feature, portrait, shaper, surf session

Interview: James Otter - Otter Surfboards, UK

As you may know, yours truly is from England, and though I deeply love living in New York, from time to time I glance over my shoulder to see what I’m missing. Brexit isn’t one of them, but Otter Surfboards most certainly is.

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We recently caught up with Otter Surfboards founder, James Otter, to find out more about his wooden surfboard company. Otter descends from a family of farmers and carpenters, so if there’s a gene for finding pleasure in working with your hands, Otter almost certainly has it. Growing up connected with the land and with craftsmanship Otter went on to attended one of England’s more outdoorsy, coastal universities, Plymouth. It was here that the idea of building wooden surfboards first struck.

Ice Cream Headaches: Tell us about the genesis of Otter Surfboards - where did the idea come from?

James Otter: The thought of making my first wooden board actually came from a magazine: The Surfer's Path. I was studying furniture making, heading into my final year and through the summer break they ran an issue called 'The Wood Issue', which exposed me to a whole world of wooden surfboard makers. I loved the idea of it, so began working out how to use local timber to make surfboards. After two years of experimenting, I got to a point where I was happy with the boards and started working out how to sell them.

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ICH: Did you know right away that you could make it work, or were you considering other paths at the time?

JO: I definitely didn't know if it would work, but I was young, so didn't have any financial commitments or dependants, and I had the 'If not now, when?' question rattling round my head. So I jumped into it and gave it all the energy I had. Luckily I've had such supportive friends and family that are still by my side to this day, who have helped make it all possible.

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ICH: You've said in previous interviews that you were surprised and very happy to discover that teaching people how to make these boards was almost as fulfilling as making them yourself. What is it about teaching, or the combination of teaching and making, that’s so satisfying?

JO: By teaching people to make things, you open them up to what they are capable of doing with their own two hands. It gives them such belief and confidence that you can't help but smile. Today, not many people stop and take the time to make anything, let alone something they plan on playing with in the ocean, so the excitement and anticipation that rattles round the workshop during our courses is just magical.

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ICH: What's the hardest thing about running this company?

JO: For me, it's simply the ambiguity of it all. We never know when the next order might land in our inbox, which leads to some pretty lean months, even years, which can be tricky to deal with. Although we definitely aren't in this to make lots of money (I think that would be incredibly hard), we do need to make enough to keep going, and that can be challenging at times. Luckily, after 8 years’ running the company, we're still here and still smiling. It still doesn't feel like a 'real job', hanging out with friends, laughing and surfing for most of our waking hours.

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ICH: For people who are deeply attached to surfing, but who’ve never tried a wooden board, what would you say to convince them to give it a go?

JO: I know for a fact that it isn't for everyone, but for those with an open mind it can transform your surfing. Our boards finish about 25% heavier than a typical foam board. They have momentum and carry speed, so they really suit big, smooth turns and flowing lines. If that's the kind of surfing you aspire to, then they could be just what you're looking for. Also, knowing exactly how they are made and what they are made from - literally being able to see where the trees once stood - is a big plus side for us. We make our boards to the absolute best of our abilities and know they will last decades, all of which contributes to better care for our planet.

 Surfer Jonny Leon

Surfer Jonny Leon

ICH: How important are partnerships with other brands or sponsored surfers in spreading the word about your work and your boards?

JO: We love working with like minded people, companies and charities. It's a way to elevate what we do and expose ourselves to new audiences, so it works really well as a way of getting our name out there. It's also one of the most enjoyable parts of the job because each new partnership or project demands creativity and a new story.

ICH: Is there any surfboard technology you're aware of, or following, that you believe could make a meaningful dent in the environmental impact of mainstream surfboard manufacturing, and what are the barriers to wood as a material playing a bigger role in the industry?

JO: I think there are several that are interesting to keep an eye on, but it's a tricky question because most of them are still based on a very capitalist attitude of selling more products to make more money. It's really encouraging that you have larger manufacturers trying out new materials and manufacturing processes to try to make boards more sustainable, but there is also a heck of a lot of miscommunication and green-washing. The big manufacturers still, ultimately, rely on selling a huge volume of products to make their businesses viable. We focus on doing the least amount of harm we can and making the best product we can, but above all for us, we are building a community of like-minded individuals who will make real changes in their local communities. We can all make a difference.

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ICH: What is your vision for Otter Surfboards in the long term - do you plan to keep growing organically, or are there other plans for growth or diversifying on the horizon?

JO: There are some fairly natural progressions for us, but we enjoy doing what we do so much that it's mostly about the preservation of that. It's funny, we got together a few years ago as a team and decided that growth for us doesn’t mean chasing targets for more customers and more sales. Instead, it’s about finding ways to improve our customer's experiences, add more value to the surfboards and our care for people. We've got a few projects and plans up our sleeve, but ultimately we're keen to keep doing what we already do. When you have customers that make positive, life-changing decisions off the back of their experiences with you, it feels like we could hang up our tools tomorrow and be more than happy with how we’ve affected the world around us.

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We’d like to thank James Otter and photographer Mat Arney, for their time. Check out Otter Surfboards at their website here.

For news, action and offers, follow Ice Cream Headaches on Instagram here.

portrait, feature, surf trip

Interview: Fiona Mullen, New Jersey Surf Photographer

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We’ve featured the work of up-and-coming New Jersey photographer Fiona Mullen before, but after seeing glimpses of her new portfolio of work from trips to Indonesia and Australia, we felt now would be a good time for a proper chat.

ICH: Tell us about your trip to Indonesia - who did you go with and why?

Fiona: I first visited Bali in November 2016 - a short 10 day trip to Indonesia that had me itching to go back. This summer I traveled to Australia for an internship with The Mermaid Society, but I decided to dedicate the whole of May to a surf trip beforehand. I wanted to be somewhere close to Australia and cheap to live. Indonesia was the best option. I had no luck finding a surf camp to have me stay as a photographer, so I chose the comfortable route and decided to go back to Bali for the month. I met up with my friend Karson Lewis, who is a longboarder, on an island off Bali. It was nice to spend time with a fellow longboarder and photograph my favorite style of surfing. The trip was intended to be purely for surfing, but while I was there it seemed like we had days on end of flatness or well overhead swells that were more suitable for shooting. I had some seriously humbling swims on this trip! I also spent time battling crowds, dealing with bali belly, allergic reactions, and all the other unpleasant things that come with third world travel.

I now have a love/hate relationship with Bali. The place has changed so much even within the two years since I last went. The crowds are worse, the trash is worse, the traffic is worse, and I cannot see how the place is going to improve with the constant build-up in an already-crumbling infrastructure. Bali is an experience to say the least.

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So, what was the inspiring moment of the trip?

The most inspiring moment was swimming at Uluwatu. I surfed it when it was smaller a few days prior, but it was a whole different beast on this day. I made the long walk down the cliff, through all the restaurants and shops with my housing and fins in hand. I swam while my friend Jake paddled out. Swimming out wasn't bad, but as the tide filled in the sets just got bigger and bigger. Lots of Brazilians, a few locals and others filled the lineup. A lot of guys come up to me and ask for my name and info to buy photos if I got a shot of them. I love people's reaction when I tell them I'm from New Jersey. It’s always a shock to people. Swimming back in was the sketchiest part, getting swept so fast down the sides of the cliffs and timing my exit through the keyhole before I got swept past it to the next beach, which is a long way down!

It was a magical morning. I found out the evening before that session that my grandma had passed away. She had been battling cancer for a year, and I was sad to not be home with my family. The last time I saw her, I was telling her about my upcoming trip to Bali and Australia. I swam out at Uluwatu the next morning, just as the sun was coming up. The whole session switched between sun and rain showers. I came out without a scratch, getting some of the most rewarding photos of my life.

That sounds amazing! For you, what’s the most enjoyable part of your creative process?

The most enjoyable part of photography for me is that you have these unexpected moments. I feel when I force my photography, it's never enjoyable. I hate planning things - it never feels as genuine. On this trip there were various days where I had no plan on shooting, but the stars aligned and the waves ended up being too perfect for me not to swim out. Surf photography can be repetitive, and there are so many people that do it these days, but I have learned that keeping my passion for it alive consists of not comparing my work to others’. Despite the current over-saturation of surf photography, I’m always thinking of ways to create something new and personal to me: I don't want the excitement of shooting surf to dwindle anytime soon!

How come you decided to study PR & journalism at Monmouth, rather than photography?

I started off planning to major in art with a concentration in photography, but I found it too fine art based for my liking. I felt like photography was something I needed to pursue on my own time instead of studying. Public relations and journalism seemed like the most compatible with what I was doing with my photography. I’m constantly collaborating with other artists or companies, and having to write, so a communications degree seemed like the best fit for me. Monmouth is a beautiful campus - just a mile from the beach, allowing me to pursue what I love while studying!

Can you tell us about any barriers you’ve had to overcome to pursue photography?

Being taken seriously as a young female photographer was hard. When I was 17-18 years old it was difficult to find ways to take photos and still make money. Starting out with photographing friends is great, but it could only take me so far. I’ve learned how to stand up for myself and not be taken advantage of. Doing work for exposure is always great, but it makes me happy when people see the value in my work and trust me to do photography work for a company or whatever it may be. You can't break into photography by giving away photographs; there has to be a balance between taking photos for your personal portfolio and photographing professionally. I am still learning all of this.

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Yes - it’s a steep learning curve! You’ve often focused on coastal communities and surf culture. What do you find compelling about the ocean and surfing as a subject matter?

My time in Australia and New Zealand this summer reminded me why I spend so much of my time, money, and creative effort photographing surfing. I like to stay true to what I love and the water is where my mind is, so my photos reflect that. For my internship with The Mermaid Society, I lived with Sally (the founder) and her family after only meeting through FaceTime calls. It worked out perfectly. I had always dreamed of traveling to this end of the world, where surfers and ocean-minded people make up such a big chunk of the population. Coming from the northeastern US, where surfing year-round is almost unheard of to the average person, it was pretty cool how so many Australians prioritize surfing and time spent in the ocean in their lives. New Zealand was a quick solo mission - I rented a car and drove around the majority of the north island in a week. The place seems so raw and geographically distant from the rest of the world. The feeling is hard to explain, and I tried to capture that in the photos I was taking there.

So, what's the next big adventure you're planning and what would be a dream photo to come back with?

After doing a sailing trip in Australia, I am eager to get on a boat again. I am currently reading Swell by Liz Clark and it is really making me want to hop on a boat somewhere off Mexico and sail down the coast. I’m dreaming of a photograph that encompasses everything great about the combination of surfing and sailing!






Big thanks to Fiona for her time and the photos she shared with us here. To support her work, check out the new print store on her site!


feature, portrait

Interview: John Weber - Surfrider Foundation

If you’re a ocean-going soul and you’re not already aware of an organization called The Surfrider Foundation, it’s about time you got an introduction. 

In its own words, Surfrider is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world's ocean, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network.

Under the banner of this mission, Surfrider is focused on five key initiatives: to ensure public beach access, promote clean water, fight against plastic pollution, protect the ocean and preserve the coastlines around the US. It’s a tall order, but as the saying goes: it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog. 

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To learn more about the critical and complex work Surfrider does on our behalf, we dropped a line to John Weber, Surfrider’s Mid Atlantic Regional Manager. 

Weber grew up in Bergen County, New Jersey. His grandmother had a beach house on Long Beach Island, were he caught the surf bug during long school summers. After some time away from the ocean at college in Virginia, he found his way back to the Jersey Shore where he’s lived ever since. We asked how John became involved with Surfrider.

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“A few years out of college, in the early 90s, I went to this classic longboarding event with a friend. Surfrider had a table there and they invited us to attend a chapter meeting later on. After we surfed my friend wasn’t interested in going to the meeting, but I decided to go along and learned more about what Surfrider does. I was interested in helping out, and started going to the chapter meetings regularly. They gave me things to do like tabling at surf contests and concerts.”

Weber took up a day job organizing professionally for NJ Citizen Action - a not-for-profit that fights for social, racial and economic justice. He continued volunteering for Surfrider, taking on more responsibility as time went on. 

In 2005, Surfrider brought on a new CEO and restructured to operate regionally. The organization began searching for full-time regional managers to help organize the dozens of chapters in every corner of the US. Weber’s professional background in not-for-profit organizing meant he was perfectly poised to take on the role. He became the first Surfrider employee on the East coast, and has now worked there for 13 years. 

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Somewhat uniquely, Surfrider measures its impact by the number of victories it wins when pitching itself against politicians and businesses whose actions could harm the ocean or the coast. Though the organization is largely comprised of volunteers, this simple indicator of success helps Surfrider to stay focused in its efforts and to learn lessons from each campaign that can be applied to the next - even when the next campaign may involve new volunteers or take place in a different part of the country. These guys really understand how to win a political fight.  

We asked Weber about the actual process involved in legislative battles. “My role has a practical function, in that a lot of hearings and meetings take place in the middle of the day. Volunteers are generally at work during the day, so I go to the meetings, cover them and provide input. I answer a shit-ton of emails and have a lot of conference calls! My goal is to try to organize support for a specific position or idea so it’s all in one place. This way our voice is more powerful and impactful. I’m not running around trying to convert people who don’t believe in a particular point of view. You’d be exasperated trying to convert them! It’s a matter of getting people who already agree to do something.”
 

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Surfrider’s power to effect change and protect coastlines and oceans depends on its activist network. “We’re not doing this through high-priced lobbyists in D.C,” Weber explained. “At a local level politicians care about whether people are going to vote for them. We train volunteers so that when they do stand up in front of a town council, they’ve got the science and the speaking skills to make the case in their communities for protecting the coast and the beaches. We invest a lot in that training - that’s how we rack up the victories. We do it without spending lots of money. We can make a big difference with three people turning up at town hall meetings and speaking a few times.”

We asked Weber about where the work of Surfrider intersects with climate change, especially in an era of unprecedented environmental threat and climate change denial

“On climate change, Surfrider has a unique position. We recognize that it’s an underlying factor - what we see happening on our beaches and in our oceans all relates to climate change, but we’re not working on the emissions end of the problem. Someone wants to put up a seawall. Why? The water level is rising and the beach is eroding - that’s climate change, but we’re at the table with insurance companies, real estate developers and risk assessors. We’re not going to convince them with charts and graphs about global warming. We’ll convince them with the dollars and cents: ‘You will lose money.’ That makes it easier for people. Also, we keep our work local and grassroots: ‘Your local beach is disappearing and here’s a plan to protect the private property.’ If they love the beach, they’re in - we had them at ‘beach’. People can actually see the local manifestations of that work.”

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Of all the challenges faced under Surfrider’s broad remit, we wanted to know the most pressing issues for the East Coast region Weber manages. 

“Oil and gas affects the whole East Coast, so it’s number one to me,” Weber said. “In this region and for the NYC chapter, the Williams Transco Pipeline is a big one - it’s coming from New Jersey and multiple chapters are affected. NYC is doing an incredible job on that right now, and it feeds into the bigger climate change debate. When we’re fighting the fossil fuel industry, it’s never about the facts. We can win the fight because of power, because we have amassed an amount of power politicians can’t ignore. I can get more votes by bringing in the wind energy people, because it’s about creating a new industry.”

Another issue at the top of Weber’s list is plastic pollution in the ocean. The scale of this problem has come to the fore in recent years with scientific documentation of the mind-boggling Atlantic and Pacific gyres, swirling with slowly-degrading plastics that are working their way into the food chain. 

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“It’s a reminder that we’re not paying attention and we’re mucking the place up. Who wants to go surfing with a bunch of plastic crap in the ocean? Surfrider has been working on it for over ten years, and a newer offshoot is our ocean friendly restaurant program, with a goal of serving 500,000 plastic-free meals. Hundreds of restaurants have registered for that program. As seemingly the whole world has changed its attitude about plastic straws, one of the requirements for participating restaurants is ‘straws on request’ - i.e. for people who actually need them. You can live your entire life with a reusable coffee cup and a reusable water bottle. This kind of programmatic work is never really done - there is nobody on the opposing side fighting against you. Millenials are more on this than older generations for sure. Young kids just get it - it hurts animals!”

Finally, we asked how Weber stays motivated when this line of work can seem like an endless uphill battle. 

“The legendary environmentalist John Miur said, ‘All the victories are temporary and all the losses are permanent.’ I don’t know why I’m hopeful. There seem to be more losses than victories, but I’m super motivated by the volunteers that come out of the woodwork - they have plenty of passion. Because people continue to come forward and take a basic step like helping with a beach cleanup or leading an action, I continue to be hopeful.”

We'd like to thank John Weber for taking the time to educate us about the important work Surfrider does. 

Our enjoyment of the world's oceans is literally Surfrider's mission, so if you haven't already, please --> join the Surfrider Foundation <-- right now!

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Interview by Ed Thompson

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Interview: Helena Dunn, Founder of Tuulikki Swimwear

About a year ago, a new swimwear company based in Rockaway, New York, popped onto our radar. The brand produces a focused line of womens swimwear which is both stylish and thoughtfully crafted with the surfer in mind.

We don’t care what you’ve seen in the magazines, the reality for most women is that surfing in a bikini is a constant nightmare of readjustment, wedgies and unwanted exposure. If you’re a guy reading this, imagine surfing in a jockstrap and tell me how you’d feel taking an outside set on the head. “At peril” is the phrase you’re looking for.

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We caught up with Tuulikki founder and designer, Helena Dunn (a fellow Brit! - Ed), to learn more about her company.

Ed Thompson: Tuulikki is a little over a year old and you're about to launch your second collection. How are you feeling about the journey so far? 

Helena Dunn: From the start I’ve felt like it has its own momentum and that it’s kind of my job to shepherd it along, which involves finding the most aligned collaborators and protecting it from going in directions it’s not meant to. In that sense it’s been a dance of intuition, faith and patience – knowing when to push and when to go with the flow. The most joyful part has been experiencing the reaction of women discovering our product and being so psyched on it. That’s what it’s all about: creating a service so women feel seen and empowered.

ET: Chris Gentile gave us a great quote about ‘having the courage to let all the different passions in your life touch one another.’ It seems like you might have found that place for yourself?

HD: Oh yes, Chris hit the nail on the head with that one. Tuulikki represents my deepest held beliefs and longings. It’s in service of so many things that I care about, which makes me feel incredibly grateful and humbled. I’d even say I regard Tuulikki as more of a spiritual becoming than a business venture. Of course it needs to make money to survive but I see it more as an energetic frequency that needs to exist and I trust it to evolve as it’s supposed to.

ET: You've just wrapped this incredible photoshoot with Karina Petroni and New York longboarder & cinematographer Mikey De Temple. Tell us how that came about and its significance for the brand.

HD: Mikey De Temple is a friend and such a talented creative. We’ve started to collaborate and are planning to shoot together a bunch, which is super exciting because we’re both based in NYC and share a passion for East Coast surfing, telling the story of what it is to be a surfer out here. Karina is someone whom I’ve admired for a long time for many reasons. She lives and breathes the ocean and also she takes the health and strength of her body very seriously, in a way that is beyond aesthetics. She’s indefinable and has a real depth of integrity. Mikey and Karina have been friends since they were kids and so he shot this while visiting her and her husband in the Bahamas where they live. In the shoot she’s wearing some signature pieces from our core collection and I see it as a celebration of this incredible woman, the choices she’s made and her connection with the ocean, all through the lens of her good friend, which I think is a beautiful thing to capture.

ET: As a fellow Brit, who also grew up in the English countryside, I can relate to some of the experiences you've described in previous interviews - but I've never been to Finland. What is your favorite memory of Finland, where you spend your childhood summers? 

HD: We would spend time at our family summer cottage, which is some kind of portal to the past. My great grandparents, who built it, were artisans and everything inside was made by them or by our relatives. For that precious time, our lives were all about being outdoors and pretty much off-grid aside from the occasional drive to the local market. All activity centered around the lake and being more connected to nature and one another: boating, fishing, swimming and the daily rituals of morning and evening saunas, followed by hurtling your naked bodies into the cold water. During these summer holidays the mundane world of school, homework, even television, was so far away and the simplicity of the past held us in that space. 

ET: Caring for the environment is clearly an important aspect of Tuulikki. What are some of the key environmental threats you want to raise awareness about in your business journey? 

HD: First and foremost I hope to be one of the voices in battle that helps change the manufacturing standards dominating the fashion industry. Patagonia is a huge influence on our business practices and how we want to grow. There are three main areas I hope to raise awareness about. Firstly, our overconsumption of plastics. Secondly, the importance of offsetting our carbon usage as individuals and businesses as we shift towards renewable energy. Finally, one of the biggest environmental threats we face is losing connection with nature entirely by just focusing on little screens all the time. Tuulikki exists to encourage women to connect with their bodies and nature – to feel that sense of oneness. I made this brand not because I think people should buy more stuff but rather because I want to get more women in the water. Surfing and being immersed in that feeling creates a virtuous circle where you feel a responsibility to take care of this beautiful planet. If more people felt like this on a weekly or daily basis, I’m confident we would see big positive change in people’s consumer habits and healthier lifestyles all around.

ET: One of the things we wrote about in the book is how sexist the surf world can be. Women's swimwear often seems designed to sexualize and objectify the female body, and Tuulikki is responding to that by making something that's stylish, functional and empowering. How do you explain why this is so important to people (mostly men) who haven't taken a gender studies class?

HD: We’re at an interesting moment on that front with the #metoo movement and a general shift in public perception regarding the subtle boundaries of sexism, exploitation and what will no longer be tolerated. The surf industry, like all industries, has problems in this area and progression needs to be made in how young women are represented in the sport. My specialism is design and so that’s where I’m able to be a social activist of sorts. I found the minimal amount of attention that was going into bikini design in the surf industry infuriating and incredibly patronizing. It just seemed to directly correlate with the lack of respect women’s surfing has within the industry versus men’s. This is certainly changing by all accounts, but the point is that a surf bikini should be more than just a bikini because it’s not there for decoration and this brings us to the main point, which is that WOMEN ARE NOT DECORATION.

ET: Right on! Tell us about your design process - where do you go for inspiration? 

HD: The design process for this brand is very restricted .. in a good way. We only use sustainable, recycled fabrics, we only work with mills that have the best eco practices, we only work with ethical factories that are local to the markets we serve and we only make things we truly believe need to exist. I try to make bikini sets that are good for different body types and ages, providing a range of coverage and protection depending on the surfer’s individual needs. So, when I design, my mind moves around the body and the lifestyles of the people using it. I also talk a lot to my customers and fellow surfers to see what they’re feeling. I consider things like; will this travel well? Does it dry quickly? Is it lightweight? For example, I design the suits to be layerable, making sure that the pieces and their lines go together so you can have an option to surf in your bikini and then throw on a perfectly complementary second layer if the sun is strong or you’re getting board chafe or it’s a little cooler than you thought it would be. The line is a simple curation of essential pieces. Minimalist, timeless, highly functional but without the athletic trappings you might find in some ‘sporty’ bikinis.


We’d like to thank Helena for taking the time to answer our questions and encourage you to check out the awesome collection she’s put together here!

Photography by Mikey DeTemple

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Photographer Profile: Grant Monahan

After taking a break from our journal to actually finish the book (which we did), we’re back with a fresh series of interviews and stories about some of the movers, shakers and creatives we admire from the East Coast and beyond. 

If you surf in New York and especially in Long Island, you might be familiar with a young photographer named Grant Monahan who has steadily been building a strong portfolio of photography from surf travels around the world. His work was most recently on display at in a compelling and energetic solo show, ELSEWHERE, at the Montauk Beach House. We ask Grant to share his story and tell us about the show. 

Can you tell us about yourself?
I was born and raised in Montauk, NY, where I still live today. My father, Tomas, is one of the old-school Montauk surf crew, and introduced me to surfing at a very young age, something I cherish and am very thankful for. In the summertime I work seven days a week at my family's business The Ditch Witch and in winter I fuel my passion for surfing, photography, traveling, and experiencing different cultures. 

How did you get into photography? 
I have always been intrigued by cameras and photographs, but it wasn't until I was at College of Charleston in South Carolina that I began taking photography seriously. I became obsessed with skateboarding - specifically, the very intense backyard skate ramp scene that was flourishing in Charleston. The level of skateboarding was way beyond my ability, so when the sessions got heated I grabbed my camera. While I got my degree in anthropology, at the same time this experience sparked a desire to document the culture I was witnessing. I realized I just loved taking photographs and couldn't stop. I’m very fortunate to have grown up in Montauk, surrounded by exceptionally creative people who’ve constantly influenced me, given me advice, and gone out of their way to help me succeed - too many to name.
 

The Ditch Witch is an institution at this point - how did it get started?
My mother, Lili, started the Ditch Witch in 1994. Before that she was a chef in numerous restaurants around the East End. When I was a baby, my mother used to take me to the beach right by our house, Ditch Plains, and she always wished there was a place there that didn't just sell hotdogs and had decent food. So she and my father went for it and started the Ditch Witch. The first season there was absolutely zero sand at Ditch Plains, the entire beach was rocks. Business was terrible and they almost gave it up, but the next year there was a giant beach with loads of sand and The Ditch Witch did well. This season is the 24th year of the Ditch Witch. My Mother worked twenty seasons and then retired. Now my sister and I are partners in the business. I truly love working in that small trailer at Ditch Plains and interacting with the abundance of interesting people that pass by. I am 27 years old and I’ve now worked there for 19 years... 

Tell us about the exhibition at Montauk Beach House - what's the idea behind this collection of images?
The collection of images at ELSEWHERE was honestly never supposed to be put together as a photography exhibition. They were photographs I had shot traveling over the past five years, simply out of enjoyment and for the memories. When their Creative Director, Walt, asked me to put something together, I decided to go back and explore all that film. I feel this series shows who I am as a person and photographer more than any other collection of images I’ve displayed in the past. These photographs were very personal to me and I couldn't be happier with how they look at the Beach House and how the exhibition has been received. 
 

 From Grant's exhibition "Elsewhere" at the Montauk Beach House.

From Grant's exhibition "Elsewhere" at the Montauk Beach House.

Is there a particular point of view you're working towards in your photography? 
I believe growing up in Montauk, surrounded by "salt of the earth" people has definitely influenced my photography. I want to point my lens at those kinds of people and capture snippets of culture that truly exemplify a place. I like to think I have a photojournalistic approach, which was sparked by a love of shooting film. I want people to look at my photographs and see authenticity and know what they are seeing is real, a pure image. 

As fellow book enthusiasts, we love that you've chosen to document your work in book form. What inspired you to do that and what have you learned from the process? 
Books are a special way to display a collection of photographs. As an object it becomes so much more than just the images. It is its own art form; the textures, the size, pagination, the typography, etc. Everything has to come together to create one tangible display. I’ve produced two books and numerous small "zines", each one more rewarding then the next. My first project was a book of portraits I shot through the Ditch Witch service window, called View From the Window. My most recent project was The Dock, a still life project where I photographed all the memorabilia on the walls and selves of The Dock Tavern in Montauk. Both projects were an attempt to capture a small snippet of Montauk culture in an unique way. The Dock book was so rewarding because it was a true collaboration between me shooting the photographs, Javas Lehn designing the book, George and Chris Watson writing the introduction and all the captions, and Bill Duer of Hatteras Press dialing in all the printing details. Books are exceptionally difficult to produce but creating a lasting, tangible product is the most rewarding feeling.

What's the next project you're looking forward to?
I have a dream project that I want to begin. It involves Montauk, portraits, and the backbone of this beautiful community. I can't really go much further than that - I want to take the photographs first and announce the rest later!
 

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Interview by Ed Thompson

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New IndieGoGo Perk: Conatus Surf Club Lesson!

We are very excited indeed to announce a new addition to the IndieGoGo Perks lineup for our campaign. 

We've teamed up with our friend philosophy teacher and surf coach, Dion Mattison of Conatus Surf Club. If you buy the perk, Dion will be offering 3 hours of personal tuition AND you'll get a copy of our book beautiful book! 

We wanted to let you in on Dion's radical, holistic teaching method, so we asked him a few questions to introduce himself. 

Tell us how you came to surfing in the first place?

“My dad is a surfer and I grew up on a sailboat. My mom is an avid swimmer, sailor, kayaker and body surfer. My grandparents are underwater photographers. Being an ocean person is in my DNA. I liked the water from the start.”
 

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What got you interested in teaching?

“I believe people have callings in life. If you attune yourself in a certain way you can be in a position to understand what your calling is. Perhaps more than surfing, my calling is to be a teacher. And like surfing, I started to be aware of this from a very young age. I enjoy sharing ideas and ways of seeing and being with people. I love to ask questions about why things are the way they are and finding appropriate ways to describe complex phenomena. I believe that the practice of philosophy in an original sense, as a dialectical process, is an attempt to unlock the highest potential of the human species. I believe that education is the key to unlocking our highest potential in every field of knowledge. Surfing is such a field."
 
"How I feel about the push-in-style surfing schools is no secret: I think they’re an ethical disaster. So I dreamed up a teaching practice where the end goal was to populate the lineup with respectful, graceful, efficient, and proficient surfers. This idea was in its infancy around 2003 in San Francisco. I was finishing up my BA in religious studies at UC Berkeley, already knowing that I planned to become a professor. I worked in a surf shop and just decided to give the idea a go. It took off and I operated through word of mouth for basically the next ten years.”
 

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How do you see your experience of life in New York as connected to surfing? 

“I moved to New York to pursue my PhD in philosophy at the New School for Social Research. I knew there were waves in New York and New Jersey, and I like the cultural upshots of city life, so it was a logical destination for me. I drove across the country in my 1975 BMW 2002 with three surfboards on the roof: a shortboard, a fish, and a log for giving lessons. I went surfing in Long Beach on my first day in New York: July 3, 2009. It was 1-3 feet, offshore, and kind of firing (I rode the fish). I knew from that first session that New York, academia, and surfing were going to be a nice combination for me."
 
"My surf coaching business, which I officially named Conatus Surf Club in 2013, has taken off here. I facilitate many people’s practices, having created something of an intentional surfing community on the way. So for example, I teach a course on ancient philosophy on Mondays and Wednesdays from 8:00am - 9:40am, which gives me plenty of time to surf after class. Tuesdays and Thurs-Sun are all open for surfing and coaching, if the forecast is right. I have found that our waves are great for learning surfing because they’re mostly small and gentle, and then when they’re big they are quite perfect.”
 

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You have quite a unique approach to teaching people to surf. How does it work?

“My approach is holistic - it is both intentional and reflective. I use Ludwig Wittgenstein’s theory of language games to inform my definition of surfing as a form of life with a specific set of changing grammatical structures. My goal is to guide students in understanding various ways of being in and around the ocean. I teach them how to be surfers — to describe waves, bathymetry, wind and swell forecasts, rip currents, ability levels and riding styles of other surfers, board shapes, etc. This empowers people to assess where to paddle out and position themselves in the lineup. Physiologically speaking, my method is based upon paddling form and breath."

"You know a proficient surfer when you see one paddle, so it makes sense to focus on this first before focusing on standing up and riding down the line. You cannot even work on that if you cannot catch waves on your own. I match this with wave judgment. A lot of this is me being a kind of meditation teacher and enforcing patience, which leads to better judgment. I also start filming students from early on in the practice. It can be hard to watch oneself struggle ungracefully but ultimately going through that honest reflection with yourself catapults you further faster in your practice. It’s like writing rough drafts and having the guts to revise them. You see things differently and you can learn from your mistakes. This component obviously becomes crucial for advanced intermediates looking to enhance their repertoire and style.”
 

What can the person who gets our surf coaching perk on IndieGoGo expect in their sessions with you? 

“It depends on ability level. If you are a complete beginner you will get two basics lessons where you’ll learn how to check the surf, where to paddle out and why, proper paddling form, and lineup etiquette. Every person is different so I don’t promise anything in two beginning sessions other than perhaps the most difficult and rewarding 1.5 hours of your life (3 total). Some people get it right away and are catching waves in the first session, others are wrestling the board like it’s a bucking bronco learning to do the “sit turn”. We tailor it to your pace and comfort level."

"For advanced beginners and intermediates we’ll assess the strengths and weaknesses in your surfing, help you with wave judgment and paddling form, and get some video for you to reflect on your body and wave positioning. We’ll also take a look at your quiver and make suggestions based on our sessions together. If need be, we’ll put you on 1 or 2 different boards from our quiver so you can try out shapes that might be ideal for you. For beginners we provide all equipment.”
 

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Our IngieGoGo supporters can buy a lesson for NY or CA. Who teaches out in California? 

"Conatus Surf Club also offers our brand of holistic and intentional surf coaching in southern California. Our point man out there is Mike Siordia. Mike is a genuinely awesome guy with tons of knowledge about all southern CA surf spots, surfing culture and board design history. He is a longboard ace but also a well rounded surfer proficient on any chunk of foam. Mike has worked with young aspiring professionals, adult beginners and intermediates. He can get you paddling through any lineup with ease, increase your ability to glide and trim, and help you understand lineup dynamics and etiquette."

What do you love about surfing in NY?

“When it’s perfect here it’s really perfect. Plenty of space to spread out and find your own peak. Plenty of locations to explore. If you’re respectful the locals notice it and don’t hassle you. The flat spells make time to get other stuff done.”
 

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shaper

Beach House Classic Part V: Gerry Lopez - Lightning Bolt

One of the moments of pure joy during the making of our book was finding Eric Beyer's cache of rare and treasured surfboards at Beach House Classic Surf Shop in Bay Head, New Jersey. We've already shared the stories he told us for his Michael's Fremont double-ender egg, and his beautiful blue G&S with the original fin. In the final installment of this series, we're very excited to share the story of this 7'6" rounded pintail Lightning Bolt. Over to Eric.

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"Lightning Bolt Surfboards got its start during the shortboard revolution. The company was founded in 1972 by Gerry Lopez and Jack Shipley, and by the end of the decade it had become the most iconic surfboard brand in existence. Known as “The most frequently tubed surfboards in the world”, the label dominated big waves line ups all around the globe. Lightning Bold boards were ridden by the best surfers from coast to coast."

"This gem is an iconic 7’6” round pin barrel rider. It came to me as a trade in from a customer from Belmar late in the summer of 2003. He had stopped surfing because of a knee injury suffered in his mid 20s. When he brought it in, he told me stories of getting some serious hurricane surf at the L jetty in Avon as well as point breaks from Montauk to Point Judith, RI."

"Later that fall, I got to ride it in some really nice overhead Bay Head South Swells and had a blast! It was super progressive considering its age. It really held in well, it was quick out off the bottom turn and caught waves like a dream. I was carrying Lightning Bolt surfboards shaped by Craig Hollingsworth at the time, so I figured I would give him a call."

I told him about the board and he asked me a few questions. He wanted to figure out if Gerry Lopez had actually shaped it or not. Craig told me that based on the resin (not painted) bolt and the ultra-fine resin bolt pin-lines on the deck, one of Lopez's signature details, and the fact that "a pure source" was written along the bolt, it was almost certainly shaped by Mr. Pipeline himself. The capstone that confirmed his suspicion is that the signature is on the resin surface, not a laminate placed under the resin. It currently hangs on our shop’s ceiling above a painting of Lopez surfing Pipeline behind the counter."

Huge props to Eric Beyer for sharing so many great stories and boards with us. If you get the chance, pop down to Bay Head and check out the store for yourself! 

Finally, we're very excited to let you know that we are now accepting pre-orders for our book Ice Cream Headaches: Surf Culture in New York & New Jersey. Grab your copy today!

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Words by Ed Thompson

Photographs by Julien Roubinet

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Justin Mulroy - Lifeguards

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There are few jobs more complimentary to life as a young surfer than lifeguarding, as we learned when we interviewed 20-year veteran lifeguard and surfboard shaper, Charles Mencel for our book.

So, as you can imagine, we were seriously stoked to hear from Justin Mulroy, a lifeguard and photographer from New Jersey who has spent several years documenting lifeguarding culture in Sea Girt and Monmouth County. We'll let Justin take it from here!

"Lifeguarding at the Jersey shore had always been a dream job. Growing up a surfer, I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to spend the summer. From eleven to fourteen years old I was a Junior Lifeguard and every surfer I knew was on the patrol."

"At the time I saw lifeguards as people with the best job in the world, but I was clueless about what being a member of Sea Girt Beach Patrol actually entailed. I scraped by my first year on the beach, grinding through the foreboding lifeguard test, a 500-meter swim and a mile and a half run. The swim was tough, but, to my relief, I completed the run rather easily."

"At 16, I was the weakest member of my Rookie class, but seeing the people I was surrounded with quickly changed that. Training for the first time for something other than surfing, I sought to compete in the traditional lifeguard tournaments held across the beaches of Monmouth County, the prize: bragging rights as the most athletic patrol." 

"The tournaments consist of running, rowing, swimming, and Paddleboarding with a few unique events thrown in, depending on which town is hosting. Every town ordered and set up their own events in the most advantageous way possible to their individual beach patrol."

"Lifeguards at Sea Girt Beach Patrol are watermen and women that understand the lineup better than most of the surfers out in the summer. We swim around in hurricane surf, laughing. We have great responsibility as first responders not only to people in distress in the water, but to anyone who may need assistance on or near the beach."

"The roster ranges from 16 year-old rookies to 70 year-old veterans, the oldest, known as 'Ace'. Ace leads the beach with his morning announcements and holiday speeches, always concluded with a resounding “Praise Him!” Working for Sea Girt is more than just a summer job: it is looked forward to all winter long, keeping people swimming, running and training... even in the dead of winter."

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We'd like to thank Justin for reaching out to share his photos and his story, and for the service he and his fellow lifeguards do for their local communities! 

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Words by Ed Thompson & Justin Mulroy

Photographs by Justin Mulroy

On Tour with Jamie Brisick

Most of our dear readers hail from the Northern Hemisphere, where it is now high summer. Why, then, is this interview, conducted in the dead of winter, coming to light more than six months after it was recorded? Because we like to take our sweet time, that’s why. 

If we’re honest, part of the reason is that we’ve been working feverishly on our actual book and trying to game our WSL fantasy picks to vanquish our friends.

All that aside, whenever we’ve had the opportunity, we’ve tried to meet up with any of the surf-world luminaries that drop by New York to ask them probing questions about their pasts and future plans. Last winter we managed to corner writer, filmmaker and ex-pro surfer Jamie Brisick in a cutesy cupcake cafe in the East Village and grill him in detail about his days on tour. 

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Although Brisick now lives in LA, there was a time when he turned his back on SoCal to sample life in the Big Apple. And like any sane West Coaster who can, he keeps a pied-à-terre in New York as refuge for when water-pocalypse finally renders the City of Angels uninhabitable.

Brisick grew up in the San Fernando valley in California in the late 70s. His home wasn’t close to the ocean, but at the time skateboarding was heavily influenced by surfing. “I would skate under a hedge like I was in the tube before I even knew what that was,” Brisick mused over coffee. He first surfed at Waikiki on a family trip, on a rented soft top board. With a background in skating, he took to surfing quickly and started getting involved in competitions, quickly racking up a sponsorship from Quiksilver. “The age division I was in it didn’t take a lot of work to get a first place trophy because we were all just kids trying to figure it out.” 

As soon as he realized there was a pro tour for surfing, Brisick devoted his obsessive high school years to a single goal. “All I wanted to do is get out of where I lived and get on the world tour.”

 Young Jamie Brisick, via Outerknown

Young Jamie Brisick, via Outerknown

Brisick’s father was an academic whose house guests were university professors and heads of high school departments. His own social existence, meanwhile, came to center on the beach. “At that time, surfers really were dropouts. It was a radical lifestyle - counter cultural but not necessarily intellectual. My home was full of books but I was hanging out with these guys on the beach who didn’t work and smoked pot.”

With a string of contest wins in hand, and a sponsorship or two to his name, Brisick graduated High School in ‘84, turned pro in ‘85 and joined the world tour for 5 seasons from ‘86-91.

The germ of surfing’s world tour began in 1976 when the International Professional Surfers (ISP) organization created a ranking system for the world’s best surfers. In 1983, the new Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) created a system of joint ownership between the surfers on tour and the event organizers. By the mid-nineties, the ASP had devised the Dream Tour concept: ‘The world’s best surfers on the world’s best waves.’ In doing so, they reduced the number of events and moved the contest battlegrounds from urban centers that would guarantee a crowd to remote, powerful waves that would guarantee a spectacle, laying the foundations for today’s World Surf League (WSL) tour. 

"Mark Richards, who was four-time World Champion in the late 70s, was famously on a diet of steak and coca-cola."

Brisick’s time on tour bridged the period of rag-taggle, loose affiliation, and the time when pro surfing pulled its socks up and got serious. “It was a fantastic time in pro surfing,” Brisick said as we huddled around a small table in the corner, trying to ignore the icy blasts that washed over us every time someone opened the door. 

“Not a lot of money, but it was incredible fun, on the cusp of turning athletic, professional and businesslike.” The younger surfers bubbled with excitement at the chance to travel. Brisick summed it up as a group of “guys in their 20s thinking: ‘this is the greatest scam we could ever pull off...’” Meanwhile, senior tour members had started to draw inspiration from the disciplined rigour in other sports: thinking and training like real athletes. “They had always been naturally athletic,” Brisick said of his fellow pros, “but Mark Richards, who was four-time World Champion in the late 70s, was famously on a diet of steak and coca-cola.”

On today’s WSL tour, a surfer can earn enough money from a few years in the top 20 to live comfortably for the rest of their lives. The ASP offered nothing like this level of security, even to top tier surfers. “I was ranked 45th in the world but you were upwardly mobile. You wanted to think, ‘tomorrow I might beat Tom Curren and Martin Potter, then when I go back to Quiksilver to renegotiate my contract maybe I can get $5,000 a month instead of $1,000 a month.’”

Even with several sponsorships, Brisick was making barely enough money to make it around the world for a ten-month tour that included more than twenty stops in the US, Japan, France, Spain, Brazil, Portugal and 2 legs in Australia. Amazingly, Brisick didn’t find the financial pressure too uncomfortable. “For an athlete it's almost dangerous to have the mentality of worrying about tomorrow. The more you have at stake, the more likely you are to make it.”

"He went down to the beach at two in the afternoon, took off all his clothes and surfed the whole thing naked. He was so drunk he could barely paddle..."

Now a full time writer, Brisick learned much of his hustle, not to mention his calm in the face of a dwindling bank balance from his years on tour. “It was hand to mouth and there was this underground way of knowing how to get by,” Brisick said. “If you were in Hawaii you'd go surf Rocky Point because there were a lot of cameras and you might get a photo in a magazine. I had a photo incentive from Oakley worth about $500. In France you could sell your second hand boards for a lot of money. Next to the contest on the beach there was a kind of garage sale of pro surfers selling stuff. You'd sell your sunglasses to pay your hotel bill. I never put a cent away, but it made you resourceful!”

During the ASP years, the tour was financed by a patchwork of local sponsors rather than the short list of global brands that support today’s WSL. “Back then, anyone could sponsor a contest,” Brisick said. “Some restaurant in Durban came up with an event so we’d have one there. Oxbow wanted an event at Mimizan Plage in France, so we'd have one there. For us, the more events the better because it offered more opportunity to make some money.”

As may be imagined, there are stories... Many are frankly unimaginable in the context of the modern WSL’s media fanfare. “I remember once in Japan there was a contest on an island off Tokyo, with maybe a hundred people watching,” Brisick said. “If you didn't make it through you were just drinking beer until the end. The organizers decided to run an ‘expression session’ heat. They offered prizes like $500 for the best off-the-top, cutback or tube. Twenty guys would go out and go crazy, really try to lift the performance bar. They ran this right before the final so everyone was on the beach. Rob Bain, an Australian with a sort of irreverent club-contest mentality, had been drinking beer and sake all day. He went down to the beach at two in the afternoon, took off all his clothes and surfed the whole thing naked. He was so drunk he could barely paddle but he caught a wave and stood stiff upright, rode it into the shorebreak, got rolled in the sand and paddled out to do it again. You would never see that today. It would be so counter to the machine of pro surfing. And that wasn't the exception. In the surfer DNA there was a rebellious, protesting spirit about the whole sanctioned, organized structure. I don't know if that DNA is still in the 2017 world tour." We asked if there was any fun left in the tour at all. “I don't know, but it does seem more serious..." Brisick said. 

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Nonetheless, Brisick is a fan of the modern tour format. It’s hard not to be, though sometimes the hype and glamour reaches a fever pitch that is a little too much like the NFL for our delicate European palates. Ah who cares, it’s only surfing. And now that Kelly’s broken his foot, my WSL fantasy strategy is starting to look a lot more threatening...

Follow Jamie’s writing on his website.

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Words by Ed Thompson

Photographs by Julien Roubinet

Barn Storming - Part 2

We've mentioned before how much we enjoyed browsing Tony Caramanico's collection of carefully stored and much loved surfboards. 

In this follow up, Tony shares the stories of three more selects from his incredible hoard: a 1968 Weber Ski, a replica of the McTavish board that started the shortboard revolution in 1967, and a truly priceless Rick Rasmussen gun, hand shaped by the legend himself for Tony to take on a trip to Java. 

The Weber Ski

In Tony's words: "This board was shaped in 1968. It was from a collaboration between Dewey Weber and world champion Nat Young. Nat rode this model in Hawaii and was featured riding one on the cover of Surfer magazine.  It has a very early fin box with an original plastic (not fiberglass) fin."  When he acquired the board in near perfect condition in Montauk, several years back, the deck still had the original thin coat of wax. 

Plastic Fantastic

"This is the surfboard revolution starter," Tony mused.  "The design is called 'The Plastic Fantastic Machine'. It was built in 1967 and is credited with being the first shortboard! I purchased this replica from Bob in 2014, one of seven built.  With the full v-bottom, wide tail and deep-sweeping George Greenough-inspired fin it was was a huge step forward in design.  A definite icon."

You can imagine our surprise when we turned this thing on its side and took a look at that tail. It might be a replica, but this thing aches with original design thinking and exquisite craftsmanship. It may never get ridden, a sacrifice for a greater good. 

Javan Juice

"This is the last board Ricky made for me before he died," Tony said.  "It holds lasting memories for me. I rode it in an Andy Warhol video shot here in Montauk around 1982. In 2015 this board was exhibited in the 'Surf Craft' show curated by surf historian Richard Kevin here in NY." 

Like the class act he was, Rasmussen wasn't satisfied with offering Tony just one board for a trip to a heavy reef break on the other side of the world. He took the time to knock up an equally spectacular matching twin. Rasmussen was truly a man of no half measures. 

Many thanks again to Tony for sharing these incredible boards with us. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

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Words by Ed Thompson

Photographs by Julien Roubinet

portrait, feature, shaper

Lucid Dreaming with Luc Rolland

In your wettest and wildest dreams of surfing, where your soul drifts apart from your body to surf mystical breaks on rugged coastlines, shrouded in softly-lit morning mist, lapped with peeling, blue-green, head-high waves, and where magic wave-craft infuse your surfing with unequalled grace, Luc Rolland is your shaper. 

We were fortunate to get an opportunity to meet with Luc after two separate trips to France last year to enjoy the honestly-it's-tempting-to-just-fucking-move-there Côte des Basques. We'd seen Luc's shapes here and there online, but we had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for until we met the man himself. 

Luc was born in St Cloud, France and grew up in Biarritz where he spent time in the ocean and eventually learned to knee board. Aged 13, amidst the shortboard revolution, he saw friends ripping the lamination off longboards to re-shape them into shortboards. “I couldn’t believe they would trash these classic old boards,” Luc said. “I asked my dad to buy a polyester slab and I made a board for myself. I just painted it because we didn’t have resin. Two sessions later it went to pieces,” he laughed.
 
Luc pushed his creativity in other directions. He told his mother he wanted to become an inventor so he would never have to make the same thing twice. He painted, drew and made sculptures. 
 

At school Luc performed poorly because he couldn’t stop daydreaming. “The school told me: ‘You don’t have the capacity to stay in regular classes’. My parents and I went to visit a ‘manual activities’ school where they taught vocational skills. My parents choose ceramics for me because it had potential to lead to a job. I was super happy - it was just the best three years!” After his vocational training, Luc was accepted to study at a prestigious art school in Paris, returning home each summer to build surfboards for his friends. 
 
Since then Luc has forged a living from his sculpture, painting, ceramics and, increasingly in later life, from his shaping. In his studio, relentlessly assailed by his cat Mimi, Luc showed us some of his work. 

Unlike most shapers, Luc doesn’t use templates, and he prefers not to use an electric planer when he works. He leafed through a sketchbook, showing the earliest formulations of his ideas. Some pages feature a single curved line, fuzzy with a few strokes. On the next page will be something radically different, yet clearly an extension of the same thought.
 

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“There is no accident, it is all conscious decisions,” Luc said. “There is a similar language throughout the boards. Some people call it retro but I like to say it is actually very modern. It is really hard to go back into the past. I have no interest in it.”
 
In his large cuboid studio, extraordinary, space-ship-like prototypes perch on racks. “This one is inspired by a cuttlefish,” Luc explained. Nearby are racks stuffed with longboards, mid-lengths and fun-shapes, a pick-n-mix of perfection. Many feature robust ¾” stringers and most are either white or black, understated, elegant and glassed with astonishing precision, perhaps finished off with a translucent, pearlescent fin. 


If he doesn’t look to the history of surfboard design for the language of his craft, where is he finding it? “It’s like asking me, ‘why am I me?’ I have no idea how it comes to me. It is metaphysical! Creation is auto satisfaction - you get into a process of research to feel better. I am not looking at what others do, but we are always influenced by what’s been done. I learned through that, but now I want to go towards myself, towards my own ideas. ”

Though the space overflows with surfboards, we were surrounded by a thousand other experiments: functional ceramics, experimental sculptural forms, scratchings, paintings, etchings, sketches, strange surfboard fins, all of it physical and direct. There is a black and white through-line but this is interrupted by bursts of neon color and glittering metallics, almost in an act of self-resistance. 

“My mom was a drawing teacher, so there is this positive and negative, an inside and an outside. The line creates a vibration between the two spaces. Because I’m an artist, I have an idea and then I have a strong desire to materialize it. I believe in the idea of the perfect board and the perfect wave so when I work it’s more about a feeling or a sensation than a material.”
 
Luc calls his boards “rêve de surf de rêve”, or “dreams of dream surfing”, and dreamlike they may seem, until they find their way out of the studio and into the ocean where, for the lucky owner, those dreams start to get very lucid indeed. 

See more of Luc's work here.

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Words by Ed Thompson

Photographs by Julien Roubinet

Swenson Magazine

A while back we were contacted by Swenson, a new community for creatives, entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders, artists and athletes. Swenson asked us to share the story of our project and offer a sneak peak at some of the images we'll be featuring in our book. 

The magazine is one part of a set of tools designed to create dialogue and conversation amongst the global creative community, supported by a weekly newsletter, curated events and a space where you can work and even stay. Oh, and take a break to surf

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Though Swenson has only one location for now, the magazine presents a great opportunity to engage in dialogue with the broader creative community, so we're stoked Swenson wanted to feature our project! 

If you can, pick up a copy of their first issue at one of these outlets or give their newsletter a try!

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Words by Ed Thompson

Photographs by Julien Roubinet

shaper

Campbell Bros X Son of Cobra Bonzer - Russ Short 3

When a new surfboard joins the Ice Cream Headaches family, we like to make a little fuss so it feels right at home. On this occasion, the board in question is a Russ Short 3, designed and shaped by the Campbell brothers and glassed by surly Frenchman Son of Cobra. It is a modern ode to the elegant, game-changing bonzer design we've written about before. 

How, we hear you ask, was this extraordinary resin work achieved? Paul cured and then shattered a thin layup of black resin, then mixed the flakes with white tinted resin before applying the mixture to the board. The result is a fantastic pain in the ass to sand, and exquisitely beautiful. 

The proud new owner is a very happy (some would even say smug) Mr Roubinet who has been waiting in ernest for the perfect swell to take this beautiful spaceship for a test-drive.

We wouldn't be doing this creature justice if we didn't show you how it surfs, so here's a little taste...

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Zak Noyle

Even if you don’t know who Zak Noyle is, there’s a good chance you’ve seen some of his photographs. They’ve been published by ESPN, Transworld Sport, National Geographic and the BBC, not to mention in surf publications including The Surfer’s Journal and Surfer

At just 31 years old, Zak’s career has already included a meteoric ascension to one of the most hallowed positions in surf photography: Zak is now the Senior Staff Photographer at Surfer and he regularly takes on assignments to travel and shoot with some of the best surfers in the world.

We caught up with Zak to learn more about his work and what drives him. He talks very fast - almost breathlessly, sounding like the CEO of the hot new startup that is basically his life, excited to share his story and his plans.

Zak's journey into photography was catalyzed from a young age by his father who was a commercial photographer and who passed on some of his wisdom and a few tools of the trade. Zak began shooting photos in his single digit years and by high school he had had his water photography published in magazines like Sports Illustrated and Transworld Sport, where he took a full time job after graduating. At the age of 25 he started working at Surfer and now combines his day job with running his own photography business and a seemingly endless string of brand collaborations with the likes of water housing company SPL, surf company RVCA and swim fin company DaFin. 

“I grew up on Oahu and I came out of a swimming and water polo background. I had a natural swimming ability, but I hated it. I hated swimming laps and I used to hide in the shower. It’s come full circle now - swimming and learning that discipline has been important.”

Becoming one of the world’s top water photographers means becoming one of the world’s top swimmers by pre-requisite. The playing field  for taking groundbreaking surf photographs is most likely in the path of a 20 foot breaking wave, half a mile off shore and bobbing a few feet above a sharp, potholed reef.

“You want to be prepared,” Zak told us. “I swim 3-4 times a week. I swim a lot of laps, half of them with swim fins on to train to have my feet comfortable in fins. I view myself as an athlete now, so I need to be in optimal shape. A bunch of my friends are doing underwater breath holding training and I want to get into that too. In the end it’s the ocean and you need to respect it!”

Although the list of his achievements is frighteningly long already, Zak pulled off something of a career highlight at last winter’s Eddie Aikau Invitational in O’ahu. Pummelled by 30 ft waves closing out Waimea bay, Zak swam and shot the historic contest for 8 hours straight, capturing through his actions and photographs a truly memorable moment in surf history. 

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The Eddie Aikau ran on February 25th, 2016 in waves that were so big the safety of the contest itself was called into question. That’s pretty rare from the organizers: ‘The Eddie’ demands a minimum of 20ft waves before it will even run, honoring the fearless lifeguard and surfer in whose memory it is named. 

“I had never swum into 30 ft waves but I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think I could handle it,” Zak explained. “A lot of the times with waves, it’s strength and training and the experience that keep me calm. I knew physically I could do it, but mentally you have to be calm.”

Aside from the endurance required for this feat, Zak also truly understands the media demands of the modern surf audience. When The Eddie runs, O’ahu basically shuts down for the day with crowds of thousands gathering on the beach to watch. For those who can’t be there, internet livestreams, social media and TV broadcasts let people tune in from around the world. 

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Zak shot the Eddie on his DSLR in a water housing, but he used his iPhone from the water to wirelessly send the images he was capturing to the Quiksilver social media team. From there, they could combine them with the TV broadcasts or upload them to be shared on social media. “In between the sets, they need something else they can use to keep the excitement going,” Zak explained, “so I could send that to them from the water with my phone.”

We asked Zak how he had prepared for the day. “I had water and snacks packed and ready to go on the jet ski, but I actually didn’t eat or drink anything on the day. I hydrated heavily the day before with electrolytes and water. I packed extra batteries and a bought an extra phone so I could transfer the sim card if my iPhone died,” Zak told us.

With literally no food during the 8 hours he spent in the water, we wanted to know how Zak managed to keep shooting. “I was just fueled by adrenaline on the day. If the surf is good you have to shoot conservatively. You don’t want to have to go in and change your memory card because you might miss the shot!” Zak continued, “I was so mentally spent for days afterwards I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t even look at the images for 3 or 4 days - I just gave the photos to my agent.”

We asked if Zak took any major beatings out in the water that day. “I was nauseous with adrenaline and I did get completely worked. I got worked to the point where I had my hand on my rip-cord, but I didn’t want to inflate it, get dragged in and miss a wave. I’d waited seven years since the last Eddie Aikau Contest ran and I wasn’t going to miss a single moment out there. I wanted to be in the water, and just enjoy it. I have a photo of when all the skis came charging in on that closeout set and I just dived as deep as I could under the rolling whitewater. I had to dive 25 feet to get under that. It was pitch black and I couldn’t tell which way was up. That was a 2 wave set. If it had been a 5 or 6 wave set, I would be washed in on the rocks. For sure,” Zak laughed. 

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We were thrilled to meet Zak and see him participating in the RVCA artists program at the Unsound Pro event in Long Beach. His level of stoke, energy and enthusiasm seem boundless and he talks as if he’s only just getting started. Watch this space!

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Words by Ed Thompson

Photographs by Julien Roubinet

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James Katsipis - Three Frames

James Katsipis, or "Catspiss" only to his closest friends, has a photographic sensibility rather more delicate than his nickname. He is truly dedicated to the craft of photography and has made a name for himself as one of eastern Long Island's leading lensmen. We asked him to share three of his favorite shots from the many years he has spent documenting oceanside life on Long Island and would you know it, he sent us a bonus shot we just couldn't keep to ourselves. Over to James for the back stories. 

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"The winter brings deep blue and shimmering silver tones to our line ups. This is my take on an early morning surf check at out local break, Ditch Plains."

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"Historic winter storm Juno hit the East Coast on January 27th 2015. There was a total travel ban across New York, but we knew the waves were going to be pumping. A few brave souls ignored the ban and fled to the ocean to be greeted by perfect, overhead, barreling waves. It's all about dedication to the love of our sport." 

Paddle_Out__(1_of_1).jpg

"Every surfer knows this perspective: the paddle out, waiting to take the first duck dive and get their first head-freeze to determine how cold the water actually is that day. This was one of the coldest days swimming I can remember. My hands were so cold they actually felt like they were on fire. I was shaking my hands underwater to try to get the blood to circulate in my fingers. The only way I could tell I was hitting the shutter was to listen for the sound of the camera firing."

BONUS SHOT

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"It has been said that the Montauk Lighthouse is our Eiffel Tower. Nothing is better than swimming out off the coast of Montauk and seeing it from a perspective you just can't get from land."

Many thanks to James for digging through the archives to share these beautiful shots. Head on over to his site to see more of his work. 

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Words by Ed Thompson

Photographs by Julien Roubinet

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Mike Nelson - Three Frames

A couple of times now we've convinced local photographers to dig into their archives and share a few of their all-time favorite images with us. Last year were stoked to share selects from Matt Clark and Fiona Mullen who also told us about the extraordinary circumstances that sometimes lead up to making a really memorable image. 

We're kicking off 2017 with another photo series, this time from Long Beach lifer, Mike Nelson, one half of the duo behind Unsound Surf Store. 

Mike's photography is truly rich, showing off the accumulated wisdom from uncountable sessions and endless hours spend shooting and surfing the length of New York's coastline. Yet, his work is so full of passion, excitement, color and drama, you might think he'd only recently picked up his first camera. Mike possesses a quality often found in truly talented artists - the ability to produce accomplished, professional work and yet somehow hold on to the childlike wonder at the subject of inspiration. In his own words, Mike talks us through three of his favorite shots below. 

"Long Beach NY, sunset. Sometimes its just nice to get away from the crowd and watch Mother Nature do her thing. This photo was taken a couple months ago during one of our hurricane swells here in Long Beach, NY. The photo is not cropped or edited at all, just the way the big man upstairs wanted it to look. And it's perfect…"

"Winter storm Mars, 2016. Mars was a significant swell and even though the conditions were challenging I was lucky enough to get a couple great shots. This one in particular is a shot my good friend Vic took with my secondary camera body, I asked him to hold it while I set up my bigger lens in a “sheltered” area near the boardwalk in Long Beach NY. He snapped a couple of photos as I tried to track Balaram Stack out in the water. Kinda cool how it came out and I think it really embodies what we all go through here in NY during the winter surf season." Amen - Ed.

"Sam Hammer, NJ. This photo was taken two winters ago. All of us up here in NY and NJ seem to chase the wind on any given swell event. New Yorkers are always running down to Jersey as soon as those flags turn westerly, and likewise when they swing around to the North all the Jersey boys migrate the other way. Given our somewhat stagnant NY Metro traffic, this can often take 2-3 hours each way. For me that time is spent with images like this one of Sam Hammer running rampant through my head. When I finally walk over the dunes in New Jersey, this is what I'm hoping to see."

We highly recommend you avail yourself of a few minutes checking out some more of Mike's work on his website. 

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Words by Ed Thompson

Photographs by Julien Roubinet

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Beach House Classic - Part IV

In August and September we brought you the stories of a couple more surfboards from Eric Beyer's collection at Beach House Classic boardshop in New Jersey. Here's the next installment, with the story of this 70s G&S. 

"This board came out of the short board revolution of the early to mid 1970s," Eric explained. "It's a 6’10” G&S double winged swallow tail, single fin in royal blue, with a super cool resin rainbow on the deck." We marveled at the outline, forward weight in the nose and the intricate, vibrant resin work.

Eric continued, "This board, like so many others, came in to my hands by happenstance. A good customer of mine came in to the shop and asked if I did ding repair.  I told him I do.  He had a board that meant a lot to him, but which needed some love. He went out to his van and brought this beauty into the shop!"

"Gene had bought this board in his early 20s and it soon became one of his favorites. In the late 70s, he had traveled out west to California and up to Alaska in a Winnebago, surfing this along the way. I’ve seen some photos, and Gene truly was an original Hippy," Eric told us.

"When the repairs were complete, he asked if I would like to give the board a few rides, then hang it from the ceiling in the shop.  On a nice Bay Head South Swell I had a great session. It took a little figuring out to keep her from side slipping, but I got used to the ride and got a few screamers! Later that day I stripped off the wax and it’s been on the ceiling ever since."

I guess you could say there's not much to this story - the retiring of an old board after one last victory dance. For the owner of a surf store, it's just another perk of the job. 

And yet, how many beautiful beloved old boards lie rotting, stuffed in the rafters or half-buried in sand and mud beneath New Jersey beach houses?

Thankfully not this one. Gene and Eric both know what it means to be lucky enough to own and love a beautifully crafted, handmade surfboard. And they know that when the time comes to retire it, the least you can do is provide a proper sendoff and leave the board in safe hands for future generations to enjoy. 

Thank you Eric and Gene for taking great care of this board and sharing it with all of us!

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Words by Ed Thompson

Photographs by Julien Roubinet

shaper, portrait, feature

Tony Caramanico - Barn Storming Part I

A while ago, Tony Caramanico made the grave mistake of inviting myself and Julien to check out his barn full of surfboards in Montauk. Tony has lost count of the number of boards inside, but the place is bursting at the seams. The last census tallied close to a hundred.

Needless to say, we emptied the barn across Tony's lawn and proceeded to photograph a stack of them in painstaking detail, peppering him with questions about the history of each one, and occasionally trying to stuff one into our car when he wasn't looking. At the end of the day he pretty much had to ask us to leave, but thankfully before that happened, we managed to extract some of the stories behind the highlights!

HOOK GUN

"Montauk board builder Jim Goldberg made this beauty for Eric "bull" Olsen, for bigger waves. It's a real piece of Montauk surf history.  I acquired it from Eric and it is the only one like it. It was made in the late nineties, but it really represents board design from the late sixties and early seventies."

 

RASMUSSEN TWIN FIN

"This is the last board Ricky made for me before he died.  It holds lasting memories for me and I rode it in an Andy Warhol video filmed here in Montauk around 1982. In 2015 it was exhibited in the "Surf Craft" show curated by surf historian Richard Kevin here on Long Island, NY."

Props to Tony for hanging out and sharing all these great stories - we were truly stoked to browse through such an incredible collection. Stay tuned - we'll be sharing lots more in the coming weeks!

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Words by Ed Thompson

Photographs by Julien Roubinet

portrait

Mark Cunningham

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Twice recently lifeguards in Long Beach and Rockaway asked one of the best swimmers on earth to get out of the ocean in case he drowned. 

Mark Cunningham has spent the last 20 years working as a lifeguard in Hawaii and is recognized as a world champion bodysurfer. He’s literally in the business of not drowning and his precise expertise lies in un-drowning other people. 

Mark was in New York partly on vacation and partly for two screenings of the movie Dirty Old Wedge, a new homage to the simple art of body surfing (surfing without any kind of craft, using only the body and swim fins). 

The film is focused on the crew of body surfers that first surfed a Southern California wave called The Wedge, known for its almost comically un-make-able close-out waves. When it’s maxing, The Wedge delivers a vertical wall of waveface often over 40 feet high right onto the beach. It breaks more bones and even spines than anyone cares to count and while Pipeline is often cited as the world’s most deadly wave, statistically speaking, you are much more likely to get hurt at The Wedge. Especially if you’re attached to a surfboard. Nonetheless, it’s a body-surfer’s dream - steep, hollow, powerful and about as visually dramatic as things get, pulling huge crowds to the beach every time it goes off. 

 

We caught up with Mark while he was sharing some body-surfing tips on a late summer day on Long Beach and later on over the phone. “While I was in New York I got kicked out of the water twice,” Mark laughed. “Once was at 6pm when the lifeguards got off duty. Apparently it’s ok for surfers but not body surfers. The very next day on Long Beach they kicked me out of the water again - they think it’s too dangerous.” In Hawaii the rules are little more geared towards use of the ocean: “You swim at your own risk,” Mark explained. “Maybe a little more education is needed. Anyway, I enjoyed it!”

Mark loves visiting New York, although he told us he’s not a city person, sometimes overwhelmed by the pace. Nonetheless, he told us that he’s envious New Yorkers get the best of both worlds - the endless diversity of the city and the powerful Atlantic close by. 

Body surfing as a discipline doesn’t have a global competitive structure like surfing, but it does have a core following and, like anything, ‘who does it best’ is fun to try and figure out. “The term ‘bodysurfing contest’ is an oxymoron,” Mark said. “It should be free and fun and non-judgemental, but a contest is an opportunity for everyone to get together. There is a big annual contest in Oceanside, California,” Mark told us. “They call it the World Bodysurfing Championships which is a bit of a stretch. It’s a great gathering of the tribe, mostly California surfers. I don’t really ‘compete’ but I do participate.” We asked him what he likes about the event, and Mark explained: “They clear the lineup and it’s just you and 3 others, so that can be a bit of a treat.”

Mark has established a reputation as one of the best body surfers in the world; but without a formal competitive structure to recognize and publicize it, this achievement is even more unique. We asked Mark what kept him focused on bodysurfing above other surfing disciplines. “I’m a really shitty board surfer,” he laughed. “Most of us like to participate in what we’re good at. I’m lucky here in Hawaii - we don’t have to wrestle into a wetsuit. There are great beaches for bodysurfing never more than 45 minutes away and it worked hand in hand with my lifeguarding career: using the waves and currents is essential in my work.” He continued, “I think people expect me to be there with my fins - if they saw me being a kook they would be vastly disappointed. Let’s not blow the myth!”

Mark has dedicated many years to body surfing Pipeline, the North Shore’s crown jewel. We asked him what makes a good body surfing wave. “I like longer rides. For top-to-bottom close-out whomping, there's The Wedge or the Waimea shorebreak. That’s fun and a discipline unto itself, but there’s also bodysurfing where you’re riding top to bottom, stalling and getting a longer ride before it closes out. I like those longer peeling point waves. At 61 years old I don’t want to surf waves that might hurt me - my heroes are the guys older than me still paddling out!”

Having only body-surfed intermittently, we wanted to understand what it’s actually like at Pipeline. “It’s like body surfing at Rockaway,” Mark explained, “but twenty times the size. It’s a much bigger playing field. There are no jetties or boundaries, so it’s this wide open space. It’s the most famous wave in the world, so at times it’s the most crowded wave in the world. You have to be present to get it good. The magazines always show it 6-10 ft with perfect winds, but there are a lot of options. There’s a lot of water moving out there, so I’m very particular about what I want to catch to give me a good ride and not annihilate me. It’s a good challenge and I still enjoy it!”

Mark has dedicated most of his career to being in and around the ocean, so environmental activism has been a natural extension of his work. He’s involved with the 5 Gyres organization and the Plastic Pollution Coalition among others. “To anyone who reads this, every surfer or anyone who enjoys the beach or the ocean,” Mark said, “you must be a dues-paying member of an environmental organization, whether it’s Surf Rider or Greenpeace, or one of so many other groups working against this stuff entering our water. The ocean is our breadbasket and we have to be aware of what we put into it.” 

Mark comes across as a man at peace with himself: wise, happy, humble, and open minded. It felt fitting to ask him what advice he’s been given over the years that’s stuck with him. “I wish I could give you a great quote: Lord knows, at my age I’ve been given enough advice,” he laughed again. “I think I’ve heard this attributed to Woody Allen, but 95% of success is showing up. I lifeguarded at Pipeline and I showed up 40 hours a week and I’ve lived in a beach house and I think I’ve led a rich and rewarding life. I feel very fortunate. I knew I was taking on a vow of poverty when I signed up to be a lifeguard, but the pleasure and satisfaction and friendships and experiences I’ve had are unfathomable. So I showed up. I feel very lucky to have had this opportunity.” 

Mark paused, thinking for a moment before going on: “The other thing is balance. We’re all trying to find a balance in our lives: trying to pay the bills, trying to make our souls happy, to make our heart happy, our body happy, our partner happy. All these options we have in modern life but you have to pick and choose. What do you have to completely ignore because you don’t have time? I guess the analogy is like surfing. Find the balance that floats your board and keeps all those dependent on you above water too. You’re constantly balancing, trying to find the perfect trim. Trying not to get clobbered and not pearl dive. There are times when you want to share it with a friend and times when you need solitude, to be by yourself.”

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Words by Ed Thompson

Photographs by Julien Roubinet

portrait, feature, surf session

Fiona Mullen - Three Frames

Finding surf photography that goes beyond the classic barrel and beach shots is a rare pleasure. Waves themselves and the act of surfing can be so visually compelling that the bigger story gets lost, but one photographer pushing to find new angles and narratives in New Jersey surfing is Fiona Mullen. We invited Fiona to send us three shots and tell us the stories that led up to each one. We're stoked to share the images and their stories with you here!

 Bradley Rain

Bradley Rain

"On a gloomy day in early June, some of my friends were surfing the jetty down my street. I put on my spring suit for the first time of the season, hopped on my bike, and headed for the beach. While swimming I saw these clouds coming from the distance and knew something crazy was about to happen. Lighting, thunder, hail, and rain all arrived at once. The waves turned on and the few of us that were out there were just amazed by what was going on. Even though it might not have been the biggest day of waves, I still got some of my favorite images ever. The solitude and subtle moments of surfing are what I love to capture the most."

 Bradley Sunrise

Bradley Sunrise

"When there's waves in New Jersey, most of us are up at dawn to check the surf. This means endless sunrises, watching the sun rise above the horizon from the water. Every year, there are those select few mornings when the sky does some amazing things. This specific morning while waiting for the tide to change, we experienced the most colorful sky I had ever seen- with a rainbow and even lighting out in the distance. These moments make getting out of bed in those early hours so worth it. Being in the right place at the right time is what its all about. Not everyday in New Jersey is a perfect day for waves or weather, but when those days do come around we appreciate them that much more."

 Long Branch

Long Branch

"The combination of fear and adrenaline before swimming out on big days like this always makes me question what I am about to do. With three feet of snow on the ground, straight brown water, and perfect barrels, I knew I had to document it. The passion and dedication surfers have in New Jersey is like no other place. People who don't do it think its crazy and most likely they will never understand why we go out in below-freezing temperatures. I think a little bit of craziness and adventure seeking is only healthy; life would be boring without it."

To see more of Fiona's work (highly recommended), check out her Instagram.
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