The BigLife Magazine article is out, featuring the photos that I shot at Park City Powdercats both last year and the year before.
Well after a long wait and much anticipation the Miami Cancer Institute has finally begun to roll out it’s ad campaign shot by Pete Barrett last summer. Shown here are the first two in a series of eight ads which Pete and his team created for MCI working in close collaboration with Republica Advertising and Cortez Brothers Productions. All post production and retouching of the images was done by Pete Barrett. Pete also worked closely in collaboration with Saddington & Baynes out of London to create and later incorporate the CGI letter “C” element that is a recurring prop in all of the ads.
This was a great shoot that involved a fairly complex production, something that Pete is very well versed in. Working closely with Cortez Brothers Productions (who was also producing a series of TV spots for the client), Pete and his team of roughly 25-30 people shot 8 different executions of final images that involved combining lifestyle shots of people in an environment with a large 3 dimensional letter “C” also in the shot which would be created digitally in a CGI environment. This required shooting many elements to be layered and retouched into the image in post as well as capturing lighting, shadowing and size & dimension measurement info that would later be used in the creation of the 3D – CGI letter “C” element made by Saddington and Baynes ensuring that it would look like it was actually physically there in the space. Still to come are 6 more ads which we cannot disclose at this time as they have yet to be released to the public but as soon as they hit the streets we will post an update. Stay tuned!!
So this spring we found ourselves all over the upper MidWest exploring the Yellowstone National Park region down on through Jackson, Wyoming and the Teton National Forest. While we were there I had the opportunity to shoot several different fly fishing shoots both still and video on the Snake River.
The first shoot I connected with Reel Deal Anglers owner Rhett Bain who connected me with his head angler Brian Chamberland. We were here during the spring time which presents several challenges. The first is there is heavy snow melt pouring down the mountains so many of the rivers tend to be washed out, running heavy and brown. The second, more dangerous challenge is this is the time of year when all the Momma grizzly bears are coming out of their winter slumbers with their new bear cubs and sightings are frequent. These bears are quite beautiful when viewed from a safe distance but to surprise them and wander between mom and her cubs could be a deadly mistake.
Given these factors we chose to do a float down the river in an area that was less blown out than other areas around. We launched on the Snake just below the spillway from the Jackson Lake dam one crisp May morning just before dawn and headed out to make some great images and video. Unfortunately while the early morning light is great for photos it is not necessarily great for fishing here on the Snake as they have better luck later in the day when the light is directly overhead. I opted for the better light for this shoot in lieu of actually catching fish in harsh mid-day light.
In the end while we didn’t actually have much luck bringing in the big one, we did manage to get some really great images and footage. Thanks to Rhett and Brian and our angler that Brian brought along as well! If you are ever in the Jackson area and want to go out for a great fishing experience make sure to give them a call. (just let them pick the time if you actually want to catch fish and not just make pretty pictures) 😉
There is the old adage, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” I find this is something that I have to put into play quite a lot in my life, even more so now that we find ourselves on our ongoing “adventure of a lifetime” roadtrip across this great country of ours. Traveling across the land hauling your life along with you is exciting but as you can imagine, it presents some challenges.
For all the prep and planning we do, life on the road can throw you curve balls when you least expect them and you have to just roll with the punches and see where it takes you. Often times if you look for the positive you will find opportunities will present themselves…. There is nothing I like more than times when you find that you have mistakenly taken a turn down the “wrong road” or had a issue that waylays you, rather than becoming a problem… it puts you in a place you never expected, which turns out to be exactly where you were supposed to be. What I mean by this, is an opportunity or an experience presents itself that you never would have, had if it had not been for that problem or mistake you made that got you there. Some call it Kismet or even Destiny. Whatever you call it, if you keep your eyes open you find some pretty cool experiences and photos to be made. See the photo below which I created on the one such incident…
Earlier this fall we were just wrapping up spending the last 6 months bouncing around the Pacific Northwest, up and down the coast from Northern California to Canada. Now setting our sights on Utah, I had mistakenly turned East too early, and instead of taking an easy cut across the mountains in a valley, we ended up on a very narrow, twisty & windy road through the Shasta Trinity Mountain range. This makes for a white knuckle ride when you are pulling a 42 foot rig…. 31,000 lbs of fun as you make your way over hills and around narrow passages. Not only was it a scary drive on it’s own, but the skies were jet black as an impending storm was about to hit. Just when I began to really curse myself, trying to decide if I should turn back or press on through, I decided to pull over next to the river that was following my path just before the skies opened up to dump rain on us.
What I saw when I got out that I could not see while driving, was the view down river to our rear. Here was this AMAZING mountain river location with the most incredible light shining through the oncoming rain that was falling. I am lucky that I always try to have my camera ready and I was able to capture this amazing scene as it unfolded before me. The only thing missing was a fly fishermen to complete the scene which I then added in with Photoshop later. It made for a killer book shot and will also no doubt bring in some decent stock sales opportunities down the line. I call this shot, “When a wrong turn puts you exactly where you are supposed to be.”
Another amazing opportunity that came from a bit of misfortune was when we were on our way from Park City Utah, to our March/April homebase of Breckenridge Colorado. About 1/2 way there, in a little nothing town called Meeker CO, we had a mechanical issue with our tow vehicle which forced us to stop. As luck would have it, there was a nice little RV Park just opening for the fishing season right on the river about a mile from where we broke down. After checking in and getting the RV set up we set out to investigate our surroundings. What we found was the little town of Meeker resembled more of a ghost town than anything. It was during dinner that we asked the proprietor what there was to do in this town as we were going to be here a few days… It was then that he mentioned that “every one is out at the dog races” for the weekend.
Turns out he was right because by the time we had finished with our dinner, the little town was suddenly overtaken by teams of people with their dogs. After talking with some of them I learned that this was the weekend the final races for the season where taking place about 40 miles away in the White River National Forest. The exact directions I got from 3 different people were, “Just drive down this road a mile and turn right at ‘the sign’ and follow that road 39 miles until it ends” I thought to myself, “Umm…. Ok. that doesn’t sound weird at all” as I looked on the tiny road to nowhere on the map. So the very next morning despite any reservations, I set off in good faith driving the 40 some miles farther down this tiny road taking me farther and farther from the tiny town of Meeker into the wilderness…. all the while thinking, “this must be some kind of joke”. After about an hour, low and behold the road ended as I had been told it would and there in the middle of the woods was this mini winter festival of dog sled enthusiasts and about 100 dogs. You knew you were here as you pulled up because of the sound… ALL the dogs are barking! It’s quite exciting walking around and seeing everyone getting ready for the races. I have never seen dogs so excited about getting ready to run. As their handlers get them harnessed up and hitched onto one another they are loosing their minds, barking and tugging at their leashes. They actually have to tie them off to their cars or they would just take off without them. All in all it was quite a cool experience & you won’t find a nicer group of people. Everyone was interested why I was there and who I was shooting for. I got a quick lesson on the happenings of the day and intros to the folks running the show from the Rocky Mountain Dog Sled club. I even met a nice older gentleman named Mike who was having his 70-something birthday that day and heading out on the course racing his dogs. He’d been racing for over 35 years and not about to slow down now.
As I clicked away watching group after group of dogs heading out onto the trail towing their various handlers on sleds and skis, (Skijouring) it struck me yet again how cool this is… here I am stuck in the middle of nowhere with no-one who can even look at my truck until Monday and I find myself with this opportunity to shoot some amazing sled dog races, continue building my book and meeting some really great people in the process. Turned out to be a great weekend! I love my job!
Well it has once again been a while since my last update from the road… So what have we been up to? Summer came and went by in a flash and it was probably the busiest summer I’ve had in 20 years. Since my last post we have been nonstop with one project after another. The last two months alone I’ve crisscrossed the country from corner to corner multiple times crossing the Mississippi 12 times for various projects. We’ve been to Arizona, California, Maine, North Carolina, Jamaica, Florida twice and back to Oregon on projects for Huffy Bikes, Merck Pharmacueticals, Miami Cancer Institute, Vista Print, High West Whiskey and Alaska Brewing. Most of these projects are still in post production or not yet released to the public so I can’t show them yet, but I’ll post them as soon as I am allowed.
It is hard to believe but it has been a full year since we first left on our journey across the country. It has been a whirlwind trip so far and we have no plans to stop for the foreseeable future. To date we have logged close to 16,000 driving miles and I’ve flown well over 30,000 miles on various jobs that happened over the last year as well. See our Google MyMap to see where we have been.
It’s been the experience of a lifetime…. we have been to some amazing places and met some really great people along the way not to mention shooting a zillion photos. I have to thank my wife for pushing me to do this as if it weren’t for her persistence we never would have left on this trip and the opportunities and projects that have come from it probably never would have happened. My American Worker Project took off with a bang and continues to garner great exposure. Back in July we shot hot air ballooning in Sedona Arizona and most recently I shot in the Firestone Walker Brewery in their wooden barrel aging plant. A few new proposed shoots to continue the project include potential shoots with the US Coastguard training at Cape Disappointment in Washington and also shooting with the brave men and women who fight the wild fires out that have been raging throughout California this summer. We have also been shooting a ton of travel related subjects featuring the many amazing locations we have had the pleasure of visiting.
Some of the best and most epic locations we had the pleasure of visiting included Monument Valley, The Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree and Yosemite National Park. We took advantage of all these locations for the High West Whiskey project which is currently in post production and creative stages with the ad agency. I am very excited about the images we have created here and can’t wait to share them with you. For now these teasers from my Instagram will have to do.
As we steam headlong into fall things are continuing to look good as we are being considered for assignments and image uses for various projects for Chase Bank, STP, Fidelity Investments, and Orvis Fishing. Fingers and toes crossed on these as they look to be some really cool projects!
Stay tuned for future adventures as our fall calendar is packed with travel to Washington, up into BC Canada, (around Vancouver up near Whistler) and returning back down through Oregon… With later plans taking us back into California, Utah and Colorado over the winter.
We recently had the opportunity to shoot at the Firestone Walker Brewing Company in California. Firestone is a cool up and coming company in the brewing world. Founded by Adam Firestone, great grandson to Harvey Firestone of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company and his brother in law David Walker. Firestone Walker has a unique brewing process where they age their brew in oak barrels during fermentation. This renders an oaky taste to the brew which is unique in a beer.
In our shoot we focused on the various processes from working the initial brewing vats through quality control, sampling the raw brew stock to labeling and packaging.
I had the pleasure recently to travel back to Jamaica on an assignment for Vista Print. I always love going to Jamaica. The people there are always so nice. We’ve spent many a month down there traveling to all corners of the map on assignments for Superclubs Resorts, Jamaica Tourism and the like….
This particular assignment was for Vista Print. We were tasked with the mission to go to their international call center and photograph some of their most valued employees for a new customer service oriented campaign. These are the people that man their call centers and are responsible for sales and customer relations and support. Having a call center based in Jamaica is a bit out of the norm these days as most are hosted out of India. The folks that work at this particular call center are a special bunch. They all seem to genuinely love their jobs and it shows in the way they treat their customers. Customer service is job one but it goes beyond that. They have been known to develop ongoing relationships that go beyond what you would expect of even the best customer service employees. One of these fine ladies actually had someone bring her cookies when she was taking a vacation to Jamaica with her family. She tracked her down took time out of her vacation and brought her cookies! Safe to say they are very likeable.
Because of that, and the fact that they provide a quality product a very competitive prices, Vista Print enjoys a large percentage of repeat and loyal customers. The picture shown above is one of the many people we had the privilege of meeting and photographing. Her name is Saju. She had an amazing energy and was so pleased to be a star for a day for us.
Well it’s been a while since my last “Update from the Road” and time has just been flying by! When I last left you we were on our way to Park City, Utah to catch the tail end of the snow season with plans to shoot a bunch of winter and mountain adventure sports. Today is the 6th of May & I’m typing this on a plane returning to Utah from a job we just shot in Orlando, (more on that later) & reflecting on the last couple months. Once again, our time here seems like a blur.
So much has happened…. If you’ve been keeping up with my blog entries, you read about my shoot with Park City PowderCats. If not you haven’t had the chance to read and see the photos yet, you can read about it here. It was such an amazing couple of days on some of the best snow imaginable, making some really cool images images and I also had the opportunity to meet some really great people.
We also shot with RAMP Sports which is a really cool ski and snowboard manufacturing company based right here in Park City Utah. They have a very unique culture and make awesome hand made skis & snowboards using a very Earth friendly sustainable process using bamboo as a base. All their products are not only green but they are also certified “Made In America” as they are hand made right there in their shop. I spent the day shooting a bunch of their employees at work and captured the various stages of the process of making these killer skis & boards. Later that week I spent the morning skiing up high at The Canyons, shooting their CEO Mike on one of the last powder days before the closing of Park City for the season. I’ll post the images here on the blog as soon as I get the all clear from RAMP as some of the shots are proprietary in nature. In the meantime, here is a little teaser of one of the guys grinding the edges on a snowboard.
It’s different up here… It’s interesting being in a resort ski town and seeing the changes that occur after the resorts start to close. The days are warm, the grass gets green & leaves start budding and flowering on the trees… which in itself is just like anywhere else in the spring I guess, but with one major difference… While the lower elevations warm up quick and soon resemble spring, it is still cold up high on the peaks. Often times it will be warm and sunny and you look up at the mountains and they are covered in clouds…. Cold and clouds means SNOW! That’s right, there is still fresh snow up at 10,000 feet and higher and folks are still hiking and snowmobiling in and doing back country ski tours. Just this past weekend Snowbird, (where we shot last week) got 19 inches of snow over 2&1/2 days. You’d never know spring has sprung there…. yet 15 minutes down the valley the sun was shining and it was a beautiful 60 degree day.
Spring has sprung! So as time presses on it would seem spring is here to stay. As things in the lower elevations are warming up you start seeing people switching gears. The snow toys get put away and out come the summer toys and along with them, the road cyclists, mountain bikers, golfers and fishermen. You know what that means? Summer is right around the corner!!
We teamed up with fly fishing guide Joe Mitchell of Stony Brook Fly Fishing recently to shoot some cool fly fishing stuff on the lower Provo River just south of the Jordanelle Reservoir dam. With the increased snow melt streaming down the mountains the rivers are running cold and fast and the fishing is great. Up and down the rivers fishermen and women are out doing their best to catch their fill of the various fish that inhabit these waters. I hope to be getting back out to get more of this tomorrow before pulling out of Park City to continue our journey. I’ll be posting images soon from these shoots so stay tuned! For now, here’s a little teaser.
Meanwhile back at the office…. The nice thing about being here for an extended period is we have been able to take the necessary time to shift into a different gear and hunker down and do the all important job of marketing. As any photographer will tell you, while we would all love to be shooting all the time, most of our time is spent feeding the machine and beating our own drum doing the various things that we do to keep the work coming in. After all, if all you did was travel and shoot photos, but never put in the hard but necessary work of getting it out there to the right people to see, the proverbial well would run dry pretty quickly. Then you are no longer a photographer and his family on an amazing photo journey but just a dude in a trailer who can’t afford to go anywhere. or even worse… a guy “living in a van down by the river!” – Chris Farley.
Well, the flight attendants are telling us we need to prepare for landing which is my cue to bring this post to a close. We have lots of other news and information to share so the next post will likely be just around the corner. Tune in next time… (later this week) when I talk about what it takes to make a journey like this not only possible but profitable. I’ll be sharing some details about marketing & promotion and the results we are seeing from all our efforts.
So as they say in Germany… “All feet are the same!”
*Update…. what the heck does that mean? Why is he talking about Germany and feet?Sorry… Bad language joke: if you say “All feet are the same” in just the right way, it sounds sorta like Auf Wiedersehen (German for Goodbye) & that is exactly what I am doing! 🙂
So our American Worker Project has been enjoying some very nice Press lately. With articles being posted online on APhotoEditor, The Huffington Post, Creative Boom, American Photography, Popular Photography and The Phoblographer as well as the many news feeds that feed off of each of those publications, it has been garnering lots of attention. Click each of the links above to see the individual articles.
The exposure and response from these articles has been fantastic. More and more people are starting to follow along on Instagram (you can follow here) and the analytics show that traffic on my website and blog have exploded with about 15 times more hits than the normal average. Plus, we have had several requests for the portfolio and a bunch of recent bid requests for a really nice job for a national campaign for a multinational Electronics and Appliance manufacturer and also a campaign for a large investment firm to shoot in California next month. Fingers crossed on these!! 🙂 Thanks to everyone for following along and stay tuned as we have lots more great imagery planned in the months coming…
*Update: We have also just booked great job for a global campaign for a large Pharmaceutical company based on our efforts! Shooting early next month. 🙂 🙂 🙂
This entry into The American Worker Series led me way up high to some of the very best back country skiing terrain available in the country. I was very fortunate recently to have been invited to join the guides of Park City Powder Cats on the beautiful 1000 Peaks Ranch in the high Uinta Mountains just east of Park City Utah for two days during a storm that dumped well over foot and a half of fresh powder on of some of the most epic terrain I have ever ridden. Over the two days I met some amazing people and got some really great photos while getting access to some of the most epic skiing and snowboarding terrain one can find. *Note- Some of these images need to be seen large to really get enormity of the terrain…. click the image to see a larger version.For those of you that have not heard of back country Powder Cat skiing, you don’t know what you have been missing. Instead of skiing within the boundaries of a ski resort and being herded with the hoards and masses up ski lifts where you are lucky if you get one un-tracked line on a powder day, you are instead being brought up a private mountain in a heated Powder Cat coach that delivers you and 9 or 10 other lucky skiers and snowboarders to the top of some of the best un-tracked terrain in the country. At Park City Powder Cats they have over 43,000 acres of private land to choose from. That is an area larger than Vail, Aspen and Killington Mountains combined. What that means is you can go for days and days and never have to ski over someone’s tracks if you choose not to. We are talking HUGE bowls of steep and deep riding in some of the lightest and fluffiest powder I have ever experienced, which says a lot as I have well over 20 years on the snow.
A warning though…. a few good days here will literally ruin your experience at even the very best ski resort out there. It sets the benchmark way high and everything else pales by comparison. 🙂
So epic skiing aside, my reason for being here was to shoot the people that make it all happen at PCcats. I wanted to document the hard working ski guides, snow safety and drivers that take people out day after day into some of the most incredible, (yet potentially dangerous) areas to feed their nonstop craving for fresh un-tracked powder. Over our two day shoot I had the pleasure of shooting and riding with their amazing guides Johnny, Jason, Chris and Nancy. These folks have the best jobs in the world and they are very good at it. Their ever present positive attitude is infectious. Though I guess it would be easy to be positive given the venue in which they work!
It’s not all just “atta boy’s and good jobs” though, in addition to making sure people have a great time, this hard working team’s most important job is one of making sure your experience is a safe one. You have to remember that this is the back country and it can be extremely dangerous if you do not respect it and know what you are doing. Avalance potential is ever present in the back country and it is paramount that you know what to do and not to do. Every skiier is given an avalanche beacon and a safety briefing in the morning before leaving base camp. Before each individual run, they tell you exactly where to go, or (more importantly), where not to go to keep you safe. The guides work very closely with their expert snow safety patrols. Together they constantly assess the conditions and determine where their next run will be and exactly what parts of each peak will be not only the best run, but also how to best approach these runs to get everyone down safely without incedent.
Their snow safety team are constantly out on the various parts of the mountain during the day cutting new lines, knocking down dangerous cornices and throwing the occasional explosive charge to help mitigate much of the avalanche risk. They work hand in hand with the guides to help them to craft the perfect day for their guests and keep them out of harm’s way.The image above shows snow safety patrollers Dave and Wes setting a charge to help shake loose any dangerous snow that might potentially be a problem to their guests. This particular shot was from Day 1 of our shoot way up high around 11,000 feet on a seriously steep grade with a dangerous cornice during one of the only moments where the visibility was good and not a complete white out. Nothing like heading out to the top of the world and throwing explosives, all in the name of safety! They have to be on top of their game and have razor sharp focus as without what they do, as the guides would have no way of knowing what each face is doing on that particular day without them.
This is General Manager and head honcho Ron. This guy is amazing. He is quite literally everywhere doing every conceivable job you can think of… from helping coordinate guests, to running a cat up the mountain to groom the cat trails so that the drivers can get the guests to where they need to be, to shuttling people out on snowmobiles that need to get to different areas around the mountain, to coordinating with a production company filming a movie on property. He does everything and all with a constant smile on his face! With him running the show and his amazing “Can Do” attitude it is no surprise that he has such a well oiled and positive team. Good management filters down through the ranks and it shows throughout their entire operation.
Last but not least are their team of talented powder cat drivers. Without these guys at the helm they wouldn’t be able to deliver their guests to these amazing spots. Make no mistake, their job is not easy. They have to be experts at what they are doing. These are large, HEAVY pieces of machinery, they do everything from crossing running ice cold river beds to climbing up super steep grades and chugging through giant snow drifts that can take 5 or 6 tries to get through. There are many times on any given climb when you look out the window and realize you are motoring up a steep grade riding on only a tiny ridge line with no room to spare on either side, and thousand foot drops to your right and left. These guys do it without breaking a sweat!!
If you are an advanced skiier and you’ve never done this before, you owe it to yourself to save up and go out and do it at least once. I guarantee when you leave, you will leave craving your next opportunity! You can reach them here to book your next trip!!
As I reflect back on the whirlwind of the last few months I must take a moment to appreciate the view out my side window of my office in the back of our rig. Today we find ourselves just outside of Park City Utah with a killer view of the snow capped Wassatch mountain range right out my side window. It’s the kind of view that makes it hard to get work done as the mountains call to you. Below is an image I made of this view just this morning. Last night as I started writing this blog entry there was a soft pastel blue and pink sunset going on as the remnants of a 3 day storm that left the mountain with just over two feet of fresh powder started to break up and leave the area. The next few days promise to be gorgeous blue bird days… perfect weather for making some great images and harvesting the hidden powder in the back country behind the resorts. But enough about that for now, I’ll get back to the present day later in post #2.
So what have we been up to here in the Barrett camp since Fall? Where do I start? The end of November and first week of December brought a few assignments that had me back in Florida shooting. Because of these assignments and a schedule that required we be back in South FL at a pre determined point, we had to skip over two locations that I really wanted to shoot. One was The Outer Banks in North Carolina and the other was in West Virginia where I was to shoot coal miners for the American Worker Project. A disappointment, but work is work and we’ll just have to circle back around another time to do these shots.
The rest of December and the first half of January was a blur as we found ourselves back in our home base of South Florida. We spent some much needed down time decompressing, visiting friends & family, doing the holiday thing and working in the office doing post production work on all the images I’d shot in the past few months. We also took a few weeks to explore other areas of our home state on the west coast from Naples, up through St Pete and on up to the Panhandle.
At this point our schedule demanded we hit the road as we had many miles and stops to make before getting here to Park City to capture the last months of the snow season. Our first stop was more of a tourist/photo opportunity to visit the underground caverns (who knew Florida had caverns?) and explore the swampy bayou ‘way down yonder by the Chattahoochee’.
From there we spent a little over a week in the Big Easy… New Orleans, LA. By then it was the beginnings of Mardi Gras so as you can imagine the town was abustle with tons of activity. Parades happening daily all over the city and people having a great time celebrating. I made some great connections to shoot through some contacts at Peter Mayer Advertising, who I had recently worked with, and also through the local tourism office. New Orleans is a hot bed of creative artists and craftsmen and I jumped at the opportunity to shoot several of them for my American Worker Series (I’ve posted a few teasers from these 4 shoots here but I will be posting the real images soon!!) We shot with Alex Gernier of Doorman Designs. Alex makes furniture using reclaimed wood from the old houses of New Orleans destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. Next came a shoot with Ben Dombey who is a glass blower who hand blows these amazing glass drinking glasses. Each of them are unique in their own individual way and custom embossed with locally inspired items stamped in the base. See Ben’s work here. I also got the opportunity to shoot with Patti Dunn of Tchoup Industries. Patti and her partner make these amazing hand made bags and backpacks. You can visit her shop here to see their work. While wandering through the French Quarter one day, I stumbled upon the coolest little shop, (The Bevolo Gas & Electric Light Museum) where they hand make old fashion style gas lanterns. I talked to two of the craftsmen as they were building their lamps and ended up shooting them for my project as well.
We wrapped up our Louisiana leg with a quick trip to Oak Alley Plantation. Oak Alley is an old cotton plantation rich with history. Once run completely by slave labor, Oak Alley is still a working farm today but the home is historical landmark and run as a museum. You may have seen it in several movies.
From here we set out through Texas, New Mexico, into Arizona and then on to Utah. But that is a story for another evening…. Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Winter/Spring update from the road coming in a few days!!
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!!
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. From 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.
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.
You can follow Sid on Instagram @waterbrothers