Jack Belli Interview

Interview by Glenn Sakamoto

Jack Belli is a talented young surfer/photographer from Newport Beach, CA. His clients include Brixton, Pacifico, Burton, Spy Optics, Captain Fin Co, and Patagonia. We spoke with him to learn more.

What was your childhood like?
I grew up in Newport Beach, California. Like most kids around here, I did the normal things like go to the beach, surf, skate and hung out with friends. I wouldn't want to grow up anywhere else! Most people don't know this about me, but I grew up drag racing as well. My dad is really into cars, so from a young age we were at the drag strip pretty much every weekend. It was an amazing thing to do to get out of town and away for the weekends to spend time with my family. We are all really close which is great.

When did you get your first surfboard?
I got my first surfboard for christmas when I was around 9-10 years old. It was a Russell, I believe, around 6'4." I was so excited (laughs).

What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
I don’t really remember my first wave, but I know that I couldn't get enough once I started. A day without surfing when I was younger was like torture for me.

Who/What inspired you to begin shooting images?
I went to Japan with Dano and Troy Elmore to surf and hangout about 4 years ago. I had a crappy camera with me, but was shooting a bunch of photos from our travels. Once I got home, I bought a Canon 7D and haven’t stopped shooting since. So I guess traveling and seeing other places was what really got me started. There wasn’t really a time where I told myself I wanted to be a photographer, but more of something that just developed over time. I knew I loved it and was really passionate about it, so it was all a really natural progression.

What do you look for in a good photograph?
Good light and a nice composition is always good, but overall, a photo that creates a mood or feeling in it is what I strive to do. I like off-moments and not always capturing the peak of action when I shoot surf. It's more interesting to me.

Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out? And why?
Australia is probably my favorite out of all my travels. That may sound cliché, but I have made a lot of friends there who are awesome that I have stayed in touch. It's always cool to go back and visit them. Knowing people from different parts of the world who are into the same stuff you are is awesome.

Who/what inspires you?
Seeing how many good photographers that are out there inspires me to push myself and become a better photographer every day. I feel extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to do what I do for a living, so I try not to take it for granted. I am always looking for inspiration and trying to push myself however I can.

What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
To be kind and thankful for the people you meet and the opportunities you are given. It is so important to have good relationships when working in this kind of profession. I try not to take anything for granted

What are you most proud of?
Knowing that all the hard work and dedication I have put into growing as a photographer and person is paying off. I am beyond thankful for the opportunities I have been given and the close friends I have made from it. I wouldn't want to be doing anything else.

What brings you the most happiness in the world?
Being able to do what I love everyday!

Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
There are so many different people doing there own things these days, its hard to say who is shaping the path. I think its awesome that it is okay to be yourself and ride different boards and be an individual.

What is your favorite board? Your favorite surfspot?
Right now I have a longboard from Almond that I am really enjoying. I dont surf as much these days because I am usually shooting, but when I do, it's usually down at Blackies.

What's your favorite meal?
I really like pizza. My girlfriend likes to eat healthy though, so Mothers is a good alternative (laughs).

What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
Portugal the Man, Black Keys, Nikki Lane, Velvet Underground, and Cage the Elephant.

What are you most grateful for?
So many things! First, my parents for sure. They have had nothing but positive support in me pursuing photos as a career. They have backed my 100% which is amazing.

What’s next for Jack Belli?
To keep shooting!

Find out more about Jack Belli at his website here.