Surfing Pioneer & Surf Shop Owner – The American Worker Project #5

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Heading on down the coast to Newport,  Rhode Island I met up and photographed my next subject for The American Worker Project.   His name is Sid Abbruzzi.    Sid is one of the early pioneers of East Coast Surfing and has owned an operated Water Brothers Surfing Company since 1971 making it the longest operating Surf Shop in New England.     During my brief visit with Sid I was treated to a virtual history of New England East Coast Surfing as Sid shared story after story with me about his life.    He is a super cool guy and has a ton of stories to share.      It just so happens that this very weekend on January 16th Sid is being inducted into the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame under the Pioneers of Surfing category.    Congrats to you Sid!!

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Sid is well known in the surf and skating world as one of the earliest pioneers of surfing.   He’s traveled the world surfing,  has rubbed elbows and is a friend with many surf and skating legends like Kelly Slater and Tony Hawk.     Starting back in the 6o’s he and a group of surfers travel far and wide looking for the perfect wave.   The late 60’s and early 70’s were a weird time in surfing.  After Vietnam many people had stopped surfing and the industry lacked direction as people tried to figure out if surfing was just a dying fad or was it something that could endure and evolve.

He ended up back in Newport and in 1971 he opened Water Brothers Surf Company in an old shack right on the beach in what was then, a derelict end of Newport Beach on a private beach called Seven Seas Beach.   Based on a handshake verbal agreement with the owner of the shack, he was able to lease the building for $300 a year until the land sold.   $300 a year!  for Newport Beach!     Well they had a pretty good run there until 1993 when someone bought the property and forced them to find a new location.   Sid describes those 21 years as “the wild west of east coast surfing”.   They were forced to find a direction and that they did…. They basically made up the rules as they went along,  did what ever they wanted and had a ball doing it.    In addition to surfing,  they also built large vert ramps for skating right next to the shop,   right on the beach.    During the 70’s & 80’s Water Brothers was THE place to be if you were a surfer or skater in the New England area.     SidAbbruzzi_07From there Sid moved his shop into a much larger space and opened was was to be the largest indoor skate park in the US.     This park is actually featured in one of Tony Hawk’s video games as a park you can skate within the game.     Over the years that location changed hands after a partnership turned sour and Sid eventually ended up in what is now his current location.   The shop as it stands now is a wonderful space and is like a museum of east coast surfing history.   The walls and ceilings are covered with memorabilia from a rich life in the surf industry and Sid is like a tour guide,  with a story to tell about each individual piece of history that surround his store.

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One story that stood out to me was how Sid actually saved one of Newport’s most coveted surf spots,  Ruggles Beach….  TWICE.      The first time was when he fought against city government officials who tried to outlaw surfing at the prime surfing spot.    He campaigned against the new law and won and was able to make a public park out of the area where everyone can enjoy it’s beauty and killer wave break.      The second time was when a developer had gotten approval to install a huge rock jetty at Ruggles that would have basically not only ruined the break but would have been an ecological disaster,  killing the ocean life and changing currents that could change the structure of the shore line forever.     Sid organized many people to campaign against this impending injustice and saved Ruggles Beach a second time.

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You can follow Sid on Instagram  @waterbrothers 

The Sheet Metal Man – The American Worker Installment #4

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For my 4th addition to The American Worker Project I decided to include a local icon in my home town of Belgrade Lakes Maine.    His name is John Gawler and he is another person that no matter when you see him,  he always greets you with a warm smile.    He is one of these guys who you’d be hard pressed to find someone who had something negative to say about him…  a genuinely good person.  

For most of his life John has made his living working in sheet metal which means he works a lot fabricating and installing people’s roofs, making metal chimneys, metal flashings and other things of that nature.   Over the years he has worked on pretty much everything from roofs for the locals to high profile jobs for people like Oscar De La Renta doing custom copper work on his New England home.   One might imagine that being a roofer in Maine can be tough especially in the winter months but you’d never know it talking to John…. he’s been doing it since he was 17 years old and seems to love every minute of it.   Ask him and he will tell you that he has always loved being outdoors and being up high, even as a kid he was always up high in a tree somewhere.

In addition to being a damn fine roofer,   John (and his whole immediate family) are extremely talented musicians and entertainers.    When I was a kid I remember they used to throw a folk festival called “The Buttermilk Hill Festival”  up on their farm every year. Today they regularly perform and play concerts for many of the local community events and elsewhere around the state.   They even have a few cd’s with their music on them.     But that is yet another story for another day….

 

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If you like what you see here,   please follow me on Instagram  @PeteBarrettPhoto to keep up with where we are in the world and what projects we are shooting.

Fishing Guide & Conservationist – The American Worker Project #3

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For my 3rd installment into The American Worker Project I chose to shoot long time Maine fishing guide Mike Guarino of Maine Wilderness Tours.  (Mike is the one in red)    I first met Mike back in 1998 on a stock photo shoot I did back in my Sharpshooters days.    I’ve seen him a bunch of times over the years and it occurs to me that I don’t think I’ve ever seen him without a smile on his face.    He one of those guys that not only loves what he does for a living but generally seems to really enjoy life itself.     He does have a pretty good gig though,  there are worse jobs than going out in the great outdoors and fishing everyday.  😉

When I approached Mike this time with the idea of including him in The American Worker Project he was instantly on board.     He even recruited fellow angler Dr Peter Kallin to join us on this chilly fall morning to go out and create some great fishing stills and video.

Peter is not only a great fisherman subject but is also an avid conservationist.     In addition to a long career,   Peter is the Executive Director of the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance where he works tirelessly to help monitor and control the quality of the watershed in Maine’s most important resource,  its lakes.

Enjoy the images below.   I will be posting some video as well at a later date.   Stay tuned!

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Follow along on the map of our Journey…

I created a little map of our Journey around the country so far which documents where we have been, shoots we have done and also where we are headed in the months to come.    Be sure to check back on a regular basis to see where we have been and what we have in store.

You can zoom in on the map by clicking on the + or –  button on the left to better see each pin.    Also, the pins are color coded…  Red pins are places we have stayed along the way.   Green pins are shoots I have done and the yellow pins are places we are headed in the coming months.     Click on the pins for more details.   On the green pins there will be links to the images we shot at each location as I can get them posted to the blog. Click on the Green Hammond Lumber and Lobsterman pins in Maine for an example of this.

 

Lobster Fishing- The American Worker Project #2

Lobstah10 My second installment into The American Worker Project brought me Down East to the coast of Maine in a little place called Brooklin Maine.    Specifically the waters off of Eggemoggin Reach just a few miles south of Mount Desert Island, but a seemingly miles away from all the crowds and tourists that one encounters when touring Acadia.

I was introduced to my new lobstering friends,  Patrick and his sister Sharlene Grant, by our new friend and host Laurie, of Ocean Front Camping of Reach Knolls in Brooklin.      Laurie and her husband Paul were amazing hosts and also a wealth of knowledge in assisting me with setting up several of my shoots.   But that is a story for another post….  Stay tuned.

Getting back to my exciting day of lobstering….   Here are a few more photos from that cold morning on the water.     Scroll down below the following photos for more info on my hard working subjects Patrick and Sharlene.

Lobstah13Lobstah05Lobstah04Lobstah12Lobstah16We started out our morning early at the crack of dawn,  what turned out to be a late start compared to their normal days.   After boarding their boat and loading up the day’s bait, we had a quick discussion about what we were going to shoot and how I can get the best shots without ending up in their way or over the side of the boat.  😉   I couldn’t have asked for better subjects.  They  were super nice and gave me free reign on their boat to shoot whatever I wanted.   

Patrick and Sharlene are second generation lobster fishermen.    Both started out at a very early age just as their father before them.   Sharlene worked the boats off and on over the years and took time every summer to fish alongside her brother and her dad.   Patrick has followed in his dads footsteps and has hardly missed a day on the water in over 30 years.    It is hard work, but when you talk with them you see that they really love it.    You would have to love it to get out on some of the cold mornings…    😉   It was a blustery 29 degrees Fahrenheit the day we went out.    Fortunately the sun was out.   I can only imagine what it must be like when it is cold and blowing with rain added in on top of that.

The job of a commercial lobsterman is hard.   You work really long hours,  get up super early and head out to search for your bouys in a sea of what seems like millions of bouys. This task of finding your traps (or Pots) has been simplified somewhat with the invention of the GPS but finding them and hauling them in is still an arduous task.    Patrick captains the boat and snags and hauls in the traps while Sharlene preps the bait and does all the measuring, banding and sorting of the keepers vs the rejects.    Then Patrick drops the pots and the process is repeated about a zillion times.    All the while being soaked with freezing cold water.   Simple right?  😉   Watching them work was something else,   they are like a well oiled machine.      One of the highlights of the day was when Sharlene pulled in a pot that at first glance only had two lobsters in it… upon further inspection it turned out to be one lobster that had shed its shell and left a perfectly preserved shell of its former self right next to it.    A pretty rare find,  even for a seasoned pro.

All in all we had a pretty good day.   While it started out slow,   it picked up about mid morning.   Patrick joked that it seemed like every time I would switch from stills to video  we seemed to bring in lots more pots full with lobsters.    Sounds like a joke but it literally happened like that 3 times in a row.   Stay tuned for an update with our video we shot that day.  In the end we went back in to port with about 4oo+ pounds of lobster.    Which is a pretty good haul for about 1/2 days worth of  lobstering at the end of the season.

At the end of the day they sent me home with a giant bucket of lobsters and a few crabs and my family and I had the feast of our lives!    Thanks so much to them both for making me feel welcome and for being such great subjects!
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Hammond Lumber Company

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As I recently posted,   I have begun my new series,  The American Worker Project which will be an ongoing project as we travel around the country,  documenting the American Worker.      I chose to start this adventure and visual assignment in my home town in Belgrade Maine.      As many of you know I grew up in Maine and it is where we spend the better portion of each summer for the last 14 years when not off on assignment somewhere.

I figure what better place to start than the area you know best.      I chose Hammond Lumber Company because it is a classic example of a good old fashioned family business with its heart and soul wrapped firmly in the people that work there.    That and it helps that it helps that helps I am also good friends from back in our childhood days with one of the principles of the company.

Hammond Lumber is a company that was started back in the early 50’s by Skip Hammond with only $50 and a dream.     It has been a staple in the town and now around the entire state of Maine ever since.      For over 60 years they have grown from a small mill with 3 employees including Skip himself to a large company with 13 stores and counting with many many loyal employees,  many of whom have worked there for 20 – 30 years or more.      Hammond Lumber is one of those special kind of businesses where you  know you are much more to them than just a number.    They offer personal service that is rare these days,   all at a fair price.

I’d like to thank Mike Hammond and the other great folks at Hammond for giving me cart blanche and basically unrestricted access to film in their main saw mill.    Over the coarse of 3 days we shot a ton of video footage and stills of their hard working employees.

Here are just a few images from the shoot.     Click here or on any of the images to see a larger gallery of images posted to my website.

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Beginning The American Worker Project.

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Well at long last after hunkering down over the holidays we are able to post the first of many shoots to come for my new ongoing project called “The American Worker Project”. As we are traveling around the country we are getting the opportunity to meet and shoot all sorts of new people and things.     The American Worker Project is a way to visually feature and document (both on video and stills) some of the wonderful people we are meeting along our journey.   So far we have had the great pleasure to shoot in a lumber yard in Maine,  lobster fishermen on a lobster boat,    a man who hand makes wooden boats and also carves wooden boat models,  an old friend and metal roof man,  the owner of the oldest surf shop in New England,   Amish dairy farmers,  a train engineer and much more.   Here are a few images of the first of many to come.   Stay tuned….

UPDATE:   Added more shots from new shoots,  see below…

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