"If you visit many beaches up and down the Atlantic coast you’ll surely see the wide variety of passionate East Coast surfers as they wade into these less celebrated waters and paddle out to wait for just the right wave to bring them back to East Coast terra firma. While there will probably be no grand displays of adulation on the beach when they return; with no trophies and no glossy magazine covers, there will be contentment and a desire to do it again tomorrow. But, if you pay attention, like Darin does with his camera, you will see something magical; something perfect. The fleeting instance when one person, a surfboard, the wind and the wave coalesce for a brief, evanescent moment; and that perfect moment should get a trophy and should be splashed on the cover of a magazine and in some alternate surfing universe, they do." — Robert T. Oldham in the Preface of East Coast Surfers book.
“You will see something magical.”
That’s really the best way to describe Darin Back’s photography in the East Coast Surfers book. The 84-page ode to the East Coast surf community features legendary surfers, shapers, and bloodlines. The surf book also features some names that those outside the tight-knit East Coast surf scene might not initially recognize. We chatted with Darin to talk about the origins of the book, his unique photography style, and why his portrait studio was on the 4th floor of the parking garage in downtown Cocoa Beach.
ASM: Why did you create the East Coast Surfers book?
Darin Back: What I wanted to do was represent the East Coast surf community because nobody was stepping up to capture something like this. I wanted to include not just professionals but people that just like to surf. At the same time, I realized some of the surfers I looked up to when I was young — guys who were my heroes, guys who shaped my boards — were getting older and I wanted to capture them before they passed away. Just because they don’t surf anymore doesn't mean they didn’t have an impact on the surf community.
Talk about the photography style of the book. To say it's unique is an understatement.
I wanted to create something I’d never created before, and the entire time I had the answer right in front of me: looking at the subject’s eyes. When I hooked into it, I knew I was onto something. To do that, I ensured the background was out of focus and used misdirection. I told the subject to look over here, look over there. They didn't know what I was doing, but I was trying to find the soul in their eyes. Once I captured it, I stopped and knew the job was done.
Who is featured in the East Coast Surfers book?
Matt Kechele, Corey Lopez, Dale Cormican, the Geiselman's, the Mendia's, Lindsey Baldwin, Lisa Scarborough, Rodney Meeks, CT Taylor, Ava and Madi Lavender, Matt Dayton, Sean Slater…too many to name off the top of my head.
How did you go about photographing them?
I was shooting during Covid, so I shot wherever I could find natural light: surf spots, hotels. I shot mostly out of the parking garage in downtown Cocoa Beach. I first noticed the garage when it was being built; when the sun was going down, it provided a great natural light with no shadows. Then, I realized I could put a canvas on the cement walls. It even had electricity, so I could plug in strobes if necessary like a studio! I did many of the shots there for the East Coast Surfers book to keep the photos consistent.
You can buy East Coast Surfers on Amazon.