The Coldwater Campaign with Tim Nunn

Filmmaker, former photo editor of Wavelength and a pioneer of today’s cold water surf photography, Tim Nunn is really the guy to talk to about coldwater surfing. So, we meet up for a chat about how he got into it all and how he feels “the cold water surf campaign” has progressed.  

With his career starting off in surf filmmaking, later to consider giving it all up to become a geography, Tim gave in to the persuasion of pursuing a career in photography, to then end up being the photo editor of Wavelength magazine and whose work has captured the true essence of cold water surfing.

I started off by accident getting into surf filmmaking and I spent a good five years doing that. Then I was about to give up and go and become a Geography teacher of all things.” Tim explains. “But I was sharing an office with the Surfer's Path magazine and my best mate Sharpy was editor of Surf Europe magazine, and they persuaded me to start shooting, and within the year I was photo editor of Wavelength and it all went from there.”

Coming from the UK, Tim is no stranger to harsh conditions and cold waters, and his travels across the tropics really demonstrates his desire for adventure. “I think coming from the UK you are naturally a surfer who lives and surfs around cold water, so it is just being at home rather than edging in that way. But I have shot a lot of cold stuff, and it's mainly due to the realisation that it's where the adventure lay.” So it's no surprise that he has found himself in the far reaches of some of the globe’s coldest destinations in search of adventure, with a focus on capturing some of the world's best coldwater surf photography.

“Fifteen years ago I had spent five years following the standard route through the tropics and as well as being ginger and burning easily, I wanted to get out and explore, get some real isolation, and get to some coasts where no one had been.”

One of the main factors that have really ignited this coldwater surf campaign and something that has attracted many surfers and photographers alike to these cold waters is the isolation and privacy that comes with these far-out locations. “One of the great things about surf photography is the fact it takes you to places that no one else would ever go.” This allows surfers and photographers like Tim to capture fresh, raw and more than anything inspirational images that have given the world of surfing an insight into what's really out there if you have the drive to go out and find it.

Surfing is a versatile sport that is forever changing, due to surfers always looking for that unique break, swell or just that wave that they are yet to surf. This has taken the sport to new heights, with locations being discovered and surfed that no one could have ever thought of.

With surf technology such as wetsuits enhancing and being adapted so wave riders can surf these icey locations, cold water surfing as a whole has been able to flourish, with new locations being uncovered and surfed every day.  

“Surfing is growing all the time, and it's natural with better wetsuit tech that it will just keep growing, in twenty years the whole Arctic Ocean will be free of ice, that's a whole new frontier right there”

But on one hand, finding swells and capturing these locations can turn out to be quite the challenge. “The biggest challenge is really the extreme conditions, it's wet, cold, salty, all the things electronics hate”, said Tim. “Then there is the fact you have to swim around in some pretty heavy conditions and you start to get the picture.”

What to take on his adventures to these frozen frontiers seems to be another challenge for Tim, but something that he has learned to deal with. “I used to travel with tents, but I don't anymore, I prefer to sleep in a hire car, or in a divvy bag. A good sleeping bag is absolutely essential, good warm sleep is not something you can do without.

“Long johns and thermal base layers are really important, then a good jacket, waterproof trousers and a couple of beanies. Then obviously a really good wetsuit, if there is room I'll take two, having a dry one is amazing, but it rarely happens.”

At the end of our conversation, there was one question I just had to ask: “So… What is the wildest coldwater location you have been to?” - “I think heading out in the wilderness of British Columbia was easily the wildest, just left in the wilderness out of contact for a month is like nothing you can imagine. No communication, living off the land as much as possible, and pretty epic waves.”