It all started with a text message.
“Going to Maine for this swell, have room in the truck,” Bryan Zinski texted to our group chat of six frothing, working-class surfers. With the dim prospect of rain and chest high waves in New Jersey and New York that week, it wasn’t a tough sell. I immediately said I was in after seeing the forecast for Maine was my favorite combination of factors: waves + snow. Two days later, Jon Smyth finished up a half day of work (still getting docked a full vacation day to make the trip) and the three of us jumped in Zinski’s Toyota Tacoma and headed north.
Not knowing exactly what was in store is half of the fun of road tripping. Myself, armed with the visual fuel of what the Northeast would look like draped in snow, and Jon and Bryan armed with surfboards, we all knew this was going to be a fun trip, no matter what the conditions ended up like. For the surfers, cold water isn’t that intollerable unless the air temperature plummets into the 20s. That is really when the experience starts to become challenging…and painful. In conditions like we were expecting, two wetsuits are essential so that after your first session you can get into a dry suit for your second.
The wind was blowing, the air was cold and any exposed skin stung before getting numb. We arrived north of nowhere with just enough sunlight for a surf. The late afternoon session proved fun. The weather was cloudy and really moody, it made for soft diffuse lighting and I could really expose for winter’s beautiful muted hues. Purple, orange, and blue. With just us on the wave, I saw a few unridden ones go by, unheard of back in the Tri-state area. We’d found our own private surfing winter wonderland.
The next day, we awoke to a gorgeous sunrise and an ocean suffering from morning sickness. The waves and wind still needed a bit more time to clean themselves up. After breakfast, driving around and checking for waves, we decided to paddle back out in front of our hotel. There, we found a few wedges, barrels and turn sections. The entire scene being draped in white made for an epic surfing arena. The sun fooled the observer in believing it was warm, however, standing in the elements for any period of time quickly educated the body of burning cold.
Musing on something often allows you to peel back the many layers, to see the unseen. Surfing has been my muse since I picked up a camera, and I’ve come to love shooting in the snow. Surfing so often is shown as a beautiful, sunny and warm experience. I’ve been there and still love to do that. But shooting in the cold harsh winter conditions, when the sunlight is scarce makes my experience and moments I capture worth wild.
But, as much as I relish the visual trophies that I bring home from these spontaneous road trips, it’s the experiences and the friendships that come from these surf adventures that I will look back on and cherish forever. I am a surfer. I am a photographer. I am a surf photographer. And I am proud to be a part of this community.