Idiosyncrasies' presents an exploration of some truly unique minds, revealing what's behind the impact of some of surfing's most influential underground individuals.
Patrick, tell me about the people in Idiosyncrasies?
I'll start with Richard Kenvin. He lives in the East Village of San Diego, he's a legendary surfer from there, he has been working on his own personal movie project called Hydrodynamica for the last ten years. He researches and tests out surfboards designs that are based on Bob Simmons' design theories from the mid-'40s. Next is Andrew Kidman surfer, musician, filmmaker, photographer, and writer from Australia. He lives on a quiet mountaintop in Northern NSW, Australia with his wife, two kids, and a cow. Christian Beamish is a journalist from San Clemente. He built himself a boat and did a solo four-month trip through Baja that was a surf expedition. His lifestyle is nothing like the majority of his fellow Orange County-ians. Lance Ebert is my friend from Hawaii. He started out as a glasser for Mike Wellman, as well as Max Medeiros and Dick Brewer, and he developed into a really great shaper. He's also a very talented surfer, totally off the mainstream grid. Next would be Tom Curren and his kids, LeeAnn, Frank and Pat. Tom lives in Santa Barbara, still surfs unbelievably well. Lastly, there's Josh Mulcoy and his dad, Bill, aka Harbor Bill, from Santa Cruz; their passion and commitment for surfing is incredible.
Interesting that those last two are multigenerational.
I started out shooting Jed and Greg Noll and I found a similarity in their relationship to the one I have with my dad, who is a photographer and who shared that passion with me growing up. We are both very passionate about what we do. I saw this same thing in guys like Josh and Bill Mulcoy, same with Tom and his kids.
Your subjects seem very comfortable in their skin, as well as in their environments. There's a fluidity that comes across.
All the guys that I end up working with or that I'm drawn to they all seem to be very grounded, and they're very, very real. Be it Tom Curren overlooking his home spot, or Christian Beamish hanging out in his little cabin, or Bill Mulcoy in the barrel these guys are comfortable in their surroundings. They base their lives around those worlds.
But at the same time, almost contradicting this, they've created those worlds. Christian Beamish lives an austere, almost rural existence in San Clemente. Richard Kenvin obsesses over surfboard design from his Downtown San Diego loft near skid row.
Yeah, before I met Richard I was never too interested in the suburban lifestyle of beachfront San Diego, but Richard opened me up to a whole new scene there. He lives a real cosmopolitan lifestyle in San Diego, and I think it has to do with the fact that he knows exactly what his niche is. I think he deliberately lives away from the ocean to be surrounded by a different world.
The same thing with Christian Beamish, who moved from his adapted home in NorCal, where he had lived for twelve years, back to the place of his upbringing, Orange County. He got a job with The Surfer's Journal as the Assistant Editor and was living a nine-to-five lifestyle that was a far cry from the wilderness surfing lifestyle that he had created for himself, living and working in a lighthouse in NorCal. In order to keep his sanity, he followed his longtime dream of building his own Shepherd Isle sailboat from scratch in his garage in San Clemente. After two long years of dedicating every bit of spare time to the boat building process, he was ready for his journey.
Your work runs counter to the mainstream, commercialized surfing world. You don't shoot the ASP pros; most of your subjects are a bit older. Is this something you're conscious of?
I feel that I've never been too into mass movements and its followings, regardless of whether it's music, art, places, etc. If you are exploring off the beaten path the surprise effect is a lot larger. The instant hit, the popular melody that sells by the millions gets old real quick; after listening to it a few times I get a sense of nausea. It's all about the unique and individual experience that is raw and real. I don't need to work after a formula. The unexpected is the best thing that can happen to me. With age and tradition it becomes more of a real story - not a flavor-of-the-month situation. The standard of surfing in the WCT is probably the highest it's ever been. But with that comes a lot of hype and commercialism. It's the opposite of the feeling that I get from surfing. It doesn't have much to do with the everyday surfer's experience. The people I shoot embrace surfing more as an art form than a sport.
That said, I do think that there are certain contest formats that follow the aspects of surfing more naturally, like Brad Gerlach's "The Game," for example. It enables the surfers to catch a wave almost hassle-free and the format makes it great for participants and spectators alike.
Surfing's enfant terrible Derek Hynd also had a real interesting alternative contest format in Scotland years ago that included locals and pros alike. Both of these guys have surfed under the confines of the ASP, and it seems like Slater is shaking up the tree right now with his alternative 'Rebel Tour.' This proves that the existing format has its flaws.
It seems a very precarious balance between maintaining a puritanical surfing experience and falling into outright bitterness.
People who are constantly trying to escape crowds don't have it easy. It seems like the ones who have just accepted the crowd factor are the most happy and content.
I get the sense that you spend a lot of time with your subjects.
Some of the guys that I shoot I've known for over twenty years. It's more something that's been growing they trust me and we're friends and I respect and appreciate that. I try to get it right and do them justice and just kind of document reality and show them for what they are.
I'm assuming you draw a lot of inspiration from the people you shoot?
I have a lot of passion for life and I look at these guys and they're truly inspiring to me; they have a unique approach to their life and nothing can deter them from living life to the fullest.
Who are your surfing heroes?
Lance Ebert, Andrew Kidman, Tom Curren.
What era of surfing is most inspiring to you?
I love watching the trim lines from the old longboard days on heavy equipment, guys just going straight, hauling ass and having a blast. The shortboard/single fin era seemed really cool, 'cause guys would go with the flow of the wave, and were able to tap into the barrel and other previously untouched zones. Thruster surfing was a radical change to the fundamentals of surfing. New lines with a new breed of surfers like Occy, Curren, and Carroll came out, and their styles and lines are still copied by many to this day.
If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be?
John Steinbeck, Sofia Coppola, Barack Obama
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Santa Cruz, CA 95062-2107
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