smiling. I think the best place to fall is inside the barrel. You just want to avoid the lip out there at all costs.

Go hit play above.