TIMOTHY HOGAN: The Fin Project

Dick Brewer Hanapepe mini gun. Photo: Timothy Hogan

Dick Brewer Hanapepe mini gun. Photo: Timothy Hogan 

“I instantly open up and feel the sand and the water seeping through the seams of my too-old wetsuit. I look around at the sky, the birds overhead and the stunning coastline surrounding me. I just stop and watch for a while, soaking it all in. It’s a very meditative experience.” -Timothy Hogan

Not all artists are surfers, but all surfers are artists.

A lot of people wouldn’t associate surfing with art, largely because of the known and commonly accepted competitive reality of the surf industry. But as far as I’m concerned, if surfing was wiped out from the minds of humans, there would be a sudden and inexplainable void in the art industry. If you find yourself thinking the same, then you’re probably an artist, because those who create out of passion tend to have a different perspective on the things around them. This could mean that you have a unique ability to see art in everyday things that many people wouldn’t think twice about.

If you are looking to expand your perspective as an artistic individual, I can tell you how you can support the beauty and art of photography, while simultaneously appreciating the driving force of the surfing industry: the fin. Like this page and check out Timothy Hogan’s website: thefinproject.com. You won’t be sorry. This guy spent years as a photographer in New York and has authentic talent. Now, he is using his photographing abilities to tell the story of the surfboard fin and how it has influenced the evolution of the surfboard.

Each fin has a different story that plays an important role in shaping the unique personality of the surfboard it chooses. In his upcoming film, The Fin Project, Tim studies the fin throughout the years as it changes and develops, but keeps it’s role as the key factor to the attitude of a surfboard. I was lucky enough to meet Tim at Surf Expo in Orlando, and even luckier to connect with him and his team after the trade show. The first thing I noticed about Timothy is how genuine he is. He is obviously driven by passion and integrity, and I can tell that whatever comes of his project will be an extraordinary work of art.

Timothy and I were able to conduct a successful interview that will give you a lot of information about Timothy, his vision for The Fin Project, and his personal philosophy on art and surfing.

You told me when we met at Surf Expo that you were a photographer in New York for six years. Is that where you grew up?

I grew up in Connecticut, a few hours from the ocean. I acquired my addiction to salt water while on vacation in Maine, whomping in the shore break at Fortunes Rock Beach for hours at a time. I’m pretty certain I was about 6 when I saw my first surfer there. I’m also pretty sure I swam right out and got in his way.  After college I “did” 12 years in New York. That’s how all recovering New Yorkers say it; kind of like doing time in prison. Joking aside, I cherish my time in New York, but I am so much happier in California. It’s going to be home for a VERY long time.

According to what I gathered from the trailer for “The Fin Project” you passionately believe that the surfboard fin has a story that somehow got lost in translation over the evolution of surfing. What brought you to this enlightenment and how did your idea for the project develop from it?

The importance of the fin and its innovators has definitely been disregarded. The spotlight usually falls on shapers and surfers.  They, of course, deserve every bit of recognition but the fin and its innovators have, largely been regarded as accessories. Most surfers never give their fin choice a second thought, never mind contemplating the innovation involved in creating what they’re riding on a daily basis.

TheFINproject started off as a series of still images. But I discovered a larger story of craftsmanship and innovation that has gone untold. Every major surfing era is directly related to a development in fin design or theory. And that’s where our documentary film and book come into play. In our film I will explore WHO the innovators are and WHY their innovations came to be. theFINproject will be more than just another surf movie — it’s a character study of innovation that I hope will inspire others to create and follow their own path regardless of whether they’re a surfer or not.

I’m also curious, which came first? Surfing or photography? These two passions seem to go hand-in-hand for you. What about the surf inspires you to tell it’s story through photos?

I suppose surfing came first, followed by photography and filmmaking.  Surfing was a bit of a slow burn for me, however. I had those encounters with surfers in Maine, but it wasn’t until high school that I bought my first board. Somehow, I convinced my friend’s dad to sell me his beloved 1968 Bing Australian Foil for $100.  That board is still on my wall today (And no, it’s not for sale. Ever.).

 With regards to photography / cinematography and surfing, most of the time I’d much rather be out surfing than shooting other people having fun! (Unless it’s Pipe – then I’m quite content to be on the sand!) My talent as an image maker, and hopefully my contribution to surfing, is being able to craft a story through form and light, allowing people to see the overlooked beauty in an everyday object. I get such joy from seeing the emotional reactions and personal memories evoked by my images of these otherwise inanimate fins and boards. It’s very satisfying.

How did you get your hands on such a wide variety of fins?

One word: collaboration. Despite our semi-vagabond lifestyle, surfers are amazing packrats. To find my subjects I’ve worked with some of the best collectors in the industry, and in doing so I hope to raise the awareness of their incredible collections. We’re blessed to participate in a sport that is historically rich and filled with people who are passionate about each stage of that evolution. Through my photography I hope to show a much larger audience how incredible and vital craftsmanship and history are to surfing.

You are a pretty well-rounded surfer, so I have to ask, what got you started? Do you remember the point at which you first felt like you were officially a “surfer”?

I remember feeling drawn to the water and the waves from a very early age but had limited access to both surf and the culture around it. I often wonder how my path would have been different had I been successful in tracking down the copy of Endless Summer I requested from my local video store in Ellington, Connecticut back in middle school. Not only did they not have it, they didn’t have the slightest idea what I was talking about. I got started as a surfer almost in spite of my environment.

As to well rounded, well…lets just say I often feel like I have a lot of catching up to do. I have my moments where everything comes together out there but I swear there are just as many times where I feel like a total kook. The ocean is humbling in that way. Just when you think you’ve made it…WHACK.

And speaking of WHACK, I do know the exact moment I felt like I was officially a surfer.  It was at Rockaway Beach, Queens New York in April, 2006. It was a rare waist-high right on a borrowed Yater Spoon. In itself, not that memorable of a wave, but I had broken my back surfing at Almond Tree in Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica back in January of that year, and that was the first wave I caught after my surgery. It was four months to the day. I couldn’t NOT surf again. That’s when I knew I was a surfer.

I got really good vibes just from being near your booth at Surf Expo, and your welcoming hand shake and smile pretty much confirmed the fact that you were a down-to-earth guy. You seem to be closely in touch with the spiritual aspect of surfing, much like the goal we strive for within Surf + Abide. What does surfing mean for you spiritually? And would you share with us your philosophy on the art of it?

First off, thank you. I appreciate the kind words and it’s humbling to hear the show provided that kind of experience for you.

In terms of spirituality and surfing, that’s a big topic. I can only speak to my personal experience but for me the spiritual aspect of surfing is about two things: stopping and letting go. Stopping as in getting away from the constant chatter in my head and my to-do lists. Even when it’s hard to pry myself away from the things I “have” to do  – and trust me it’s something I struggle with constantly – my first steps into that cold Pacific are cleansing, every time.  Discursive thoughts disappear with those first couple head-down strokes through the shore break. I instantly open up and feel the sand and the water seeping through the seams of my too-old wetsuit. I look around at the sky, the birds overhead and the stunning coastline surrounding me. I just stop and watch for a while, soaking it all in. It’s a very meditative experience.

In letting go, especially considering my experience in Costa Rica, I came to the realization that the ocean can’t be controlled. This of course, isn’t exactly news. Everything is impermanent – in a constant state of change. Such is the same with life. Our only answer can be an empowered “yes” to those changes. We may wish the waves were exactly how they were a day ago, or the crowd was the same as it was 50 years ago. As surfers we often spend so much energy pining for something that doesn’t exist anymore. We can go that route and be the grumpy guy in the lineup, or we can make the choice to be open and say YES to things as they are. YES, it is crowded. YES, First Point is insane on the weekends. But if you’re open to it, and just look around and see how beautiful and graceful the whole thing is, there may just be a few more smiles in the lineup.

More on “The Fin Project”: http://www.thefinproject.com


Dale Velzy Butterfly Fin Mold. Photo: Timothy Hogan

Dale Velzy Butterfly Fin Mold. Photo: Timothy Hogan

Jeff Ho Single Fins. Photo: Timothy Hogan

Jeff Ho Single Fins. Photo: Timothy Hogan

1970s Blue Orange Yellow Dolphin Template Single Fin. Photo: Timothy Hogan

1970s Blue Orange Yellow Dolphin Template Single Fin. Photo: Timothy Hogan

1970s Painted Dolphin Template Single Fin. Photo: Timothy Hogan

1970s Painted Dolphin Template Single Fin. Photo: Timothy Hogan

Hobie and Terry Martin Quad Fish. Photo: Timothy Hogan

Hobie and Terry Martin Quad Fish. Photo: Timothy Hogan

Red Yellow Brewer Single Fin. Photo: Timothy Hogan

Red Yellow Brewer Single Fin. Photo: Timothy Hogan

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Alexandra is an avid thinker, unrelentlessly intrigued by reading, writing, talking and learning philosophy. She values knowledge through experience and believes that true virtue is earned by seeking knowledge through self-discipline, awareness, and patience. Throughout life, determining truth within her spectrum of beliefs has been a prominent goal, and this is reflected in her writing personality. Alexandra first fell in love with the ocean during a group paddle-boarding session on her eighteenth birthday, and her desire to abide in the Ocean increased every time she picked up a surfboard that summer. Since then, she is only anxious when she is forced by life to take a break from surfing, but through writing, she is able to keep a strong connection with the waves and those who surf them.




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