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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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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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Check out our new tees!

Words by Ed Thompson & Justin Mulroy

Photographs by Justin Mulroy

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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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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." 

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"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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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!