The latest release in the Of Souls + Water video series examines the life of Hawaii-born surfer Christopher Peterson. After experiencing extreme personal adversity, he found himself in riding waves—but this time on the river. The poignant film speaks for itself, so watch it, then get to know the powerful protagonist a bit more in this Q+A.
Adventure: How do you feel about surfing now, since finding your way to the river?
Christopher Peterson: It feels really good actually. I’m surprised that the rivers offer so much, I’ve learned a lot about a whole new dynamic of surfing. It’s cool that I can be so far away from the ocean and learn many things about something so familiar yet totally different—different people, different environment, mountains, cold water, etc. I didn’t think I’d like it at first, but it’s done a lot for me, the river is a super special place for me now.
A: Scripted on your chest are the words “The Ocean is My Home.” Is that still true?
C.P.: Yeah, very true. But the definition has widened for me a little. When I got the tattoo I was in Idaho, and my grandmother had just died. I felt I really needed to do something to remind myself of the ocean. I had a feeling in my gut pulling me back to the sea. I got that tattoo early in the spring after the fire and hadn’t realized I could surf in the rivers yet. The ocean is still my home, but I have the perspective now that the rivers are the origin of the ocean. It’s all connected you know.
A: Has sharing this story of your own personal tragedy been transformative or healing?
C.P.: Living here in Idaho where people don’t know as much about surfing and very little about the ocean, I got a lot of questions as to why I was here. So I explained my story many times. But yes, this film has been an opportunity to share my life. It’s kinda crazy to do that. When Skip asked me to do this film I felt I could explain things to a bigger audience, and let people know that my life has had its up and downs. Life is short, you know. It’s important for me to pick myself up and continue doing what I love.
A: Have you redefined your fight?
C.P.: It was explained in the film pretty well that I’m not really a fighter, but I think a lot of people misunderstand me when I meet them for the first time. My scars, tattoos, etc. So yeah, I do feel that for a long time I was a fighter helping friends and girlfriends and family. Now I am more willing to be in the flow and let life happen on its own more. I’m super stoked on these new opportunities and experiences, pretty rad to have a rebirth of sorts.
A: Does the river now feed your spirit like the ocean once did?
C.P.: A lot of people think that waves are always good in the ocean, but it’s really not that way. Especially in Hawaii, there are really good times of year to surf and some the year the surf is pretty flat. The ocean used to draw me knowing that surf season was coming and there would be good waves. I’m learning that rivers have the same thing going on. Spring comes and the rivers swell and it’s surf time all over again. I think I might not live in Idaho or inland all year in the future. But yeah, I definitely want to be back on the river for the peak run-off surfing. The ocean is still my home, but the river has been really good for me.