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Interview | Liquid Salt Magazine

Liquid Salt Magazine interviewed me last week and posted it here. I have a good working relationship with a few online publications and I support what some of these new media pioneers are doing. This is a new frontier for everyone and we are all trying to figure this thing out together. I greatly appreciate their support and interest in the things I am doing. Throw some love back to Liquid Salt and give them a follow. It is good karma all around.


Liquid Salt Magazine interview on surf photography

Interview by Glenn Sakamoto

What was it like growing up in Baltimore?
It wasn’t California. Baltimore is a blue collar sports town. So I gravitated to skateboarding and riding freestyle BMX bikes. There weren’t many other riders at my school, but my friends and I got to know guys in other parts of town. We rode when it was -20 below in the winter and 100 in the summer. The ramps and parks were always getting torn down so I was more into riding street. Baltimore also has some very creative criminals.  

What attracted you to go surfing?
Growing up I bought surfing mags because of the photography. Skateboarding got me interested in surfing. Outside of summer vacations, I was 3 hours from the ocean. When I moved to California and saw people surfing 70 yards away from where I was standing, it was time to start. Plus I was dating my wife Jamie at the time. She was a surfer and gave me the extra push.

What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
Standing up wasn’t a big deal, but dropping in on a small wave felt better than riding down a vert ramp. I suffered for 2 months getting into paddle shape so the hard work is what I remember the most.

Who did you look up to and admire when you were young?
Grizzly Adams, Evil Knievel, Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee, Johnny Unitas, Tinker Juarez, Eddie Fiola, Alva, Natas, Caballero, Rodney Mullen, Ken Bradshaw, Andy Warhol. 

What inspired you to be a photographer?
It was all because of magazines. Bob Osborn started several BMX and Freestyle magazines and he also shot for them. There were also skate photographers Mo Fo, Bryce Kanights, and Grant Brittain. Their work was delivered to my house in mags every month. Warhol was into film making and photography so the camera also felt like a natural artistic choice. 

What is your process for creating a great photo?
I research and plan out ideas for my portrait work, and my photo essays are usually inspired by a theme. Action sports requires knowing your gear well and being in the right place at the right time. You can have all the luck in the world, but it won’t matter if you are not prepared. 

Of all the places you have traveled to, what stands out? And why?
Harpers Ferry, WV is a special place due to its history. I have hiked trails in that area several times and it feels like it is still occupied by the spirits of native American Indians. The North Shore of Oahu is my favorite surf place. With all those historic spots stacked next to each other, it feels like Manhattan. 

Who/what inspires you?
I was floored to see Duane Peters at age 48 rip at a skate contest one year. Clyde Aikau competed in the Eddie at age 60. They make me want to be a better photographer, because we should never stop progressing. California inspires me because it has been a big part of my life before I even got here, and my wife Jamie helps make everything look so natural and easy.

What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
1) You can’t pick and choose your friends.  2) A wrestling match only lasts 6 minutes (you can pick any sport). 

Do you have any regrets or wish you had done something differently?
I had a nice looking silver 85’ VW Jetta that was always in the shop. I worked like a dog to keep it running, but I regret not launching that pig off a cliff instead. It owned me.  

What are you most proud of?
That things I am most ashamed of are really not that big of a deal.

What meaning does surfing hold for you? How has it changed your life?
I am not a spiritual surfer at all. I just like riding waves. Surfing is incredibly challenging and humbling. Conditions are always changing, so it becomes obvious that it parallels some of the lessons in life. I appreciate the few moments during a surf session when I turn my back to a wall of water coming at me. When do you ever get to do this in real life? If I am stressed out in the water because I am not catching waves, it usually means I am not doing something right in my life. We should never be stressed walking away from the ocean. 

What brings you the most happiness?
Hot coffee. The feeling after skating, surfing or riding bikes. I love doing a good job on an assignment and seeing it in print or making my own prints. All of these things are addictive. 

Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
Danny Hess, Tom and Jon Wegener, Cyrus Sutton. These guys are raising the awareness to make surfing more environmentally friendly. I would love to photograph Christian Wach and Alex Knost. They rip. Greg Long is on a roll. 

What is in your current quiver? What is your favorite board? Your favorite surf spot?
9′ Bob Miller, 6’4″ twin-fin fish, 9’4″ single fin shaped by Ted Gallup. The 9′ Miller is a horse that can catch waves in almost any condition, but I am trying to get better on the fish. My favorite surf spot is Pleasure Point in Santa Cruz when it is not crowded, but that is rare. 

What’s your favorite meal?
I crush sushi like Godzilla and pasta like Vito Corleone. 

What music are you listening to lately?
Howlin Wolf, Bobby Blue Bland, Raekwon. KEXP radio out of Seattle. 

What’s next?
Currently I am working on promo posters that I might also offer for sale. My to-do list looks like cryptic chicken scratch. There are people I want to photograph in the North Shore, San Diego, LA, and in my own backyard. I’ll be doing some video work and heading more in that direction in the coming years.

JW interview on Liquid Salt Mag

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Jay Watson
San Francisco Bay Area based lifestyle and people photographer Jay Watson shoots editorial, apparel, automotive, corporate, and sports subjects for commercial clients. Published in over 70 magazines.

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