Nolan Hall is a California surfer/photographer who captures today’s contemporary surf scene with such notables as Alex Knost, Robbie Kegel, and Andy Davis. He is also a commissioned photographer for Vans and RVCA. We spoke with Nolan to learn more.
What was life like growing up?
I grew in Capistrano Beach. I started surfing when I was about 8, I think. My dad would take me down to Doheny and San O. I would pretty much hang there all day. I met a bunch of kids the same age as me—Robbie Kegel, Tyler Warren, Alex Knost, Bobby Blankenship, Jeremy King, Cody Faircloth. We would just surf all day. It was awesome
Who did you look up to and admire when you were young?
My mom for sure. She is a plein air painter. She has always encouraged me to be creative and follow my dreams, but on the beach it was Jeremy King, Cody Simkins, Thomas Campbell, Joel and Andy Davis. Me and Alex used to drive down to Andy’s house on the weekends. We’d surf and paint and make art with him. At the time, I was freaking out. I had FREE ads on my binder at school, and I was kicking it with Andy. He was such an inspiration to me growing up. Thomas has been amazing too—helping me with my photography. When The Seedling came out, it was like our bible. It was our own secret club.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
When my dad first took me out, I hated it. I might have been too young. I didn’t like the cold water and waves crashing on me. But as soon as I was able to turn and surf comfortably, it just clicked for me. And making friends that I surfed with all day was great.
Where did your interest in photography come from?
I think just from being around such creative people. I wasn’t ever very good at drawing or painting, but loved shooting photos. Picking up photos from the lab was the best feeling – I was always so excited.
What do you look for in capturing a good image?
Well-balanced composition, emotion and an overall feeling.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out? And why?
Japan and Australia are amazing and I always love going there. There always seems to be so much good energy there. Japan, in general, is just a really interesting place, and Oz is such a beautiful country. I recently went on a U.S. tour when Japanese Motors toured with Modest Mouse Traveling through the U.S. was pretty cool. Inner America, and the Bible Belt, was a really neat experience.
Who/what inspires you?
I get inspired when people jump outside the norm, people like Josh Lazcano, Barry McGee, Hamburger Eyes, Ed Templeton, Aaron Rose, Megawords, ANP Quarterly, Jim Goldberg, Bruce Gilden and some of the Magnum photographers. THIS Los Angeles just started up—a super amazing gallery.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
I’m not sure I’ve learned it yet.
What are you most proud of?
I guess my photos. Eventually, I’d like to put out a book with all my favorite shots.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
I think it makes me see things differently … and it’s such a positive outlet.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
Being with my friends, doing fun things and getting good photos.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
The ones that go against the grain. Alex (Knost) is so fun to surf with; he has so much energy and it’s always so much fun. Dane Reynolds too. I’m over in Australia right now, and watching him surf is really interesting. The lines he draws are so different and creative.
What is your favorite board? Your favorite surf spot?
I don’t really have a favorite board. I’ve had the same two boards for like five years. I just got a 7’4″ Tudor mid-length. It’s super fun, but needs a shoulder-high point break. Favorite spot could be Scorpion; its just a flawless wave.
What’s your favorite meal?
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
Atlas Sound, BRMC, Christmas Island, Black Lips, The Strange Boys, Brian Jonestown, Julian Casablancas, The Darkside, Ariel Pink, Girls, King Tuff, Loop, Spacemen 3, Sonic Youth, Deerhunter, Moon Duo, Suicide, Crocodiles, Spiritualized, Wire.
What causes/ projects/ organizations do you support?
Nothing right now. I’m just trying to support myself at the moment … and barely scraping by.
What are you most grateful for?
My family and friends. I owe a lot to Alex. I don’t think I would be where I am today without him.
What’s next for Nolan Hall?
Right now, I’m in Australia shooting photos for Vans. We’re on the Gold Coast right now. Then we’re going to West Oz, then Torquay. I’m stoked to see my friend Ryan Heywood! Haven’t seen him for awhile. but on a greater scale I really have no idea what I’m doing. Sometimes I feel like a jellyfish—just floating through life, going wherever the water takes me.
Find out more about Nolan Hall at his blog here.