northern lights in canada
Pretty ain't she? The northern lights as viewed from a downed US Navy plane in Alberta, Canada. Chris used a 30-second exposure, camera on tripod (natch) and a cable release to ensure max sharpness. | Photo: Chris Burkard

The Miraculous Photography of Mr Burkard

From the northern lights to warm-water tubs in the Caribbean, Chris Burkard sure do know how to steal a photo… 

How about we bring it back a little to the ol school. When photographers epitomised the rugged individualist ideal, wrapped in bandanas and flack jackets loaded with Nikon cameras and wide-angle lens, and traipsed through snow and dirt and scum, cutting through barbed wire with pliers, to steal photos that made y’wanna throw your trunks in a bag and find an adventure.

Chris Burkard knows travel. He searches the constellations for waves. Where the air is cold and pure and remote. He lived for six months in a Kombi, driving from Oregon to Tijuana for his book The California Surf Project.

Nat Geo features his work, of surfers standing beneath aurora borealis in Iceland and water shots with snow draping the mountains behind, begging for the technical details of his images.

His movie and book with Ben Weiland, Russia: The Outpost, follows Cyrus Sutton, the eldest Gudauskas bro and some extra pals camping on the very exotic Kamchatka Peninsula. Google Earth! It’s rad!

But it ain’t all cold water. His book Come Hell or High Water – The Plight of the Torpedo People is a treatise on bodysurfing featuring his and others photo essays on the purist craft.

Now let’s catch some of his advice, from this wild creature who floats upon any tide and on any wind…

First big adventure: My first trip was one of the scariest. It was the first time I left the country. I went to Dubai/Oman/Yemen. My passport was brand new. First stamp. My parents thought I was going to die and yet I I met some of the nicest people I’d ever encounter. It really opened my eyes

The difficulty of adjusting back to normal life after a stint in the wilderness: Oh, that is tough. I hate the feeling. Turning your cell on. Hearing buzzing and whistles and just the idea of knowing you have to respond to all these people about stupid things when you’ve been immersed in nature’s glory. The worst part is getting back to sleeping in a bed. It just makes you lazy. When you camp, you’re up with the sun. You’re in the cycle with nature’s time clock.

Preferred method of travel: By car. I like road trips. The idea of seeing it all and being able to jump and photograph something. Boats and planes are way too confining for me.

Rules for packing: I break all the rules and always bring too much. My rule is to pack a week before and think about everything you’re bringing and slowly unpacking the crap you don’t need. There’s a few things I always take and if I’m not taking ’em, I usually question if the trip is gong to be super soft and that maybe I shouldn’t even be going. I take: Water purifier, Gerber Multi-tool, a Goal Zero solar charger, a down jacket, a tent and sleeping bag.

Best trip: Norway for a month was unreal. We took snowmobiles to surf in the north next to the Russian border. And we took a three-day ferry ride to these remote islands in the south. Scored incredible waves. Ate whale. Got frozen. got snowed on. And saw the northern lights almost every night.

The worst: I did a trip with a bunch of groms to Oz a coupla years back. It was sorta like a big advertising trip and I basically to babysit while they got wasted and tried to pick up chicks for a week. Not to mention the strong onshores brought bluebottles into the lineup every day and the waves sucked.

Most amazing place: Iceland. I’ve been 10 times and I can’t wait to go back. There’s nowhere on earth I have felt as close to nature. It sounds funny but you feel like the country is forming around you. Geologically it’s just… active. It feels alive.

Most scared: When I was locked in a jail cell in Russia in 2009.

Moments of utter surrender: When the jailer escorted me to my cell in Vladivostock, Russia, and locked the door.

Chris Burkard shooting in the Caribbean
…maybe when y’think of Chris you think of his cold-water work. But he certainly isn’t adverse to throwing himself into the remoter corners of the Caribbean. This wave works maybe six times a year and if you’re not ready to throw your bag over your shoulder at the first sign of an appropriate swell and wind combo, y’gonna miss it. Chris isn’t one to miss an epic wave.

Most extreme poverty you’ve seen: A woman lying face down on the ground in India with vomit coming out of her mouth. I couldn’t even take a picture because I didn’t think I could live with myself documenting that kind of poverty without being able to help in some way. I also did a trip to Nicaragua and visited La Churecha which is a trash dump that families live in. Lots of disease and girls driven to prostitution. It was wretched.

Most extreme wealth you’ve seen: Dubai. There are people you cannot, literally, even look at. These guards will shut you down. They  close off freeways to escort through rich sheiks. I’d never been anywhere where the white man didn’t reign supreme. They have license plates that indicate their class and if it’s high enough they can drive as fast as they want.

Craziest thang you’ve seen: Flying over Norway on our way to a small fishing village. We were in a light plane and the pilot let me come up front and watch the northern lights from the cockpit. It was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen. The sky didn’t seem real. I almost question my existence, if I was still on earth. We flew right through strips of green, red and blue.

Where could you live apart from home: Iceland. And, yeah, I’ve already looked into it.

Damien Hobgood bleeding
"Everyone is scared of big waves," says Damo Hobgood. "But it’s an addiction you can’t fight. The first time I went to Hawaii I was 15 and out at a typical eight-to-10 foot day at Pipe. I went on some waves but I remember one wave in particular that I pulled back on. Sitting on the plane heading home I could hardly live with myself." | Photo: @damienhobgood

“Big waves are an addiction you can’t fight!”

A litany of wisdom about the burden of pulling back, to swearing (it ain't cool) to being godly without becoming a stiff.

What would I do if it was the last event of the year, me and CJ were equal in the ratings and we had a heat against each other and CJ didn’t have a good board? I’d loan him one of mine. No question. I want to beat someone at their best.

And, I’d do the same if the same situation went down with say, Bruce Irons. With Bruce though, we’d agree the first wave would be mine. A board for priority, that works.

When you slaughter someone in a heat, it does nothing for your confidence. There’s no sense of accomplishment. You watch a neck-and-neck heat, when two surfers elevate their game, and you see that winning surfer grow.

Swearing doesn’t add meaning to anything, especially nowadays because it’s used so much. I remember being in senior high thinking it was cool to swear and was laying it on thick. I snapped out of it. I’m from the south and was brought up to believe it’s a sign of disrespect and I wouldn’t want to swear at someone and have em be all bummed at me.

Everyone is scared of big waves. But it’s an addiction you can’t fight. The first time I went to Hawaii I was 15 and out at a typical eight-to-10 foot day at Pipe. I went on some waves but I remember one wave in particular that I pulled back on. Sitting on the plane heading home I could hardly live with myself. I got a chance to got to Hawaii, I might never come here again and I kept playing the coulda, woulda, shoulda over in my head. That’s a hard feeling for some people to deal with and that’s why they always go.

Dorian is the worst for that syndrome. The guy cannot say no. I bet when he looks at his photos he’s like, “Gosh, why did I do that” But in the moment when he sees that wall or that horizon go black, the only thing he knows to do is go. He’s definitely the extreme of that scale.

I don’t care what legacy my surfing leaves behind but I want people to know that because I have a relationship with god that I’m not a stiff. People from the outside think you’ve got rules and bibles and you’re a perfect person but, dude, ask anyone we hang with who’s not a Christian or whatever I’m having a real good time.

CJ Hobgood, Teahupoo
“It’s hard for me to look at that wave of CJ’s at Teahupoo,” says his twin brother Damien. “I was on the inside of him and when you look at the video you can see me paddle up and there’s a little wedge I couldn’t get over. Well, that’s my reasoning. When he got spat into the channel, I was, like, I shoulda gone that wave, I was in the perfect spot.”

It’s hard for me to look at that wave of CJ’s at Teahupoo. I was on the inside of him and when you look at the video you can see me paddle up and there’s a little wedge I couldn’t get over. Well, that’s my reasoning. The thing stretched all the way to the channel and I’d never seen one like that before. CJ looked at me and we didn’t talk but my eyes said, I think it’s gonna close and he had these big eyes that said, like, “Dude, are you goin?” I bet me paddling and thinking about going made him want that wave more. When he got spat into the channel, I was, like, I shoulda gone that wave, I was in the perfect spot.

Once he was over the ledge, I was like, “Okay, now…don’t…close…out…

Hobgood Documentary Sneak Peek from Justin Purser on Vimeo.

“Ricardo was a horrible singer who liked Chromeo!”

Filmmaker Bruno Zanin remembers his close pal Ricardo Dos Santos…

Two days before the Brazilian big-wave surfer Ricardo Dos Santos was shot to death, his best pal and filmmaker Bruno Zanin was lighting him up on whatsapp for a beer.

Ricardo wasn’t down that time, he needed sleep, but they were going to catch up real soon. On the day he was shot, Bruno was sleeping and a mutual pal from Rio called him. Said he’d seen something on Facebook and called to check if it was true.

Bruno woke up and “freaked.” He  drove the six clicks to the hospital and spent two days there, among the 50 family and friends who’d swarmed the hospital. There for the surgery, there for the hope as Ricardo’s godfather relayed whatever news the doctor’s had, and there when his best friend died.

“Why should we not believe that he’d survive? He was too strong,” says Bruno. “He got the biggest and scariest waves in life and we were praying al the time and thinking about him and making plans to do when he came out of hospital”

Fifteen hours after the shooting, they were told that the situation was critical and that “they should have faith and pray.” After 38 hours, Ricardo died.

“It was the most horrible day of my life,” says Bruno. “I can’t describe the feelings. I’m still really sad and tired.”

But Ricardo had a certain something about him. “He would want to be remembered as getting barrelled and coming out in a spray with a big smile on his face,” says Bruno.

And, yeah, he could drive you crazy. Like the time the pair travelled to Uruguay and Argentina. Twenty-three days, five thousand clicks, in a car together, Ricardo punching repeat on Chromeo’s Sexy Socialite, like, a million times, leaving the verses alone and jamming loudly in the chorus.

“Women are eyeing me

Their men are buying me

Drinks at the bar

You can’t go far

In this society

So why you coming at me, homie

With so much acrimony?

Your testimony’s phony

And the truth is you don’t know me

You’re a sexy socialite

(No I’m not, no I’m not)”

“He was a horrible singer,” says Bruno.

The pair had known each since they were kids. Ricardo lived on the beach where Bruno learned to surf but, in the past two years, they’d become really tight.

“I always like film surf, but as a hobby,” says Bruno. “And one day he invited me to start film him surfing, training and I did. He motivated me to be a filmmaker, to be a professional. He told me I should believe in myself and work.. and thats what ! As we travelled we became better friends. We fight, we laugh and we enjoy so much together.”

A little quirk of Ricardo was the nicknames he liked to attach to people. Bruno remembers Ricardo laughing as he announced each nickname. Some of the surfers he knew well, others he wasn’t quite as close to.

Adriano told us he used to call him Minério, with a really fucking strange accent, Gabriel he called him Medal, Filipe was Filipinho and Miguel was Miguelito.”

As for Bruno, he’d been living in Australia for two years and had slugged on 24kg. “I came home like a bear,” says Bruno. “And in my first day back in brazil.. another friend when he saw me really fat called me Batavo and unhappily rRcardo heard about this history and said… ‘WHATTTT??? BATAVO??? FUCKING BATAVO!!! FROM NOW I WILL JUST CALL YOU BATAVO, BATAVO IS YOUR NEW ARTISTIC NAME.. LITTLE BATAVO!! BATAVEX!”

Batavo? It’s yoghurt!

Oh Ricardo, RIP, buddy…

Bojack Horseman
Bojack Horseman. Have you seen this show on Netflix? Why the fuck not? From a stupid dumb sitcom, to one of the the deepest, hardest, most soul crushingly insightful cartoons ever made.

Candid: Four new ways to get high!

It's like choking down a handful of mystery pills with no clue where you'll end up… 

I have no idea how everyone else gets through the day. For me, it’s a toss up. Happy, sad, raging, mellow, so angry I can taste it because of the smallest of trespasses. I know I’m fucked.

If you’re like me, check this stuff out. They’re, one and all, like choking down a handful of mystery pills, no clue where you’ll end up.

  1. The Royal Tenenbaums. If you were ever the smart kid, the one who struggled fitting in but were assured that things would get better, then you know what I mean. Life never gets easier, simpler… the struggle remains, and sometimes you’re gonna feel like you’re the only one who takes part.

  2. I Dreamed a Dream. Anne Hathway.  Jesus Christ, Les Miserables was such a shit movie, Russell Crowe stomping out a beat like a drunk uncle who no one wants around but insists upon participating. Then Anne Hathaway hammers out the most soul crushing song you’ve ever heard. Tragic, gorgeous, straight to the heart.

  3. Ernest Goes to Camp. Poor retard. Guy only wants to help run a Summer Camp, then the rich man’s running dog beats him limp. This was important to me, I learned a lesson. A series of lessons. 1. You can’t cry during an Ernest movie without being mocked. 2. You’ll take a beating for standing up for what you believe in. Be strong enough to hand out that beating.

  4. Ziggy Stardust. Best rock album ever made. The pure beauty that emotes from it is beyond anything else. Get drunk, get maudlin, put it on and take the ride.

  5. Bojack Horseman. Have you seen this show on Netflix? Why the fuck not? From a stupid dumb sitcom, to one of the the deepest, hardest, most soul crushingly insightful cartoons ever made. The finale is one of the saddest things ever set to film, even if it stars a 1200 pound horseman struggling to deal with the consequences of his own quest for redemption.

Retro-awesome: The Best Surf Movie You Never Saw

"It'll help you find God!" says its maker Ray "Runman" Klein

You’ve never heard of Ray Kleiman. Long ago, he and his buddy Morgan Runyon made a series of hilarious Super 8 surf movies under the moniker, Runman. The series peaked in 1990 with the third of the series, Runman 69. And then Runman vanished.

(Although you can click here for a very sweet tribute by What Youth) 

So, there was rapture, at least in my heart, when I discovered Runman’s own version of 2005’s The Bruce Movie in that film’s DVD extras. In the six-minute short, we go deep into Bruce’s off-tour life on Kauai. We see a wild pig killed for a wedding feast. We see a drunk getting decked for hassling Bruce. We watch Bruce eat it jumping a motorbike. We see Andy and Bruce drunk together, we see tourists getting smashed on rocks and a wild stationary wave. We see giant whip-in airs and loving closeups of Bruce’s (now ex-girl), Mia’s, ass and titties.

Surf movies don’t get any better, or shorter. And you missed it!

I gave Ray a call on Thanksgiving to give us the low down on his contribution to The Bruce Movie all those beautiful years ago…

BeachGrit: Hey, Runman! Happy Thanksgiving!

Oh fuck, anything to do with celebrating killing people we love…

 Your movie is a masterpiece. How would you define your style?

I film reality as I see it. I don’t like to set anything up. I just like to film. And I get people as they usually are.

Talk me through the scene on the stationary wave where Bruce and Kamalei Alexander collide and then Bruce steals Kamalei’s board? Was Bruce serious?

That was pretty serious.

I would’ve thought that Kamalei would’ve squashed him like a bug given his awesome reputation.

You know how it is, when someone’s mad and the other person probably isn’t mad.

There’s many scenes of tourists being washed into rocks or into the ocean. Why?

That’s just… comedy.

It’s a common theme in your movies.

We do that a lot.

Do you live on Kauai?

I’m on earth.

I admit, I loved the juxtaposition of Bruce’s parents cheering when he crashed the bike. 

Yeah, that’s a good one! They loved that!

Have your heard if Bruce liked the movie?

It looks like he likes it. I see him, I hang out with him. I don’t really to talk to him about it. We know each other real good.

Your lens ponders Mia at length.

Yeah! She’s hot!

Tell me about the guy getting slapped by Chava Greenlee (Bruce’s friend, noted surfer on the North Shore)?

He was kinda mouthing off and was drunk and getting in Bruce’s face. The best story I heard about that was a guy came up to me and said, Hey man, my friend is in your Bruce movie. I said, Really? And he said, Yeah, it’s the guy getting punched out. This guy went up to his friend and said, You’re in the new Bruce movie! And he said, What am I doing? And he said, You’re catching two feet of air! 

The pig’s in a bad way in the opening scene.

That’s the real deal.

And it was classic, the stickers: Welcome to Hawaii –  now go home and Aloha also means goodbye.

You gotta show how it really is…

What do you do for leaves when you’re not filming?

I work on the land.

Are you a farmer or a shephard?

I caretake big pieces of property.

Do you carry a shotgun and ride on a four-wheeler?

No, it’s all on foot.

Is movie making a hobby?

I film for love. And it makes money sometimes.

How much did you get for this sweet little extra?

I made the the Bruce movie for love. I don’t think I got directly paid for it.

Did you get a hat?

I got a pat on the back with and I love you and a sticker.

Will this movie help non-believers find God?

It’ll definitely save a lot of people.

And to conclude?

If you want to see the real deal, watch my movie. And thanks to Volcom for letting me put it out there.

Here’s a cutie from Runman…

And this…