Life

This Young Surf Photographer Is Chasing His Dreams Around The Globe


When you’re a kid, scoring your dream job seems like a tangible and realistic pursuit. Then, as we grow older, things get complicated. The job market kinda sucks and we’re left to worry about our finances and paying back school loans. It’s easy to become discouraged and let those dreams slip away. Then a guy like 26-year old photographer and filmmaker, Morgan Maassen comes along — living out his every dream — and our hope is restored.

Maassen was born and raised in Santa Barbara, California as a Lego maniac and a self-proclaimed computer geek. He was also a skateboarder and surfer from the age of seven. After a surf injury when he was 12, Maassen picked up his family’s camcorder and began following his friends during their surf adventures in and around the town, compiling footage to make his first short film. The next year he moved around the world with his family to New Zealand, taking him through Hawaii, Fiji and Australia, filming everything along the way.

Later, Maassen graduated high school early so he could work full-time as a graphic designer for Shawn Stussy and focus on his twin passions of photography and filmmaking — which would later taking him around the world, shooting for Patagonia, Billabong, and Surfer Magazine.

I had the chance to speak with the talented and motivated creative about how he started and where he hopes to go with his camera.


How and when did you start merging photography and surfing together?

When I was 12, I had a pretty bad accident surfing, so I was out of the water for a month. At the same time, the school I was attending had a mentor program. Someone had already chosen to shape a surfboard, so I decided to borrow the family camcorder and make a surf film, reaching out to my dad’s friend who was a underwater cinematographer for help. Marrying cameras, computers, software and surfing just blew my mind. I fell in love, and began filming everything possible to make videos for my website and blog.

You’re most known for your surf or fashion photography — but what or who is/are your preferred subjects?

I love shooting everything. Surfing is my lifeblood, so to shoot it is to shoot something I hold in the highest regard. However, fashion is an area where I strive to improve the most, which is a feeling I love. Ultimately, I’m happiest when shooting in challenging conditions — usually weather related — and subject matter I’ve never photographed before, as that forces me to look the hardest for what I want to capture.


Where are some of your favorite places your photography has taken you? Why?

Everywhere! My list would be too long. Shark-infested Reunion Island, the Boab trees of the Kimberley Mountains of Australia, the mighty waves of Teahupo’o in Tahiti, or ancient villages of Basque country in the south of France… I love them all.

For some people, meeting and spending time with some of the professional surfers you work with is a dream. How did you feel when you were given the opportunity and what did you learn by being so close to some of the greatest surfers?

I grew up with posters of surfers like Kelly Slater and Stephanie Gilmore on my wall, so to meet and travel with them was beyond my wildest dreams. While forming friendships with them has slightly quelled the initial awe-factor, there is still nothing like watching them surf in person. What is equally fascinating are their personalities out of the water — I find that at their level, they are not only have to be hyper-intelligent to operate as such a peak athlete, but they are also almanacs of amazing stories, encounters, and information.

Also, they are (and have to be) class acts, which is a beautiful thing to experience in a childhood hero.

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@kellyslater, ready to dive.

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You’ve already accomplished a lot, but what is something you want to accomplish in the future within your career?

I really aspire to be a filmmaker. I’m plotting how to get to Christopher Nolan or Darren Aronofsky‘s level by the age of 40. Not that I want to make blockbusters, so much as that I want to have the possibility to tap into infinite resources to make the best movie possible, uninhibited by anything but my own ability.


What “moves” you about your art?

I view my art as postcards of moments around the world. Who I’ve met, what has inspired me, caused me fear, taken my breath away. I guess, reflecting on my body of work, I am very proud of the amount of travel I’ve done and people I’ve met. I hope to see my friends and children grow that hungry to experience the world.

What moves you about other people’s art?

In other’s art, I am moved by things I’ve never seen before. be it a design, an idea, or feeling. That is the pinnacle of artistic beauty to me: being shown something i’ve never fathomed before.

And for you to the rest of the world — tell us why you think photography is important for us right now, in this generation, in this time in history.

Photography is a universal language. While English is becoming global, it’s also greatly diminished by the shorthand nature of social media. I nary see a tweet that shares more than a soundbite or a clickable link. Whereas a photo, like the old adage proclaims, can truly speak a thousand words.

We also, now more than ever, have the means to instantly share and syndicate photos instantly. Whether the content is breaking news, fine art, or just a photo carrying emotion, it truly is a fascinating method of communication across all of humanity.


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feeling water…

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a narrow exit in Fiji…

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weightless…

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dylan… 😔🙏🏼

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