Anyone who has been following the cold water surfing scene, knows that Canada is certainly one of the hot spots. While the most reliable breaks may be found further afield than the cities of Vancouver and Toronto, the growing surfing culture across Canada has reached these major urban centres. Surf the Greats, based in Toronto, has fostered a growing surf community on the Great Lakes and has taken adventurous travellers to surf destinations on the lakes and around the world. Shaper Studios Vancouver, offers its members the opportunity to learn the art of surfboard shaping and provides an ongoing working space to hone their craft. A shared sense of adventure and community brought these companies together to collaborate on a recent collaboration. This past weekend, East and West combined for Northern Swell, a cold water surf photography exhibit, in celebration of the collective stoke of the Canadian surf scene.
While the traditional surf destinations of California or Hawaii offer consistent conditions, the experience is hampered by their associated popularity and crowds. In contrast to these warmer climes, surfers who are willing to take on the harsher elements of cold water, are rewarded with a unique experience. There is a natural selection to those that are willing to brave the elements, their very presence demonstrates that their passion for surf and love for the outdoors is not fettered by tough conditions. This shared appreciation for the adversity and challenge leads to a strengthened stoke between individuals willing to overcome them. Canadians are no stranger to growing closer through collective suffering, and cold water surfing is simply the newest manifestation of this national pride.
Three photographers joined forces to share their distinct perspectives on cold water surfing. Marcus Paladino grew up on Vancouver Island and currently lives and works in the idyllic surf of Tofino, British Columbia. Will Saunders, originally from Colorado, lives in Central Orgeon and his photography has taken him up and down the West Coast from Nicaragua to Alaska. Lucas Murnaghan, born and raised in Ontario, shoots the local fresh waters of the Great Lakes and has captured surf breaks around the world including Barbados, Costa Rica, and New Zealand. A surf competition on Vancouver Island was the nexus for these three artists. From that encounter, grew the idea to join forces in a collaborative exhibition to convey their unique photographic perspectives.
The opening party brought together surfers, shapers, photographers, art supporters and friends alike. This was not your typical stuffy gallery opening, with the sold out event packing the studio from open till close. With craft beer on tap and a live DJ, the line between art exhibit and surf shack party was clearly blurred. The event continued throughout the weekend with live shaping demonstrations by some of the skilled craftsman at Shaper Studios. The turnout and enthusiasm for the show demonstrated that the scene is alive and well across Canada. While the conditions may be cold and grey, the love for adventure and surfing glows warm and bright.