If there were ever to be a book that encapsulates the raw essence of people’s stories and their sanctification to the surf culture, this would be it. Ice Cream Headaches is a celebration of the diversity, creativity and humour of East Coast Surfing. It features forty different stories from surfers, shapers, photographers, filmmakers and writers who represent modern surf culture in New York and New Jersey, and what it means to live a life obsessed with the sea.
New York based writer Ed Thompson, and photographer Julien Roubinet, set out to capture and document this over a period of four years. Chasing swells and arranging interviews, Ice Cream Headaches sheds the light on like-minded souls who are so fervently drawn to the big blue. An abundance of cheap tacos and a few extra miles on the Jeep a were a given along the way.
You guys both moved to New York six or so years ago now, how did you meet each other?
J: We met through a mutual friend, surfing. I remember our first conversation was about visas. A common theme for expats.
E: Yes, we met surfing Rockaway beach. There is a little story about it in the Preface of our book. We got lucky and found a sandbar with a wave that nobody else was surfing, so we surfed there a few times and hung out.
What was the main reason behind creating this project? And at what point did you decide to go all out and hit the road?
J: Ed came up with the idea after a session, while eating the almost religious post-surf bagel (light on the cream cheese, avo+bacon).
We threw a few ideas around and once we had something that looked like a plan, we went for it.
Michael Halsband was the first one we interviewed and photographed and that set the tone. I felt like we had committed to the project by spending some of Halsband’s time. The stories, names and excitement that came out of this first interview also indicated that we were on a fascinating track.
E: I think we both felt an urge to go deeper into what surfing means in this part of the world. It’s a really unique scene because there is so much else going on and surfing can be quite marginal. Yet for many people, especially further from New York City, it’s an essential part of their daily lives. There are also some really unique characters who make up the community here, and maybe a bit less ego, hype and sponsorship from the big brands than you find elsewhere, so it’s a very authentic community.
Did you look for anyone in particular to interview, or just wanted to stumble across different characters out in the surf?
J: We had a couple of names in mind from the start. They were obvious in the sense that they are known surfers, writer or filmmakers. Then, each person we interviewed would point out a few names. If these names came up several times and the research would yield some stories then we would go after them (regardless of the status).
E: We wanted to invest the time and energy to meet people personally. We could have made a book about surf culture here with much less effort by emailing people interview questions and using other people’s photography and writing for book content. But we didn’t want to ask people to submit their work to our cause without any hope of payment. We also wanted to actually meet people, see new places, surf new breaks, learn about the scene and get ourselves into some real situations. We approached everyone, famous or not, with respect and preparation because we truly appreciate how difficult it is to be a surfer here and make the most of every swell – it takes real passion and commitment and we wanted to reflect that in our own approach.
Out of the forty incredibly diverse people you met, was there one story/ person that resonated with you guys on a larger scale?
J: That’s a tough one! I can say with confidence that all have a pretty cool story. For me there is always a little something that I find amazing in each person we’ve met. Charles Mencel, for example, perpetuates the tradition of lifeguarding, surfing, shaping boards locally while including trips to Hawaii in search for heavy waves. Sam Shainberg has an hilarious sense of humor that often fazes people. Tom Petriken surfs at a pro level but stays relatively low key and works hard to get his Psychology degree. William Finnegan has surfed all over the world for most of his life, and yet, he checked the forecast a couple of time during our interview!
E: There were a lot of very special experiences meeting the different folks we interviewed and I feel incredibly lucky to have met every single one of them. Two of my favorite ones were Linda Davoli and Russell Drumm. Sadly, Russell passed away before we finished the book, but his daughter is really happy that we captured some photos of him and some of his stories. Both Russell and Linda enjoyed absolute dedication to surfing in their lives. Both had simply wonderful, funny and remarkable stories to share about their experiences – they came to surfing at really interesting times in American history.
The four years spent on the project consisted of multiple road-trips and short sprints up and down the east coast- a prolific journey that would have ensued some incredible experiences. What was the average time you spent with each person understanding and documenting their story?
J: We typically spent 3 hours with each person. We had the opportunity to meet again, surf and become good friends with a good amount of them.
E: Both of us worked on other projects while working on Ice Cream Headaches, but the prolonged time of making the book has helped us have a sense of what was important to include and what we could afford to leave out. There were just these moments that became important to us over the grand arc of several years of work. Some people were pretty hard to track down, and there were a couple of very long, not very fruitful journeys to meet people who were more interested in going surfing than being interviewed, but that’s all in the game!
You’re currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo for the release of the book. What have been your main challenges in getting this to the print table?
J: We were discussing this right before we launched. The overall process has been fairly smooth but nevertheless challenging, chasing people, being turned down, missing swells, finding a publisher, making $0… I was sharing my concerns about pursuing crowdfunding because we weren’t sure if we had the velocity or the following for it to be successful. And Ed replied “true but so far things have always worked out”.
E: It was tough finding a publisher. Someone told us to get an agent before trying to find a publisher, so we found an agent but at about the same time some of our outreach to publishers started to get traction and we ended up going it alone. We received two offers to publish the book and Damiani’s offer gave us a bit more flexibility and we felt it would result in a better quality object in the end. We’re stoked we decided to work with them.
Also, bless him, our designer Reynald has just handed over version #22 of the book design. That is a man with serious vision and stamina. Arriving at the right design which we all felt happy about has been a pretty involved process and Reynald has been incredibly committed to realizing our vision.
How can we help?
J: Sign us a blank check! I think spreading the word is the best help we can ask for! We love the community here and I believe a lot of people outside of New York and New Jersey would be inspired by these stories!
E: Errr… tell everyone you know, whether you like them or not, that the book is going to be awesome! It’s going to be a really beautiful object and worth having a copy of to pass on to your children. Especially if you want them to dig surfing. You’ll find blood, sweat and some of Julien’s tears between the pages.
Ed and Julian have some pretty snazzy rewards goin’ round for their campaign. Sweet Ice Cream Headache Tees with a groovy little logo, fresh photo prints, and of course, the book. It’s all up on their Indiegogo campaign. Spread the love to help them get these stories out there!
Originally created for Savage Thrills