'Survivor' Season 35 Player Profile: Meet Devon Pinto

The surf instructor plans to wield his beach bum persona as a means of masking his secret 'Survivor' schemes.
Courtesy of CBS

Welcome to the Survivor: Heroes vs Healers vs Hustlers preseason! THR's Josh Wigler reports from his exclusive visit to the show's shooting location in Fiji, where he interviewed host Jeff Probst, as well as the 18 new castaways battling it out for the million-dollar prize.

Click here to make sure you're all caught up on our stories from the island, including our weekly podcast series "First One Out," an in-depth look at all of the new players, culminating in an interview with the first person voted out of the season.

Devon Pinto looks right at home in Fiji. The lifelong Californian boasts big love for the great outdoors, the beach specifically, and has always had ambitions to make it out to this particular tropical destination.

"I've always wanted to come here," he tells me when we sit down for our interview, two days before Survivor: Heroes vs Healers vs Hustlers begins. "Some of the world's best breaks are out here in Fiji. I'm hoping at any point to get to see some good waves. It's beautiful. Crystal blue, clear, warm water. Looks like there's going to be some beautiful reefs out here. I'm so excited to get out in the water. I'm not a known fisherman, but I know it's within my capabilities. I'm a water man. I feel good in the ocean. I'm ready to catch some food for my tribe."

In other words: "I've never felt better in my whole life. This is the peak."

Devon describes himself in Survivor terms as a No Collar, the free-spirited type who carves his own way forward in life. But there's an aggressive connotation to "carving," and while Devon plans to bust out the proverbial knives in the game of Survivor, it's not his usual approach to life.

"I'm a lover. A big-time lover," he says. "When need be, I'm also a fighter, but more of a lover than a fighter. I love nature, I love being out in the wilderness, I love plants, I love waves, I love surfing, I love my friends, I love my family, and I love this beautiful planet in general. I'm into surfing, I'm into yoga, I grew up playing soccer. I'm into sports, mostly extreme sports. I love snowboarding. I think the coolest way to connect with nature is to get on a board and just freaking ride the most insane, perfect wave, or get dropped off at some untouched mountain and snowboard some fresh powder."

Devon grew up in a beach town, where "surfing is the regs," as is snowboarding through the nearby mountains. He works as a surf instructor, a job he doesn't take too seriously: "I mostly do it just because it's fun. I make a little cash. I'm not too focused on cash in my life right now, the bills. I make enough to get by to pay for food and pay for my rent and whatever fun plans I have, whether it's going on a surf trip or going some place new." 

Prior to Survivor, Devon was a student at Sonoma State University, where he studied finance — not the most natural fit, based on optics alone. "But I am a numbers guy; I've always been good at math," he insists, and perhaps that's part of where his lifelong love for Survivor comes from.

"I watched the very first season with my mom. There's nothing like it," he says. "I love seeing these people whom you would never imagine in this situation, left to survive on their own and live off the land. The majority of these people aren't meant for that. They're city people. Even just shitting in the ocean is such a fucking crazy thing to them, and that's my norm! And the challenges? I get a huge adrenaline rush, just watching the challenges. But everything that I'm going to get to experience by participating in this game, it blows my mind. It's awesome."

Listen to the podcast below to hear from Devon and the rest of the Hustlers in the fourth episode of our preseason series, "First One Out."

Having watched the show with his family since its earliest days, Devon says he's more than aware of just how complicated the game has become over the past few seasons: "I have no idea what to expect at this point. We've reached a point in Survivor where anything is possible. The traditional rules have not gone completely out the window, but things have changed. It's completely unpredictable. I have no idea what's coming my way."

What he does know is what he's willing to do in order to make his way forward, beginning with wielding his surfer bro persona as a weapon.

"My plan is, I already have the dumb-sounding surfer voice, so I'm going to play myself up that way. I want them to think all I do is surf, even though I have a college degree," he explains. "I consider myself an intellectual — but I'm not going to say a single word like 'intellectual' while I'm on the island, you know? I'm going to be like, 'Whoa, sup dude? How do we do this?' I'm going to try to play that card, and hopefully they'll pick off the smarter people who are trying to run things, and then there are a lot of buff dudes and hopefully they'll see them as a bigger physical threat, and I'll thread right in through the middle."

"But I don't want to be seen as someone who didn't play the game," he continues. "Maybe to start, I'll play dumb, just to get the target off my back. And once we start getting people off, I'll bust out the big guns." 

In that regard, Devon says he's more than willing to get his hands dirty, whether that means rifling through people's bags or shamelessly scouting out the beach for hidden immunity idols.

"I think it's stupid to not look for idols," he says. "If people think, 'Oh, he's sketchy because he's looking for an idol,' that's not sketchy. It's just playing the game and being smart and getting yourself an advantage. I'll do my best to hide that I'm looking for an idol, but if I have an option of looking for the idol knowingly or not looking for an idol at all to make my tribe members happy, I'll look for the idol."

More than anything, Devon has his eyes on the million-dollar prize, and he's already dreaming up how he plans to use it — supporting "the ones who have been there for me," for one, and for another: "I was thinking I would start an afterschool program for underprivileged kids who don't have the easiest lives, who don't have parents there for them to provide them with the healthiest food or teach them the healthiest lifestyle. I would want to start an afterschool program for free for those kinds of kids, and get them to learn a healthier and happier lifestyle than what they were introduced to unfairly."

"It's a million bucks, so everyone has dollar signs on the mind, but I'm thinking more along the lines of what can I do with the money, and how can I start something that's a bright light on our Earth, and influences others to do the same," he says. "[People should be figuring out] how to make our beautiful planet survive. That should be our number one goal, and just to give everyone on this planet an equal opportunity to have a good life, and sharing the land the way it ought to be shared."

Which is why Devon has no problem stepping away from his comfort zone as a lover, and becoming more of a fighter, in his quest to secure the top prize and put those winnings to good use. 

"I'm going to have no hard feelings in this game," he says. "It's just a game. The real world? That's real shit going down. There are people actually suffering and struggling. This is just a game. Whatever bad things happen to us in this game, it doesn't even compare to the troubles that other people experience in the real world. I'm ready to play hard and stab people in the back. No worries. I'll play. I'm here to play."

Watch the video below for more from Devon on why he's going to win Survivor.

That's Devon in his own words. But what does everyone else think? Over the course of these interviews, I showed the castaways pictures of each other from casting, to get their pregame impressions of their future competitors. Read on for their takes on Devon.

Note: comments from the castaways have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Katrina Radke (Olympic Swimmer, Heroes Tribe): He's a surfer dude. He's hip. He's going to be fun. 

Ashley Nolan (Lifeguard, Heroes Tribe): He reminds me of almost every guy from my hometown. Very surfer shaka brah, very mellow and go with the flow. So, I feel like I'll be able to relate to him very, very well. Plus he's gorgeous. He's tall, dark and handsome, you know? He's got the light eyes. So he's going to be a good one to kind of keep around as an ally. 

Mike Zahalsky (Urologist, Healers Tribe): He looks like a surfer. He's going to be a great swimmer I bet. He's going to be very easygoing: "Hey, let's go do some yoga, man. Let's go meditate."

Josh Wigler (Reporter, THR): Do you do yoga?

Mike Zahalsky (Urologist, Healers Tribe): I mean, I've tried to do yoga before. But yoga to me is just sitting there and thinking, like, "How can these people clear their minds?" Like, I don't know how to clear my mind.

Ben Driebergen (Marine, Heroes Tribe): Oh, my wife is gonna like him. She likes the surfer dudes. He's tall, dark hair, blue eyes, and I think he's kinda like the stoner surfer guy who's all like, "Yeah, bro!" Kinda like Woo, but with a mix of Joe. He's kind of like the surfer Joe. He's going to be fun to be around. You might have to drag him along a little bit and coach him a little. But my wife is gonna like him. 

JP Hilsabeck (Firefighter, Heroes Tribe): Another good dude. Looks like we'll get along great. Looks like he surfs, just like I do. It's the same thing [as with Cole]. You can't be too buddy-buddy. People see you as a threat, and it doesn't work out.

Cole Medders (Wilderness Therapy Guide, Healers Tribe): He's going to be my bro on the show. He's a total surfer. Surfers and climbers, it's the same world, just opposite ends — in the mountains, on the oceans. He's always doing some kind of yoga or reading a surfer book. I think we're going to have a good partnership.

Patrick Bolton (Small Business Owner, Hustlers Tribe): He's the Zen man. He's always in his zone. I see him, he's always outside on the grass, you know doing yoga or meditating, it looks like. This is meditation right? He's holding his hands up with the circles. That's the best way to describe that. I mean, it's a peaceful kind of person. You somewhat can associate that with trust, but not too early. He's a young guy. I wouldn't trust him.

Watch the video below for an early look at what Devon's victory speech might look like.


High fives from past Devon to future Devon! More soon from the latest #Survivor contender at the link in my profile.

A post shared by Josh Wigler (@roundhoward) on

Lauren Rimmer (Fisherman, Hustlers Tribe): I think he's a surfer dude that just, you know, maybe lives off mom's money, dad's money, and kind of hangs out and goes with the flow.

Simone Nguyen (Diversity Advocate, Hustlers Tribe): I think he's just playing into that goofy guy, carrying a ukulele and singing show tunes and having a good time or whatever. I'm not impressed. Get a job. What are you, a gardener? Stop.

Alan Ball (NFL Player, Heroes Tribe): Yoga man. Yeah. Very in his own world. Out of everybody here, he is in own space. I think he's not doing it on purpose, that's just who he is. He's a person that travels in his own space. I mean, he's a cool dude, he was walking around with a [ukelele]. He was walking around with one of those, and I peeped it. You catch him at the right time, you catch him off in the corner sitting Indian style. I can't even sit that way, but he's very comfortable doing it. He's way taller than me, and to be that tall and to be that limber? It's impressive.

Ali Elliott (Celebrity Assistant, Hustlers Tribe): He's a really tall dude, and I don't know why it's weird to me, but he always sits like criss-cross, applesauce. Like, dude, you are so tall, how are you wrapping those legs in the criss-cross? 

Jessica Johnston (Nurse Practitioner, Healers Tribe): I don't know what he does for a living. He reads some kind of surfer book. He again seems kind of like, "I'm in the clouds and I'm surfing on the air." Totally a "let me in the sun, let me lay in a hammock" type of guy. He's a total goofball. He smiles at everything, but again, he looks awesome.

Desi Williams (Physical Therapist, Healers Tribe): He has great energy. He sings, he's reading a book about surfing, so I assume he's a surfer. He looks like a surfer. I think he has Hawaii tattooed on his ankle. I can't get a read on how he feels about me, so that's what I'm still trying to figure out; but I certainly would be happy to work with him.

Joe Mena (Probation Officer, Healers Tribe): People like him. He's easy on the eyes for the girls. He's definitely like a cowabunga surfer dude. I think it's the Hawaiian Islands that he has on his left ankle. He's familiar with the islands, I'm assuming.

Roark Luskin (Social Worker, Healers Tribe): He seems potentially like a Jay or a Joe or an Ozzy type. I think he's a surfer. I think he's probably going to be like a dolphin in the ocean. Super tall, super good-looking kid. He meditates a lot. He's barefoot a lot. He seems very Zen. 

Ryan Ulrich (Bellhop, Hustlers Tribe): If he was anymore laid back, he would fall over. He sits with his back against the tree with coconuts right over him. He doesn't care that they might crack his head. He does not care. He stares off into space constantly. He's reading a surfing book, cover to cover, page to page. He seems really laid back, and I'm not laid back. I'm not a bro. I've never surfed, you know? I don't like swimming in the ocean, and that's all he cares about. I mean, his base tan is phenomenal. Phenomenal base tan. So that's someone who I'm not alike. But he's threatening, because I don't want to compare him to like Fabio or anything like that, but he's so laid back and he's not going to think strategically, and nobody's going to think he's a threat the way other people are.

Josh Wigler (Reporter, THR): What are you doing at Ponderosa right now?

Devon Pinto (Surf Instructor, Hustlers Tribe): Like, what's my strategy, not being able to talk to them? I've just been trying to give every single person equal connection, and not trying to give anyone any sort of over attention. Because I don't know where I'm going to end up. I don't want to totally shun a few people, and give other people more attention, then end up on the tribe with people I shun, and then have them stab me, you know?

Josh Wigler (Reporter, THR): So, you're casting a wide net?

Devon Pinto (Surf Instructor, Hustlers Tribe): Yeah. I'm just trying to lay low.

Click through the gallery below for photos of Devon and the rest of the Season 35 castaways.

Keep checking THR.com/Survivor for more coverage of the Heroes vs Healers vs Hustlers preseason.