Late one afternoon in December of 2012 I met surf photographer and cold-water explorer Tim Nunn in a lay-by in front of a pub in Cornwall. It was the run up to Christmas and Tim was spending the weekend driving around the South West delivering signed copies of his new book in person to save people money on postage. We caught up briefly before he headed off for his next delivery, and I headed home to take a look at the new photography book that would be weighing down my coffee table.
What I found contained between the covers of Numb was incredible - 208 pages of straight-up heavy, cold, slabby, back-of-beyond, remote and beautiful waves. Over the course of six years Tim and his friend, surfer and hell-man Ian Battrick, explored the frontiers of surfing in the Northern Hemisphere. They spent inordinate amounts of time in Scotland, drove thousands of miles around Norway's crinkled coastline, slept in tents, tunnels and under lorries in Iceland and fended off bears in the Canadian wilderness. They had adventures. They also scored some incredible waves and came away with hundreds of stunning images.
As winter rolled around again and my own thoughts turned to boots and gloves, ice-cream headaches and heavy lips, I sent a few questions across to Tim to find out just what made him and Ian look to the high latitudes for their cold water kicks:
Where does your preference for cold-water surf spots over warm ones come from? Is it an indifference to temperature or a desire to escape the crowds without having to cut through jungle?
I think it was partially crowds and partially just wanting to go to places that others hadn't been. Warm water exploration had been done, and I had a fascination with the colder regions so it grew from that really. Growing up on the North Sea also meant that the cold really didn't bother me too much.
Have you seen the remote, cold, surf spots that you favour get increasingly crowded as they gain more and more attention in the surf media and become more “fashionable”?
Yes and no. Some of the more accessible areas have for sure, but these became more crowded pre the latest wave of cold water surf popularity. I think it was more down to improved wetsuit technology and the general rise in surfing popularity than the focus on the cold.
Is the camping and wilderness element a necessary result of the high prices in many of the countries that happen to be cold and have waves, or a deliberate choice in the search for adventure?
It's a combination, one is definitely price, in places like Canada it is the only choice, and in general it is the best thing to do as you need to be really mobile, able to respond to the conditions quickly.
What do you get from cold-water trips that temperate or tropical ones don’t deliver?
There is definitely a certain rawness to the environment which only these areas deliver, the weather, the swell, the people all have a certain something that just makes the whole experience more exciting.
What impact does the temperature and resultant drop in flexibility and comfort have on the performance of the surfers who you photograph?
When I started it had a big influence on performance, but now not so much and it is all down to wetsuit tech. The most recent trip to Iceland Ian and myself were both in 4mm suits which are light and flexible, in temps that three years ago would have demanded a 6 mm. Ian had designed them himself, so he knows what he needs and it makes a huge difference to performance.
What do you find the hardest on these trips, the logistics, sleeping out, motivation or getting warm after surfing?
Logistics are probably the toughest, we are always under very tight financial constraints, so getting the most out of a place on a tiny budget is by far the most challenging aspect, the rest is just fun!
Numb is available to buy here and is thoroughly worth it. Go on, get yourself some inspiration.
NUMB - Six Years of Cold Water Adventure with Ian Battrick, Timmy Turner and Tim Nunn from Lunasurf on Vimeo.
All images copyright Tim Nunn. My thanks to him for letting me post them here.