SWELL stopped by Burkey’s Central Coast Studio to get some insight into his Arctic surf tales seen in the December Catalog. The inaugural Follow the Light grant winner has become a trailblazer for frosty surf expeditions, here’s how the 26 year old surf photo savant keeps crushing it.
SWELL: Explain what kind of trippy Northern Lights magic is going on the cover.
Burkard: This moment was unreal, it was as if the entire sky lit up for me and me alone. 2am… 5 hours before I left for home and the only clear night of the trip. It snowed all day and late in the evening it cleared and I knew this was my moment so I hike to the beach, 1 mile from my cabin, and shot these photos. It was one of the best experiences of my life, hands down. The sky was spiraling and channeling orange/ red blue and green… straight from the sea to the sky.
SWELL: Shooting in remote locations, you must have some close encounters with predators… Animals, humans, unknown?
Burkard: Bears mostly, terrorizing our camp site in Canada.. and of course some unseen animals under the ocean .. haven’t seen those yet. seen lots of foxes/ wolves. For me the biggest concern is weather.. most places i go to .. there’s no people around at all. And some locations are so desolate you dont see many animals too.
Eggy locals are also a legitimate concern.
SWELL: How did your “Follow the Light” grant affect your career path?
Burkard: That was seriously a turning point for me.. it really gave me the confirmation i was on the right path.. and it felt gratifying.. to be honored in that way.. I still look to that moment as one of my highlights.. for sure. Flame was a huge inspiration..
SWELL: Tell us about the #AleutianSurfClub?
I cant wait for you to see alll the photos.. wow! me and a crew of epic humans; alex gray. josh mulcoy, pete devries, ben weiland and i went to the remote aleutians and explored untouched surf.. look for surfer magazine spring issue for the film and article
SWELL: Who’s you favorite surfer to shoot in these burly cold water slabs?
that would be either alex gray.. mulcoy.. devries.. raph bruhwiler.. those guys are as good as it gets in cold water.. you need to keep moral high.. especially when its cold.. and these are dudes i never have to worry aboout.
SWELL: 3 things you couldn’t survive without on the Iceland mission?
Burkard: My Patagonia r4 for sure.. goal zero solar chargers.. because your pretty far from everything when your on the road.. gerber multitool.. umm water purifier.. (steripen) and probably a couple thick layers of merino wool.. that is my favorite layering material for cold climates.
SWELL: What’s a good starting point for aspiring surf photographers?
Burkard: Probably start with a camera.. ahhaha.. no seriously though learn to be an observer.. learn to take it all in and listen.. sometimes we learn so much just by watching and studying the images.. its not all about asking questions.. those get answered in time.. For me its all about learning to observe.. shut my mouth and just listen.
SWELL: How many stamps are in your passport?
Burkard: uhhh… i cant even count them..
SWELL: How gnarly are those gerber blades? Ever have to get serious putting those into action?
Burkard: Heck yeah!. in Alaska and Norway we have had to cut through logs and trees to get to the beach.. it was gnarly.. also there axes and shovels are absolutely crucial for the type of exploration i do.
SWELL: That climbing wall of yours in near impossible… training for something serious?
Burkard: hahaha. i wish.. i don’t get outside enough anymore.. that wall is just there to keep me strong.. keep me a little bit fit so in case i need to get outdoor i can. Always want to get back to yosemite or Joshua Tree
SWELL: Thanks for having us to your studio Chris, now where should we go surf and eat around here?
Burkard: Pismo pier! Northside.. check the rights into the pier on high tide.. and definitely make your way to honeymoon cafe!