All Photos: Greg Gyselinck
Last year, an 18-year-old French kid named Greg Gyselinck showed up at our office with a smile and, like, zero-English to intern at the magazine in the photo department. Immediately, we could see that Greg was different. For one, Greg never asked, “So, what do I do now?” Greg just did. Kid was in the water at Lowers shooting the boys, doing weekend trips to Baja, flooding our inboxes with images, making friends and learning the ropes at light-speed. We’d carpool to the office (when he’d actually come in) and just talking with the guy was f–king exhilarating. Greg is: the walking-talking epitome of joie de vivre. Being that our current issue revolves around surfers that never settle down, Greg gives us a piece of that life since stepping in to our office a little over a year ago. –Beau Flemister
SURFING: So how’d you get that big French foot in the door, Greg?
GREG: I got an internship at SURFING by sending a random inquiry to, like, an info@surfingmagazine email. I sent a little selection of my work and Pete Taras [Photo Editor] quickly got back to me and said, “Come over!” I was 18 and even though I’d just started school — it was really boring — so I flew over.
And that’s when you moved to San Clemente, did a few months there, and then what?
Yeah, I lived with Oliver Kurtz, Eric Geiselman and Bree Kleintop. After a few months in California, I went to Tahiti for a month. I worked as a photo assistant for Ben Thouard there and learned a whole lot. I got to see and shoot a lot of different things from big swells at Teahupoo to fashion shoots on Moorea to windsurfing, kite surfing, SUP… It was really interesting to see someone out of an office making a living in photography in every area around the water. After Tahiti, SURFING sent me to cover the world tour in France and Portugal, which was also an amazing experience.
Ahh, Tour-grinding — how was that?
It’s not like shooting trips. In my opinion, if you want to shoot performance surfing, it’s going down at or around the tour. At the same time, it’s kind of a dick-lick. There’s a lot of people doing the same thing. I definitely realized that that’s not what I want to do with my photography. I wanted to try something else.
And that’s when you went to Hawaii?
Yeah. I thought that I’d stay, like, three weeks and I ended up staying three months [laughs]. Originally I thought I’d just shoot surfing, but then I got there and realized there’s sooo much other stuff to document there. I think I ended up shooting surfing only five times my whole trip, and the rest of the time, it was lifestyle and photojournalism stuff. Like, what life looks like for the kids living over there. Playing in the shorebreak, cliff jumping, swimming, hiking, girls; all that. It was the best winter of my life.
And how did you plug into that world and meet those kids? How’d you get to see that side of Hawaii?
When I was in California, I became good friends with a kid from Oahu named Jay Alvarez. He said I could stay at his house in exchange for a little work. Shooting him and filming for edits. [Jay is a male model and Alexis Ren’s main squeeze] So that was cool because I went from shooting photos in the surf industry to filming a lot and getting into the whole world of video.
And Jay and Alexis are pretty big deals in social media, huh?
Yeah, I mean, social media isn’t necessarily my measure of success, but it seems to be working for them. Like, the last Hawaii video we made has gotten over 8 million views now I think.
So are you heading toward the fashion world now, or…
I think to really make it in the surf industry you need to spend a lot of time in either California or Australia, but with my French visa, I can only stay in each place for 90 days at a time. I wouldn’t say I’m heading towards fashion. I’ve been shooting a lot of girls and that’s been fun, but I’m not even selling the photos. After Hawaii though, I found a new world to shoot in with a travel-adventure agency named AST. I met a guy from the agency and they have a lot of resorts around the world, so earlier this year, I worked with this agency doing tours around Central America. It was super different than surfing but at the same time really good for my photography. I learned how to shoot portraits, landscapes, the streets — amazing stuff for photojournalism.
I like how you’re livin’ Greg.
Well, it’s never boring. [laughs] It’s hard and I’m always poor, but it’s never boring and to me that’s the most important thing. I actually think that because I never have much money, everything I do makes me 10-times more excited to do it. You appreciate a trip and the experience that much more. It’s crazy to realize what you can do without much money. Like, it’s f–ked up what you can do.