The Secret Worlds and Subcultures of Surfing

Photo: Sarah Lee from Surf Odyssey, Copyright Gestalten 2016

Surfing is rife with stereotypes of laid-back, tanned athletes in tropical locales. But go beyond the surface and you’ll find some of the most interesting subcultures in sport, from bike-and-surf gangs to teenage girls who ride in Bangladesh. Not to mention, where there are waves to ride, there is very often someone who has tried, no matter how unusual the location.

Surfer, designer, and illustrator Andrew Groves gathered unexpected imagery of these dedicated wave-hunters (plus board-shapers and artists) for Surf Odyssey, a new coffee table book. The result is an atypical surf book that’s more than just nice to look at (though it is that, too). Featuring some of the best photographers in the world, Surf Odyssey dives deep into the secret worlds that develop around a passion for waves.

Photo: Lee’s mesmerizing, balletic images of surfers and swimmers above and below the water are shaped by her own childhood growing up by the sea and by her adult life as a surfer and long-distance swimmer. Many of her photographs are shot through with vibrant, jewel-like colors that amplify the elegance of the figures as they drift through their adopted aquatic home.

Photo: Gary Conley from Surf Odyssey, Copyright Gestalten 2016

In 2013, Gary Conley left Santa Cruz, California, with his surfboard and motorbike with plans to circumnavigate Africa in search of waves. Some of the best surfing, he says, is in West Africa.

Photo: Cycle Zombies from Surf Odyssey, Copyright Gestalten 2016

The work and imagery of Cycle Zombies expresses a strong sense of camaraderie, of standing together as a family. This family looks out for each other, dedicated to their shared passions for surfing, skating, and building and riding motorcycles.

Photo: Stuart Gibson from Surf Odyssey, Copyright Gestalten 2016

A lone surfer dances across the edge of a towering wall of water at Pedra Branca, Tasmania.

Photo: Andre Silva from Surf Odyssey, Copyright Gestalten 2016

Big-wave surfers Andrew Cotton and Hugo Vau (pictured) are made of stern stuff. One winter, chasing a storm that was creating massive waves in the Atlantic, they pitched up at Mullaghmore Head in northwestern Ireland. As snow and hurricane-force winds battered the coast, they simply suited up and went into battle with the elements.

Photo: Shannon Aston from Surf Odyssey, Copyright Gestalten 2016

Long considered a layover spot on the way to more conventional surf destinations, South Korea is now home to a burgeoning year-round surf scene. During the winter months, the country offers up about 1,500 miles of empty potential—though you may have to trudge through snow to get to the water, as these pictures from the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) attest to.

Photo: Jeff Divine from Surf Odyssey, Copyright Gestalten 2016

Divine, the photo editor at Surfer’s Journal, has been photographing surfers in his native California since the 1960s. He got in on the action before the mainstream media arrived and turned surfing into the profitable sensation we know it as today.

Photo: James Bowden from Surf Odyssey, Copyright Gestalten 2016

Bowden traveled with friends to some of the most isolated parts of Tasmania, Australia, for camping and cold-water surfing. Almost every surfer will recognize Shipstern Bluff, one of the meanest slabs in the world, but there is a massive abundance of waves in Tasmania. However hard you want to push yourself, however much solitude you are seeking, this island has it all.

Photo: James Bowden from Surf Odyssey, Copyright Gestalten 2016

Traveling through southwest Tasmania by plane and on foot: a camping trip of extremes.

Photo: Michelangelo Bernardoni from Surf Odyssey, Copyright Gestalten 2016

Surfer Michelangelo Bernardoni on the Pororoca Araguari River. The Pororoca, located in Brazil near the Amazon River, is a tidal bore that can reach heights of about 13 feet.

Photo: Gestalten

Surf Odyssey is available now.