Chris Burkard

by Glenn Sakamoto on November 3, 2009 · 3 comments


Chris Burkard is a photographer who spent a year traveling up and down the coast of California with his good friend Eric Soderquist. The California Surf Project is the fully illustrated travel diary of two surfers who took the trip of a lifetime.

What was it like growing up in the Central Coast?
Amazing. It is pretty disconnected with the Southern California surf scene so you have a lot of room to really grow and experience things on your own without any outside influences.

When did you get your first surfboard?
I actually bodyboarded for the first 20 years of my life. I have started surfing in the last few, just for fun. But I personally would rather bodysurf more than anything.

What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
It was more difficult than I thought it would be. I was on a family camping trip at Refugio State Park, just a small reeling point break. It was amazing. I think I fell off pretty shortly afterwords though.

heavens gate

Who did you look up to and admire when you were a young man?
My parents, A lot of landscape photographers inspired my work: Michael Fatali, Henri-Cartier Bresson, James Nauchtwey. I also really enjoyed the work of Ron Stoner.

What inspired the California Surf Project?
Just growing up doing simple California road trips. That was the main inspiration. We just wanted to share our experiences and inspire people.

What challenges did you face in making the trip and the book?
Just trying to keep everything together and to make something that would make sense in the end. That was hard. We wanted it to really have a beautiful sense of place amongst nature. IT was never supposed to be about us really. We wanted people to be able to relate to the trip.., no matter who they were – so we had that on our minds.


What advice would you give to an aspiring photographer?
Develop a style. Nothing you can buy or download will give you an eye for good photography. Be willing to experiment and fail if you need to, but try to develop a style that is unique.

What do you look for in a good photograph?
The basic things: composition, contrast, depth, and color.

Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out?
Iceland, because it is the most beautiful place I have ever been, The waterfalls, the landscapes, the mountains… it is absolutely incredible.

Who/what inspires you?
Nowadays, I would say everything and everyone. I feel lucky to have been able to work beside some amazing artists and they simply inspire me. There is so many it is hard to list, but I love the work of Patrick Trefz, Joe Curren, Pete Taras, Thomas Campbell, Ron Stoner, and so many more.

What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
That family is the most important thing. And to do unto others as you would have others do unto you.


Do you have any regrets or wish you had done something differently?
There is always a couple… but I think for the most part I have no regrets.

What are you most proud of?
I would say the Flame Grant and The California Surf Project. Both have been two of my greatest accomplishments. Without them I don’t think I would have solidified my career as much.

What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
For me it’s not so much about surfing, but about the ocean and the beauty of the natural world. Surfing can be a cruel, selfish sport in which people feel they have ownership over waves and stuff like that. For me it’s always just been about experiencing the things I love and documenting them. I have gotten a lot of joy out of what I do, and I feel lucky to be able to spread that joy.


What brings you the most happiness in the world?
Probably early morning drives up the coast when the sun is just rising over the horizon and the waves are firing.

Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
That is a great question, I think there is a lot of people who are doing their part, but I really look towards the older generations, because I hate to say it, but it seems like the younger generation is more caught up in contracts and stuff and doesnt really care about any future except there own. I think a lot of incredible film makers out there are really creating stuff that opens our eyes… also photographers… there are so many. They are the ones that bring us the vision and a lot of them are really helping us see what surfing really should be about.

What is in your current quiver? What is your favorite board?
Your favorite
Favorite surf spot is anywhere that is offshore and barreling. Probably Pismo Pier. My quiver consists of 3 body boards– an 8.0 Marty Allen longboard, and a Danny Hess hand plane

What’s your favorite meal?
Anything Mexican, Salsa verde on top!

What are you listening to on your iPod?
That is a long, long list. Right now it’s Neil Young, Animal Collective, Deer Tick, Lykki Li and whatever else tickles my fancy.


What’s next for Chris Burkhard?
I actually have a few projects I’m working on now. But for the most part I am looking forward to fall in California and spending some time camping with my wife.

Find out more about Chris Burkard is at his website, More information about The California Surf Project is here:

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jared Eaton November 3, 2009 at 10:24 pm

You have captured beautiful images of nature in the coastal life. It’s comforting to know that some of the younger generation of surfer-artists are tuned in to the natural world and it’s great majesty. Life in your ever expanding realm is an adventure and education. Keep stoked. Jared


Valerie Johnson June 11, 2010 at 11:27 am

Chris, your work really speaks to me. I have your book and browse it constantly. I think you really embody the idea of “Follow the Light” and so it was perfect for you to be awarded the Flame Grant. I especially love your photographs of beautiful back lighting illuminating a wave, with or without a silhouetted surfer. You are most deserving of your increasing success and I can’t wait to see more of your work. Val


carlos pacheco August 3, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Chris estuvo por Chile mi país el pasado año recorriendo y fotográfiendo el sur de Chile, buchupureo y otras tantas largas y perfectas izquierdas.


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