Kevin Roche is a talented California surfer/photographer based in North San Diego County. His images, characterized by clean and vibrant imagery, uniquely captures the lifestyle of surf culture. We spoke with Kevin to learn more.
What was your life like growing up?
My Dad was in the Navy, so we moved around the East Coast a lot… we were always close to the water and spent most of our time outside fishing, boating, and riding BMX. My parents split up, and then my mom got a house right on the beach for a couple of years… I started surfing then. My mom eventually left the beach, but you might say I never did – I moved to Encinitas in 1988.
When did you get your first surfboard?
Early 80’s at 13… a single fin piece of trash. I remember it whacked me on the head on my first session.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
It’s kinda a blur. At first, I was just a stoked kid riding the whitewater into the beach. After that, a couple of my friends got into it, and then it was all over. We were so hooked on surfing, my friend’s mom would drop us off at the pier and we would take turns on my friend’s Hobie twin fin while the older kids teased us and called us hodads. Something must have been alright with that…
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a young man?
Surfers… there was nothing cooler than that… I liked guys like MR, cause he was the champ… Kong! err uh, Garry Elkerton… Kong’s Island was the ultimate grom’s surf fantasy… later Occy and Curren. Martin Potter had the best graphics and at the time it made a statement…
How did you get involved in photography?
My mom was a professional back in the early 80’s and she got me started. She developed and printed her own images, pre-digital, old school style. Developing film in the kitchen and hand printing B&W downstairs in the darkroom.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out and why?
Everywhere has its moments, I love certain things about all of the places I’ve been. I love Hawaii cause it’s raw and beautiful, Indo for the perfection, Mexico for the culture and vibe, Fiji for the luxury…
Who/what inspires you?
Creative and passionate people that include other artists and photographers. Progressive surfing, both old and new school, and travel. Little moments in everyday life that stand out and make you take notice.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
Do what you love…
Do you have any regrets or wish you had done something differently?
Yeah, of course. Probably could take some of my own advice. Do more, talk less… create more, let go… don’t get hung up on perfection cause it doesn’t exist.
What are you most proud of?
I don’t know. I’m not really into the big “claim,” but, I do have high standards for both myself and my work.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
Surfing has pretty much created the life I have today. It’s trite and cliché, but true – I’ve stayed here in Encinitas for over 20 years partly because of it. It has also influenced my photography now more than ever.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
A day at the beach with sun, surf, family, and friends… creating a killer image!
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
Kelly continues to inspire me… look at what he did at the Eddie this year… and then gets barrelled for days at head high Rincon the following month. Talk about a well-rounded surfer. I also like Dane Reynolds… function meets fashion.
The masters may not be doing the latest and greatest, but I think they continue to inspire us all. Style is timeless. Then you have the kids, who are always pushing in new directions. So I would have to say it’s a combination of the past, present, and future – driven by the individual, but really it’s more of a collective. Kinda like art… creativity doesn’t function in a vacuum.
What is your favorite board? Your favorite surfspot?
The one that’s with me! I like them all depending on conditions. I enjoy a classic log, but love my thruster in the winter when there’s some juice. I’m kind of creature of habit… I like my spots in Encinitas. And outside of traveling, that’s where I do most of my surfing. Swamis is probably one of my favorite (without the crowd) one of the best waves in the county. Love Hawaii, too. But not too big, ha! Love Fiji and Indo but that takes time and money.
What’s your favorite meal?
Freshly caught grilled fish, rice, and salad with an ice cold beer.
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
Pandora radio with little reggae, trip hop, Modest Mouse…
What causes/organizations do you support?
Surfrider Foundation, San Diego Coastkeeper. I’m pro-environment, concerned about what we eat. Anti fossil fuel, but I realize the hypocrisy we’re living in.
What are you most grateful for?
My wife and daughter… our friends, community… and surfing, of course!
What’s next Kevin Roche?
I want to do more photography that is personally inspired… I’m really interested in the culture, lifestyle, and history of our sport now more than ever. I want to bring that full circle with my work. Doing what I love – and that is to surf and make images that are inspired by the ocean and the culture around it.
Find out more about Kevin Roche here. All images are copyrighted and may not be used without permission.