Myles McGuinness

by Glenn Sakamoto on April 4, 2011 · 3 comments

Myles McGuinness is a talented California surfer/photographer. Drawing on his graphic design background, Myles finds inspiration in color, light, and simple, bold compositions. Published in countless publications, we spoke with Myles to learn more.

What was your childhood like?
My childhood was pretty radical – hippie parents, co-op school in Berkley, California… with a lot traveling around the country. I think I saw almost the entire lower 48 states before age seven. To say I moved around a lot is an understatement. I was born in West Virginia and grew up skiing at a place called Snowshoe. Then, skipped back and forth across the country, including stints in Texas, Ohio, North Carolina, Northern California and, eventually, high school in Florida. Then college in Savannah, Georgia. I moved back west to San Diego in 1999.

When did you get your first surfboard?
I think I was 10 or 11 when I got my first board. It was 5’10” swallowtail Autrey shaped by Jeff Sturtevant.

What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
My older cousin, Jack McGuinness, took me out tandem on a longboard. I think I was five or six. Too young to remember the feeling, but I know I was stoked. Eventually, I started surfing daily at around age 11, when we moved closer to the beach in St. Augustine, Florida.

What inspired you to begin shooting images?
Both my parents were really into photography. My dad worked for a local paper as a photographer and my stepfather was also filmmaker. So, from a very young age, I was exposed to documenting life and the world around me.

What do you look for in a photograph?
My tastes change daily. I’m inspired by all kinds of images, and I like seeing photos that tell a story. The unspoken word. The old cliché “a picture tells a thousand stories”. I strive to find new and different ways to translate an experience or emotion onto film and into the pixels. Great images have always inspired me, whether they are images that have been captured before by others or those that I see when I close my eyes and imagine.

Images are so powerful; they motivate, tell stories, alter the course of history. They change the way we see the past and shape the future. For me, photography has been a lifelong means to explore and capture how I view the world—slices of life, an instant in time, a person, an experience or an event. I strive to connect with those places and people I’ve documented. Photography represents both a means of expression and documentation.

Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out? And why?
Australia would have to be it. I got hitched down there in 2002. We traveled with two other friends by camper van from the 12 Apostles in Victoria all the way up the coast to North Stradbroke Island, Queensland over the course of three weeks–eventually tying the knot in Byron Bay. Unbelievable trip and scored epic waves in Southern NSW at this fickle river mouth that rarely breaks. One for the memory banks, for sure.

Who or what inspires you?
Traveling has always helped me focus and reflect on what’s really important. It puts everything in perspective. Artistically, the following artists have influenced me for various reasons: Mies Van der Rohe because less is more; Edward Hopper for his realism and simplicity; Wynn Bullock and Ansel Adams for their surreal landscapes; Art Brewer for his grit and portraits, as well as John S. Callahan and Rob Gilley for their untold discoveries. Timeless, unrelenting, honest, always exploring.

What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
Less is more and being patient. Still working on the latter of the two.

Do you have any regrets or wish you had done something differently?
Sure. There’s a long list of things I might have done differently. It’s easy to look back and reflect on what I might change. But the past is the past and those experiences have helped define the person I’ve become, for better and worse.

What are you most proud of?
Easy one… being a father

What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
Surfing has shaped my life for the last 25 years. It’s where I go to let it all go.

What brings you the most happiness in the world?
In no particular order… scoring good waves with no one out, seeing my kids grow everyday, music and sharing time with good friends

Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
There are so many different paths in surfing today, from hipsters like Knost and Warren Smith to the World Tour guys like Slater, Dane and Jordy. Then there’s the free surf guys like Chippa and Rasta, plus the big wave guys like Mark Healy and Greg Long. Everyone is contributing in different ways. At the core, I think it’s about doing what you love and having fun doing it.

What is your favorite board? Your favorite surf spot?
Depends on the conditions. Right now my all-around board is a 5’10” shaped Bill Johnson. But when my favorite spot, Blacks – comes to life, my go-to board for the last few years has been a 6’3” pintail shaped by Steve Ford.

What’s your favorite meal?
Spicy tuna roll.

What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
Mason Jennings, Yo-Yo Ma, Will Connor, Fugazi, Phoenix, Mingus, Johnny Cash, Jane’s Addiction and Gomez.

What are you most grateful for?
Being a lucky Irishman and having a wife that puts up with my BS.

What’s next for Myles McGuiness?
For me, it’s not about the destination. It’s all about the journey–whether that’s a trip just up the coast or off to a Third World country, capturing the feeling and essence of whatever is going on at the moment, from running down the goat trail to pulling in as wild fires rage on. Or watching perfect lines wrap down an unnamed spot.

As a lifelong surfer, my goal is not to simply become the next Action Jackson (RIP) that fires away at 3,000 frames per second, but to slow down, step back and appreciate those simple things that bring us so much joy–the people, the feeling, the environments and the experiences along the way.

I want to create images so vivid your other senses come along for the ride: the smell raw of fish that’s three days old; the feeling of the being engulfed by a wave, the sound of crisp fall air blowing up the face of a wave as the sun rises.

Find out more about Myles McGuinness and 9M Photo click here.


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Colony April 6, 2011 at 11:19 am

Keep up the great work, Myles. Your perspective and use of colours is unique and refreshing.


Myles April 6, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Thanks Colony.


James April 23, 2011 at 10:03 pm

I was out of town when this posted. Great to see this on Myles. Super talented cat all the way around.


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