Tyler Manson is an Australian born, California raised, surfer/photographer/filmmaker. His upcoming film, Grey Whale Sessions documents the classic surf adventure and features such sliders as Tyler Warren and Keith Malloy. We spoke with Tyler to learn more.
What was your life like growing up?
I was born in Melbourne, Australia to American parents. After a year of bouncing around the desert in a VW bus, they decided to move back to the US. Eventually, we settled in Ojai California when I was 5. I grew-up in a big family and my parents are teachers so there was always a steady flow of students, friends and family coming and going. I was raised in a very DIY, creative family and they instilled at a young age that I could do whatever I wanted in this life. My family never had a home camcorder, but because they worked at a school I could access some very basic video equipment. So whenever I got a chance, I would come up with strange plot lines and make little films running around the creeks behind my house with a few friends. As I grew up my interest turned from Indiana Jones over to skateboarding and surfing, so my little films took a turn as well.
When did you get your first surfboard?
My first surfboard was a yellow, downrailed, Greek, single fin. It had a huge ding on the deck that was patched with newspaper and then glassed over. The newspaper had a picture of a monkey on it. I called it the banana board. I surfed that thing all over Ventura.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood up on a surfboard?
I don’t really remember when I first stood up, but I have an early surf memory from when I was about 11. It was an El Niño winter and there was solid NW swell in the water. I somehow convinced my mom it wasn’t too big for me. I got lucky and snuck out between set and spent about 2 hours terrified trying to get back in. Meanwhile, my mom’s nerves settled and she went to run an errand. I finally picked off a medium wave, scratched into it—feeling the offshore wind in my face—I made it to the bottom of the wave just before it imploded on me. I got super tossed around but made it back to the beach. I downplayed it to my mom saying it wasn’t that bad out there. I think she bought it until the next day the Ventura Star (newspaper) arrived and on the cover was a photo of me eating shit. No joke.
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a young boy?
I remember reading about Greenough, because he surfed the same point I surfed, I was always enamored by his tales and creativity to forge a path where there was none. Tom Curren. Bart Templeton was also someone I admired a lot. Brent Florence, too. I bought my first short board from him. I didn’t know much about surfing outside of what was happening in Ventura, so most of my early influences came from people I saw in person.
Who/what inspires you?
Bas Jan Ader. Peter Beard. Albert Maysles. Kyle Field. Carl Ekstrom. Anyone with a unique perspective, whether they are designing furniture, taking photographs, making music, surfing, writing, cooking… whatever. As long as it’s original, thoughtful, and from the heart – it inspires me.
Tell us about your upcoming film.
I’ve been working a lot with Woodshed Films and they approached me about a trip to Mexico sponsored by Pacifico. I was lucky enough to pick a crew of musicians and surfers and go exploring for a few days. The car we explored in was an old 84’ Volvo wagon lovingly dubbed “The Grey Whale. So, the Grey Whale Sessions is a pretty simple premise, like most surf films. It’s just about getting away from the crowds and going south to find the simple things that make us all happy.
What were some of the challenges in creating your film?
Most surf films take years to make and month and months of just waiting for swell. To be honest, we didn’t get the best waves because of our limited time, but in the end, it was more about the creativity each surfer brought to the trip. We wanted to document all the little things that go into to a surf trip but don’t make it into the film. We did a lot of spearfishing, drawing, playing music, driving down unmarked roads just to see where they lead.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
What are you most proud of?
Not compromising. I mean, to be totally honest all filmmaking really is, is one good idea and then a series of compromises, and sometimes you do have to kill your darlings, but I do my best to stick to my guns whenever it’s important to me. Thomas taught me that and I thank him kindly for that lesson.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out and why?
Ethiopia. I went there to work on a documentary last year and was completely blow away by the people and landscape. Sometimes it nice to go half way around the world and do something besides surf.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
Surfing has always been a part of my life, but it’s not the most important thing to me.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
Making something out of nothing.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
I was just on a trip to Indo with Creed McTaggart… what a rad kid. It’s the young ones walking to the beat of their own drum that will push surfing into places I can’t even dream of. Some unknown kid from WA will surpass Dane, Kelly, Jordy and the rest before we know it.
What is your current favorite board? Your favorite surfspot?
I have a 1966 Wardy D-fin that I really love. I’m also enjoy my Liddle most days. Favorite spot is ______ point… it’s the best.
What’s your favorite meal?
I’m not too picky, but I’ve learned to love eating what you grow. I know that sounds like hippy bullshit, but eating vegetables that you’ve watched grow is pretty incredible.
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
Sonny and the Sunsets, Chip Tha Rippa, Television, Be Gulls, Bauhaus, Brian Eno, Local Natives, and Music for Feng Shui.
What are you most grateful for?
I’m grateful that I met an amazing girl when I was a just a kid and convinced her to marry me.
What’s next for Tyler Manson?
Well, I think I’m gonna finish my whiskey and go to bed.
To learn more about Tyler Manson and his work click here.