Interview by Peter Taras
If Canadian history has taught us anything, it’s that greatness comes where you least expect it. Take for example, music. Godspeed You Black Emperor, Arcade Fire, Feist, Wolf Parade, Death From Above. You know you all loved them at one point, and yes, they’re all Canadian. But the humble country also has it’s share of amazing photographers. So we caught up with Surfing Union contributor, and fellow proud Canadian, Marcus Paladino to get his thoughts on photography and this season in The Great White North.
How old are you and where are you from?
I’m 25 years old from Vancouver Island, Canada. I currently live in the coastal village of Tofino, but I was raised on the other side of the island in a city called Nanaimo. It’s a great place to grow up, but an easy place to get stuck. Once I graduated high school, I left as soon as humanly possible. I didn’t know what I was looking for at the time, I just knew it wasn’t there.
How did you get into surf photography?
I was doing seasonal work at different mountains around BC, trying to make it as a snowboard photographer. Looking for something to do during the off-season, I moved out to the west coast for the summer and discovered surfing. I worked in the laundry room at a resort, which thankfully was located on our most consistent beach break. Folding towels for 8 hours was mind numbing, but I would always bring my camera and shoot the surf on my lunch break. I couldn’t get enough of it, I was completely hooked. I decided to stay and never looked back.
Who and what inspires you?
All of the surfers I shoot are a big inspiration. Peter Devries is Canada’s best surfer, he’s the epitome of “hard work pays off” and I really admire that. Michael Darling is an up-and-comer who’s still searching for a pay cheque, watching him push his mind & body daily makes me push my photography. Their level of dedication is unbelievable. Even when the waves are horrible, they’re always out there. I feed off that energy and try to match it by capturing what they do in a creative way.
How’s the Canadian Surf scene compare to America?
In the lineup you pretty much know everyone in the water. Most of our country doesn’t even know we exist though. Surfing is getting more and more popular here, but it’s still a tightly knit community. There’s certain spots around the island with really bad localism, I’ve heard some heavy stories about people getting beat up and photographers getting their equipment smashed. Hence why you’ve never seen any photos or footage of that particular region.
Do you do other means of work to pay the bills?
A little bit of videography and editing. But I do work at Storm Surf Shop one day a week in summer, for tax purposes.
What was it like this winter?
This winter has been the most consistent since I’ve lived in Tofino. A lot of swell bringing our fickle reef breaks to life and the sand was in the right places most days at the beach breaks. We’ve done a few boat trips and found some fun waves, but it’s tough to travel too far up the coast during storm season in open ocean. The risk isn’t worth it, especially with too much wind, and one of our most popular points near home broke more times this year than the last few combined, so there wasn’t as much incentive. When it’s good it seems like the whole town shows up, even Noah Wegrich and Cam Richards came out to film for Ben Gulliver’s movie ‘The Seawolf.’ They must have brought the sun from Cali with them, because it was great weather the whole time they were here.
It’s usually pissing rain, so getting to shoot barrels with nice light was definitely a rare pleasure. My friends and I slept in an old boxcar near the wave and surfed from sunrise to sunset, so that was by far the most memorable session. You have to get comfortable surfing with plenty of sea lions, and the logging roads/muddy hikes can involve the odd bear around here, but those encounters honestly make me appreciate where I get to live more than make me afraid of it. The first time I saw a grey whale breech just so happened to be 20 feet away from the surf. I couldn’t stop laughing for some reason, I’ll never forget that moment, so there’s definitely some memorable surf sessions to be had in Canada that actually have nothing to do with the surf.