feature

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.”
 

Conatus Surf Club - Julien Roubinet 8.jpg

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.”
 

Conatus Surf Club - Julien Roubinet 7.jpg

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.”
 

Conatus Surf Club - Julien Roubinet 14.jpg

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.”
 

Conatus Surf Club - Julien Roubinet 6.jpg

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.”
 

Conatus Surf Club - Julien Roubinet 4.jpg

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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

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.
 

Luc Rolland - Julien Roubinet 8.jpg

“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

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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."

Juno_(1_of_1).jpg

"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

Winter_Wonder_(1_of_1).jpg

"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, 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.
For our updates follow @icecream.headaches.

portrait, feature

Matt Clark - Four Frames - Part II

Following on from Part I earlier this week, here's the second installment of four photos from Long Island Photographer Matt Clark. 

  Jesse Joeckel - Greenbush, Indonesia

Jesse Joeckel - Greenbush, Indonesia

Matt was shooting at a shallow, left-breaking reef in Indonesia when, by chance, he turned to look back at the beach, risking a closeout on the head. Jesse kicked out of a wave at the same moment. “I shot the sequence,” Matt explained, “and when I dumped the memory cards to my hard drive on the boat, I saw one that just captured this weightlessness, balance and tranquility that seemed special.”

When Matt returned home to New York and edited the images, he found the image more powerful when it was rotated through 180 degrees. “Finding this being, suspended in time looked beautiful to me,” Matt told us. “Often I won't find the most beautiful moment until months and months later when revisiting my work. I spend a lot of time looking for these moments and editing them over and over again until I feel satisfied.”

  1998 - Long Beach, NY - Tom Zaffuto paddling out

1998 - Long Beach, NY - Tom Zaffuto paddling out

Aged 14, Matt took this photo of his friend Tom paddling out to bodyboard Long Beach. The photo was taken with a disposable waterproof camera. He submitted the photo to Bodyboarding Magazine and they ran it in the reader photos section. “I felt a duty to represent the place I was born and raised and felt as if I needed to prove to the world that you can be a surfer/photographer from New York,” Matt told us. “Nearly 20 years later and I'm still here doing it.”

To see more of Matt's work, check out his website

To keep up with our latest news and stories, hit us up on Instagram

feature, portrait

Matt Clark - Four Frames - Part I

This week we're excited to share four photographs by Long Island photographer Matt Clark, and the story behind each one. Through Matt's tireless dedication he has gradually carved out a niche for himself on the water's edge. When we interviewed him for the book, we sat in his lounge and scrolled through his library of photos, entranced by a colorful, hypnotic display of the beauty, power and variety of the ocean. We love his work and we hope you will too. 

  After Hurricane Sandy, Long Beach, NY - Rob Bielawski

After Hurricane Sandy, Long Beach, NY - Rob Bielawski

“This is an image of a friend named Rob Bielawski after Hurricane Sandy,” Matt explained. “The cold, harsh concrete, the debris in the sand, the lack of sky - it's very urban. I love capturing images where the surfer is unidentifiable. When I used to look at surf imagery growing up, my favorite images were the ones I could imagine myself in, and I can't imagine myself if I can see someone's face.”

6 months after the storm hit New York, the shattered boardwalk had been completely dismantled, leaving only a concrete skeleton. Matt was on the beach shooting another swell when someone walked between the pillars, briefly creating this dramatic framing. Matt took note and took an opportunity the very next morning to re-frame the shot with a friend. “It’s an unidentifiable urban environment,” Matt said, “but you know the surfer is going to escape the weight of the world by going for a surf.”

  October 23rd, 2006 - Long Beach, NY - Nor-Easter swell from the roof of the Jackson Hotel

October 23rd, 2006 - Long Beach, NY - Nor-Easter swell from the roof of the Jackson Hotel

Matt planned this image months in advance and his diligence was rewarded. This photo scored a double page spread in Surfing Magazine, hailed as iconic by the magazine’s photo editor, Steve Sherman. “This was a defining moment in my photography career,” Matt told us. “It was the first image that ran as a featured photograph in a magazine as large as Surfing.”

Matt had envisioned the image in sketches made months before he took it, so finally creating it and having the photo published showed that real dedication pays off. “I had illegally scaled the fire escape of this building with a backpack full of camera gear to scout out the position,” Matt explained. “Pulling myself up the final ladder, my nerves were on edge. This was 5 years after 9/11 and I imagined the police and FBI being called about a sniper on the roof.”

The day Matt scouted the shot, there were no waves to speak of, but he took note of the angle, framing and the lens he’d need when the moment came. 

Sure enough, that day came. A Nor-Easter rolled into New York with howling NE winds, building swell and ominous grey skies. “I spent some time photographing from the beach and thought to myself: ‘I may as well go shoot from the roof of this hotel.’”

Rather than climbing the decrepit, rusting ladder in the rain, Matt convinced a janitor in the hotel lobby to take him to the roof. He lied to the janitor, pretending he’d left a lens cap on the roof the day before.

“He said ‘no problem,’ but he’d have to accompany me up. I did my best to tell him I would be fine, worried he would  watch me the entire time and only give me a minute to shoot, but he insisted.” Matt managed to bluff his fictional search for the lens cap for a full ten minutes, shooting photos of the waves from the roof as he went. He snagged this shot of a wave breaking across the gap between two buildings just as the janitor lost his patience. “In my illustration months before I drew a perfect A-frame, but this seems even better. I love lefts.”

Stay tuned for Part II later this week. 

Check out a few more of Matt's photos we'll be featuring on Instagram this week. 

feature, surf trip, surf session

Stephanie Gilmore - The Tempest

Monster Children just dropped a video called The Tempest, filmed in glorious technicolor in Indonesia with Stephanie Gilmore. It was filmed by Jon Frank with music written by Maurice Ravel and performed by Alberto Bof. It is beautiful and joyful and we suggest you watch it to get your week off to a good start...

Keep up with our latest updates on Instagram!

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Mikey de Temple - Into the Sea

This is a public service announcement: your lawn care regimen is screwing up the ocean.

Earlier this year Mikey de Temple and the Surfrider Foundation released a film highlighting a lesser-known aspect of our fragile relationship with the ocean, especially on narrow, densely populated barrier islands such as Long Island, NY and Long Branch, NJ. 

The beautifully produced film shares critical insights to guide us towards a sustainable relationship with our environment: a relationship where we don't take too much and we take care of what we have.

Complicated it ain't, but important it most certainly is. 

For additional lawn care advice and cool photos, follow @icecream.headaches!










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Beach House Classic - Part III

"Holy shit, look at that thing," I said to Julien as Eric plucked this board off the shop ceiling and passed it to me from the stepladder, breaking into a huge grin. This board is a key step in the transition of surfboard design from single fin, to twin fin, to the bonzer we discussed in our last post and finally the thrusters we know today. 

Over to Eric for the story of this remarkable shape.

"This is rocket ship of a surfboard. It's a 5’4” Nectar Original Simon Anderson Thruster. It has a double winged swallow tail, channel bottom with airplane wing fins: another piece of history. 

"In the late 70s Australian surfer Mark Richards was dominating on his version of the twin fin, making it the hottest board of the late 70s and early 80s.  Simon Anderson had been shaping surfboards since 1972 and under the Energy Surfboards label since 1975. He had been successfully competing on the world tour and even selected to surf in the Pipe Masters. Anderson found he struggled with the loose riding twin fin, wanting more control.  In 1981, he decided to throw three of the same sized fins on a square tailed surfboard design, creating the first 'Thruster'.  That year, while only surfing in 2 thirds of the contests, winning 3 of them, he finished 6th in the world and was named Surfer Magazine’s Surfer of the Year. Surfers from all over the world started trading in their twin fin surfboards for Thrusters."

"It was the spring of 1984 and I was at University of Rhode Island. The URI Surf Club competed in contests in Point Judith, Cape Cod, New Hampshire and Newport and I qualified for the ESA Regionals that were held at the famed Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, NJ (RIP)."

"After the contest, I went to Grog’s Surf Palace and this board was on the used rack.  I was riding a 6’0” HIC thruster at the time and wanted to go a little smaller and looser. I remember Grog saying, in his gravely voice: "You know what you’re going to be able to do with this thing?” Throwing the board over his head in an arcing motion, he went on, "bust some serious airs.” I rode this rocket ship for a while, never busting any airs, and retiring it when one of the airplane-wing fins sliced my heel open during an overhead session at outside Point Judith. It sat in my parent’s basement in NJ, all but forgotten. After I had opened the shop, I grabbed it while at home for Christmas one year. Now it hangs on our ceiling of history!"

Once again, thank you to Eric at Beach House Classic for sharing his board collection with two nerds who took apart the ceiling display in his store to photograph a few of the boards. Seriously though, look at those fins!

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Beach House Classic Collection - Part II

This is the second part of our series exploring Eric Beyer's collection of boards at Beach House Classic Boardshop, Bay Head, NJ. This time we get the story behind this beautiful Bing Bonzer. 

"This is an original 5’10” 1975 round nose Bing Bonzer," Eric told us. "It was brought in to the shop in June 2010 by a good customer. He found it in the used rack at another local surf shop and thought I’d love it… he was right! I rode it a couple of times and it worked really well… super smooth ride and really responsive in the turns. Really nice logo, super cool fins and some extreme concaves!"

"This board is a piece of history… a piece of the puzzle that got us from the logs of the 50s and 60s to what we currently ride. The Campbell Brothers put 3 fins on a board well before Simon Anderson designed the Thruster, and they were on to something. The Bonzer was designed and created by Malcolm and Duncan Campbell in the early 70s on the points of Ventura and Santa Barbara." We spoke with Bing Copeland of Bing surfboards who filled in the details. The Campbell brothers made a short super-8 film demonstrating their innovative shape. They drove around showing their clip to several shops, but Bing was the only one that took an interest. 

"The brothers convinced Mike Eaton and Bing Copeland to shape some Bonzers for Bing’s team riders to try. The response was awesome. Besides it’s history in the timeline of surfboard design, this board is special to me because I still deal with Bing and carry Bing Surfboards. I sent them pictures of the board and this is the response I received: 'Nice looking Bonzer Eric. Your board would have been 1975 or later. Mike Eaton was in San Diego at the time he made the rounded noses and he also rounded the trailing edges of the Bonzer Runners.'" 

Eric explained to us that the trailing edges of the runners, which were originally sharp angles, were rounded off to reduce the number of injuries the boards inflicted in the lineup. The deep concaves force water out of the back of the board in powerful jets, giving Bonzer's fantastic drive and acceleration to project laterally across the face of the wave.

The runners, a pre-cursor to the curved fins used in thrusters, gave the boards much more bite and control in turns than their single-finned counterparts. On a point break, where the wave face is a 'fatter' slope, the runners offer an advantage over the deep draw of the lateral fins on a thruster: because they are shorter they have less drag and no flex. Thruster fins, developed later, have more drag but provide better traction to hang onto the face of steeper, barreling waves. 

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Words by Ed Thompson

Photographs by Julien Roubinet










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Michael Fremont

After we posted the first part of our series featuring some of the surfboards at Beach House Classic shop in Bay Head, NJ, we decided we should contact the shaper himself. That would be one Michael Fremont who shaped under the name Michaels Fremont with his buddy, Tony Michaels (Confused? Us too.) in New York and later San Diego in the early 70s.

 At home on Walnut Street, Long Beach, NY

At home on Walnut Street, Long Beach, NY

We caught up with Michael, who now lives in Encinitas, California but grew up in Long Beach, NY. 

"I was born in '49," Michael told us, "and my family moved there in '52. My father had a house built on Walnut street and when I was 13 I started surfing with my best friend and his older brother Mark Weisberg. He was one of the original guys surfing there after he'd been stationed in Hawaii."

At the time, Mark surfed occasionally with a guy name 'Bahama' Pat. Pat's family owned a liquor store in Long Island and he was not exactly an encouraging sight for parents of would be surfers on the beach. "He was one of these guys who all summer long hung out at the beach," Michael explained, "he had a straw hat, looked like a bum. He was a surf bum. So it took me a year to convince my parents that surfing was OK. When I was 14 I learned to surf down the street at Franklin and surfed ever since."

Michael Fremont surfing

We asked Michael what it was like surfing there at the time. "There weren’t surfing beaches," he told us, "so the only time you could go was before the beach opened and after the beach closed and sometimes the cops would come chase you away anyway. I got pretty good at surfing in New York - it was the only sport I was ever good at! I couldn't run very fast and I couldn't throw very far - that eliminated the normal high school sports."

Michael graduated high school in '66 just as a seismic fault was developing in society. "There was something wrong with the civil and social structure," Michael said. "The song of that year was Buffalo Springfield - For What It's  Worth. 'There's something happening here...' That captured the mood. It was a generational shift: it became clear that our generation was not going to follow the footsteps of the generation before. We were true believers in what America could be and we were disappointed in what it was. With the civil rights movement we were starting to get an enlightened history of the United States. We were idealistic but disappointed at the same time, becoming cynical. The definition of a cynic is a disappointed romantic!"

We asked Michael if he had been drafted into the Vietnam war. "I was waiting, and I had done my pre-induction physical but I got a high lottery number in the draft so that ended my problem with the army. I was absolutely opposed to Vietnam. I would not have gone. I would have become an expat. I had friends that were totally screwed up when they came back."

 Finding some cover from the sun beating down at Swamis

Finding some cover from the sun beating down at Swamis

After high school, Michael moved to Huntington Beach for college but ended up spending the winter of '68 back home in New York after getting sick. That winter he started making surfboards. "It was hard to get the materials," Michael explained. "I had to order blanks from the west coast. I bought a little planer and set up a shaping / glassing rack in my parents’ garage."

The picture shown here is the first proper surfboard Michael made, in the Spring of 1969:

 The first board Michael shaped

The first board Michael shaped

People liked the boards and he continued making more. Although he can't recall, he believes he might even have made a board for Russell Drumm, whom he had known growing up on Long Island and with whom he spent one winter in Puerto Rico. In the fall of '69 Michael went back to the west coast and started shaping under the Michaels Fremont name of the board we found at Eric Beyer's shop, the first board Eric owned. Michael believes he made that board in about 1970. "That was a foil egg shape. For the east coast you had to make it rounder and hippy-er. It would be called a 'foil' and it had a down rail going to to an up rail."

Michael has since stopped shaping and now lives and works in Encinitas, CA, but he was stoked to hear we had photographed one of his boards at Beach House Classic and we're very happy we managed to catch up with him and close the loop!

 Michael on Long Beach in 1968 with a Jim Hanley shaped Bunger

Michael on Long Beach in 1968 with a Jim Hanley shaped Bunger

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Words by Ed Thompson

Photographs from Michael Fremont's personal collection