Joe Hodnicki is an East Coast surfer/artist who works in all mediums from painting to shaping his own boards. He has been successful in being able to turn his passion for art and surfing into a life of stoke. We spoke with Joe to learn more.
What was your life like growing up?
Ever since I could remember, I had a pencil in my hand. Art, surfing and creating played a huge role in my every day life. I was always drawing, building something, playing music or surfing. If I ever got in trouble in class, it was for drawing and not paying attention … or making my homework and tests a collage of doodles.
When did you get your first surfboard?
I walked into a secondhand sporting goods store when I was super young. I saw this old, yellowed 6’2” WRV hanging on the wall and I had to have it. Using the money I saved from cutting my neighbors’ grass, I bought it and it’s still part of my quiver today.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
I remember thinking “Am I surfing?” while floating on the whitewater. But, the first time I stood on a board I shaped myself stands out much clearer. I was in Puerto Rico, paddling into one of the longest rights I’ve ever caught. I screamed, yelled and laughed the entire ride. That was a good day.
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a young boy?
I was the only one in my family that surfed, so I literally had no influences when it came to surfing, the history or culture. Maybe that’s what drew me to it in the first place. But growing up and being an artist? Everything about art inspired me. I swore one day I’d be a cartoonist for Disney. I knew someone working for them and I thought she was the coolest. Then, Salvador Dali’s work became an obsession of mine even though I was too young to realize what a crazy mind he had.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out and why?
After graduating college I think I was like most 23 year olds are—lost. I had no clue what I was doing, but I knew what I loved: art, surfing and the ocean. I moved to St. John in the Virgin Islands, where I lived in a treehouse and worked at Maho Bay, an eco resort in the rainforest, in exchange for living. The experience of being in the water and natural landscapes every day was life-changing and molded much of who I am today.
Who or what inspires you?
Passionate, hard-working people. I love surrounding myself with people who are motivated to create their own paths. It always helps me see mine clearer. Through my clothing company, okoto, I’ve met some really amazing people in the industry that have helped fuel my creativity.
What is your process for creating your art?
Usually it comes out of an idea to try something new. I often get bored staying in certain areas or mediums for any length of time. I love working with oils, mixed media, block printing and wood working. I often take an idea, a photo or an inspiring situation and pull a moment out of it. My art often reflects these moments captured in time, allowing my audience to experience them through my mind.
Tell us about your latest venture.
Lately, I have been working on a series of oils called “The Art in Shaping”. It captures those raw moments in the process of board shaping, which, as a garage shaper myself, I see as its own art form. I’m also putting together some ideas for a line of furniture, which you can learn more about in the near future on my site.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
Sometimes I feel like I haven’t learned anything. Just when you think you got it, life throws you a curveball to change it all up again. I guess I have learned that we all need to take things not so seriously and start living in the now. We create our own paths and need to learn from the past, not live in it. Still, we should always be grateful for what we’ve experienced and how we’ve grown.
Do you have any regrets or wish you had done something differently?
I know it sounds cliché, but … nothing. I am a strong believer in that things happen for a reason. Every hobby I’ve had, every place I’ve lived—schooling, relationships, good decisions and bad decisions—have brought me to where I am today … sitting on my porch, drinking coffee, doing what I love to do and answering this interview.
What are you most proud of?
My family and the good people in my life.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
I love it. Like all surfers out there, I love the feeling you get sliding down a long line. What grabs my attention more than anything is the history of it all, the way the past generations created this sport. For me, surfing holds way more weight than just being in water fighting for a peak. It’s about the moments and lifestyle every day that, in one way or another, have been influenced just by the culture itself.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
Being in the water, even just near it. Having paint on my hands. Drinking a hot cup of coffee or a cold beer. Sharing laughs with my family and friends. Brainstorming on my next project.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
Personally, who I feel are shaping the path, are the videographers capturing and projecting the moments in the sport and industry as a whole. We get to share these experiences, which we might never otherwise witness, through their vision. I really dig the more indie– style films that allow surfing, traveling and the lifestyle itself to feel attainable to anyone who has a passion for it. Examples would include Thomas Campbell, Taylor Steele, Russell Brownley and Emmett Malloy, to name a few.
What is your favorite board? Your favorite surf spot?
I love to ride all different kinds of boards—planing hulls, handboards, etc. I enjoy how different every one of them is, and get stoked trying out new boards. As for surf spots, I love the South end of Long Beach Island, New Jersey in the fall. Until I surf a perfect, long left pointbreak, I guess you can say I’m still searching.
What’s your favorite meal?
Sushi … and lots of it!
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
The variety is too large to list, but when I paint, it’s usually Zeppelin, Floyd or Citizen Cope.
What are you most grateful for?
Any opportunity that comes my way which allows me to continue on my journey as an artist, a surfer and an individual.
What’s next for Joe Hodnicki?
Man, where to start? I just hope to see all my pursuits continue to grow—from my art to my clothing company, okoto. I love being able to inspire people through the many avenues of my work. For me, it’s just all about “sharing the stoke”.
Find out more about Joe Hodnicki and his art here.