Scotty Sherin is one of the fastest rising stars in the Canadian surf scene, but he hasn’t gotten there with his surfing. Although talented on a board, it’s his aptitude behind the lens that has garnered him worldwide attention.
Cutting his chops in the frigid waters of Canada’s eastern seaboard, Sherin’s images were recently featured on Surfline.com, which is kind of a big deal. I called Scotty on his way to breakfast with Nico Manos, Mikey DeTemple and Alek Parker, then made him sit in the parking lot to answer my questions while they ate. Photos: Scotty Sherin.
How did you first start shooting surf?
I surfed before I took photos, so Nico and I would drive around the province, just exploring and finding new waves. I carried a camera for personal reasons, just to take photos – I never thought it would lead anywhere. We ended up finding these two slabs in the same area that work under totally different conditions. One of them was huge this day, and I didn’t want anything to do with it. I was standing on the shoreline when Nico got this bomb, and I just happened to snap a couple of pictures. When we got home, I showed him, and we ended up sending them to Jeremy Koreski. They got run in a two-page spread in SBC Surf, which was pretty rad.
Do you still surf quite a bit?
I do when I can. It’s one of those things where if the waves are really good, I feel obligated to shoot. But I just got back from Costa Rica, and I took a board, for sure. If it’s cloudy, or the waves kind of suck, or after we just spent a couple of hours shooting, I’ll surf. I think it’s important to do that, because being able to surf and take photos keeps you psyched on what you’re doing. There’s not a lot of money in it—not that that’s important, you do it because you love it—so staying psyched is important.
Have you got another job, or is shooting your full time gig?
I work part time bartending, but photography is slowly taking over. I had a pretty awesome fall. I got a bunch of stuff published, which I was pretty psyched on.
Yeah, that Surfline gallery is awesome.
Hey, thank you very much, man. Photography is what I want to do. I don’t want to bartend, but it’s an incredible job, because it allows me to have the entire day free. It allows you to pay for your gear, and you work at night, so you’re not really missing anything. It’s funny though, there’ll be times when I get back from work and Nico’s got the car loaded. I’ll get in the back and sleep for four hours, then get up and shoot. But it works. You couldn’t work a nine-to-five and try and shoot surfing.
Do you ever do any video stuff?
I’m slowly starting to. The Gotsurf project is the thing that got me into it. I find it challenging, but I enjoy a challenge. If you try and frame something the way you’d frame a photograph, it usually turns out. It’s the editing where I really need help.
Have you got group of guys you always shoot with?
Definitely Nico is the guy that I shoot with the most. Anytime there’s a traveling pro coming through, he’s kind of the East Coast guy, so it’s pretty awesome. That’s one of the perks of working in this industry—everyone I’ve met is fun to hang out with. It’s the experience of everyone being in one place, all frothing on the same stuff.
What about professional training? Have you done any schooling for photography?
Not really. I did a little bit in high school, but pretty much everything I’ve learned has been from a book or from Jeremy. I still look to him when it comes to photographs. In the beginning, I would send him a batch of low-res photos. A lot of photo editors just give you a one-word answer—they’re just like “no.” But Jer would say he’s not pumped on one, and here’s why. It was insane. It was a photo course in itself. Everything that I know now is pretty much because of him.
All you East Coast guys seem super psyched on surfing. Is there a really tight-knit group, or are there quite a few surfers out there?
The community is growing. I started seriously surfing seven years ago. Since then, it seems like there’s a lot more, but as soon as you go traveling, you realize it isn’t crowded at all. As soon as you go somewhere, your definition of crowded changes.
Have you noticed more of a push for Canadian content from international publications?
Oh, definitely. What we do is so different from a lot of other places. I’m not saying it’s not being done, but it’s an everyday thing for us. I mean, it’s not like we have a choice to surf without snow in the winter. It’s just part of it. It brings its own set of challenges and rewards to the table. You end up capturing images that the surf community has rarely seen before. You get barreling waves with a snowy background, and people are like “wow, where’s that?” Everything in the surf community is just trying to keep things fresh and new, and in a lot of ways, ours is really the last frontier. There’s so many places here that you can go and surf a wave that you can be fairly confident that no one’s ever surfed before.
How do you find those waves?
One of our buddies is a pilot, and we’ve been flying a little Cessna along the coast. There are so many places with no road access, so you just mark them off with a GPS. It’s pretty cool. Things like that get me so excited. We have a program that shows the ocean floor. We compare spots that we know are really good with spots along the coast, and kind of go from there. There are times where it’s totally flat, but there are times when you walk over that hill, and it looks like Pipeline.
Alright, I have one last question, and I don’t know if it’s true or not. I heard that you’re related to Taj Burrow. True?
(Laughing.) That’s hilarious! Definitely not true. I got that a lot when I started surfing. I was going to Costa Rica with my girlfriend, and some little kid with a surfing magazine came up to her and asked if I was Taj Burrows. It was super awkward. I hate being the centre of attention—I even hate walking down the beach with a water housing—and it was in a huge airport. Everyone was looking at me, and I was like “you’ve got to be kidding me.” It’s turned into a bit of a running joke.
Thanks to Malcolm Johnson at SBC Surf for his cooperation in reproducing these stories.