In a regular column we catch with Kiwi expat surfers on how they got to where they are at and how they get their fill of waves.
Coby Perkovich has been steadily forging his reputation of one of the most expressive freesurfers on the planet and from several recent clips he’s dropped the global surfing media has touted his skills and asked who is this guy? Coby was born and raised in New Plymouth and grew up in the lineup of Fitzroy. He was an early starter in the surf, with his earliest memory at around four years old; something that came naturally by way of hanging out with his dad, Peter Perkovich, who was originally from Wellington, grew up surfing the isolated and rugged breaks of the Wairarapa before moving over to the Naki. Just as many other kiwis have been lured to the Gold Coast so were the Perkovich family, citing more opportunities and lifestyle as well as warm water surf on tap up and down the local coastline. Not long after Coby’s dad Peter moved over he began working at Nev Surfboards one of the world’s most high-profile shapers and busiest factories at the time, before opening his own factory Ozone Surfboards a few years later. It was here, hanging out in this factory, that Coby really kicked his passion for surfing into gear. Up until this point he had meddled in the waves, but being around the factory watching boards being built and rubbing shoulders with his dad’s team riders really kick started his all-out love affair from that point. At the same time the family moved down close to Snapper, and Coby’s days were filled with riding the Superbank and over the hill at D-Bah, in between going to school just up the coast at Currumbin. Coby’s surfing was fast tracking in this environment, surrounded by many of the world’s best surfers in some of the best waves on the planet, yet he never really got that much of a kick out of surfing amongst 400+ other surfers at Snapper and preferred to spend most of his time at D-Bah, even if he was simply pulling into 5-foot close-outs. He had a tight group of mates with surfing superstars Noa Deane and Jack Freestone being some of them. The groms were all pushing each other in the lineup, and entered the local and regional grom comps, but Coby didn’t gel with the restrictions of competition, plus he simply couldn’t afford the entry fees. While his good bro’s went on to gain results, exposure, sponsorship and big money careers in surfing, Coby was pretty happy doing his thing, trying to land moves that others had never done, with his focus on mastering one particular manoeuvre rather than doing what it took to make a heat. At around 13 years old Coby took a trip back to his homeland of NZ with his dad and the sponsored team riders of Ozone on a promotional road trip where they visited all his dad’s old stomping grounds. This re-ignited a love for NZ that Coby had not yet experienced as a surfer and one he has till this day tried to keep alive with regular trips home. Coby had a vision of what he wanted to achieve and he simply wanted to be able to surf as much as he could whenever the waves were on fire, so after 10th grade (year 11) he dropped out of school and simply surfed as much as he could, supported by his dad, and pulling his weight with the odd job around the factory. With his dad being a shaper, he was also getting his boards for free at the time, so that was a huge advantage, especially with the type of surfing Coby was doing. A lifestyle change for Coby’s dad called, and he closed down his factory and headed to Bali to live for the next few years, doing some shaping work but mainly simply living the dream cruising in Bali. Of course, Coby joined him and based around Cangu he was in the lineup all day long as well as experiencing all the other breaks Bali had to offer. Sure, he admits like most others he got caught up in the Kuta party scene a little too much, but those years in Bali were epic for his surfing and would provide life long memories. Peter moved back to the Gold Coast working as a lifeguard and Coby followed. Before long, the lure of being his own boss saw Peter open his own factory again, ‘Perko Shapes’, this time involving both Coby and his younger brother Joel. At the time Coby was riding for Pyzel Surfboards and with his progressive brand of surfing not being that friendly to keeping foam and fibreglass in one piece, Coby thought he’d start shaping his own boards. At the time it was simply a cost saving exercise, but the more Coby became involved with shaping the more he fell in love and appreciated the art. He learnt to hand shape, and still exclusively hand shapes all his boards. He launched ‘Sabretooth Surfboards’ which he pumps out of his dad’s factory, while at the same time finishes all his dads boards off. When asked why he didn’t go down the route of simply pumping out computer designed boards, he passionately talks of the satisfaction that comes from knowing that each board was created with his two hands and the guidance of his eye. Skills that would and could not be learnt cleaning up computer cut shapes. Although Coby never went down the road of a competition career, he wanted to go big and land the biggest tricks and moves he could, he also gravitated toward surfing places others don’t or never have surfed and to portray surfing in a light that wasn’t the everyday norm that we are exposed to. To share his experiences and as a matter of proof you could say, Coby moved more into the capturing his surfing on camera both moving and stills, and through those moments captured he has recently had recognition flow his way as one of the most expressive freesurfers on the planet, an accolade that not many can lay claim to. Demand is flowing in for his services and in recent years Coby has the support of several sponsors that have financially backed his videos, namely Ion Wetsuits who have Coby on their international team. Being a slave to his own work hours is also a bonus when the waves turn on, Coby can lay down the tools, hit the surf wherever that is in the world, and catch up on work later. One of those places Coby has been visiting with regularity in recent years is back home in Aotearoa, and while at this point in his life Coby is un-sure of whether he will ever return home, he does speak with great fondness of NZ. Over the last few years Coby has returned for the Rip Curl Raglan Pro and while he has stated he isn’t a competition surfer, it’s the chance to surf Manu Bay with only three others out that he won’t pass up. He also loves to check out the emerging talent his homeland is producing as well and admits seeing the level of talent here in NZ is a real eye opener. “I’m still a kiwi citizen, maybe one day who knows where I’ll end up, but for now the Gold Coast is a great base and it’s easy to travel from place to place here! My mum lives back in Okato in Taranaki so I come back to visit as much as I can and sneak in as much surfing as I can. I just love the peacefulness of NZ, it’s so untouched and even when I arrive and step off the plane and take a deep breath, it’s like I can breathe again”. So, the door is not yet closed on this X-Pat and maybe we’ll have him return home someday, until that day there’s no doubt you’ll probably see him floating or rather flying around a kiwi line-up on his visits. Remember this name the X-Pat brother is flying the flag for us.