In a daring move to follow his passion, Ryan Struck took on the creative pursuit in the surfing world, ditching his 9-5 for wetsuits and waves. Find out how his journey is going and follow his instagram for an endless loop of empty waves….
Name: Ryan Struck
Hometown: Currently living in Asbury Park, NJ
Can you explain in your own words what drove you to quit your 9-5 job?
I was having anxiety that I wasn’t doing what I should be doing: actively pursuing my dreams. I’m always worried that I am putting my own personal desires aside. In this case I felt I was doing what was expected of me, have a job, pay bills, etc. I feel that life is a constant push and pull; tidal. Sometimes it pulls you and that’s ok, I felt the need to push back. Really hard. I bought a round trip ticket to Teahupo’o, moved home and saved a bit of money and gave my two week notice. I stayed in Tahiti for two months last summer, chased a few hurricanes in the fall on the East Coast and then headed to Hawaii for 6 weeks. I landed in New Jersey at Christmas time with no money, and heaps of credit card debt. Fuck work! Right?! It’s come full circle again. Last year truly feels like a dream though.
What made you want to pursue photography and surf photography no less, and how do you feel it’s going?
Photography hasn’t really been a choice. I feel compelled by it. You have to be driven. There are plenty of amazing photographers out there but they aren’t shooting by divine right. Everyone is good at what consumes them most. Surf photography is just what I love to shoot most and I don’t know why. The more I’m exposed to different photography the more I’ve come to learn that surf photography is the best. Everyone calls it a dream job, well– I don’t really make any money shooting surf photos. So it’s not my job at this point, it just a creative outlet that is better than anything I’ve experienced before. I can always improve and I’m always a student. There are so many times where I think –Ah, I wish I shot more of this or that.–” I mentally file that idea away for the next shoot and probably think the same thing afterward. Art is a mind occupier. Sometimes I can see an image I want to create and I lay in bed and night and just see it with my eyes closed.
Combine that with everything that photography entails and who has time for anything but marketing, emails, submitting images, answering image requests, editing photos, checking the surf report, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, arranging travel plans, booking clients, shooting, pursuing personal projects. Thank God for photography because I can’t think of anything else to do besides all of the above.
Surf photography on the East Coast is a whole other world. It’s colder, it’s treacherous, and you have to wait for the right season? Tell us more about this—
Yeah the surf on the East Coast is fickle to sum it up in one word. It really isn’t good all that often but maybe 2-3 days a year it’s world class for sure with plenty of other good days. Being used to the way Jersey breaks and traveling elsewhere can be perplexing. “Uhhmm, where’s the barrel?” I have a deep need to shoot hollow surf, there’s just nothing better. It’s definitely freezing at times but that’s kinda fun. It’s numbing after you duck under the 3rd wave in a set and your face has no feeling and somehow the cold has seeped into your brain’s center. September – April is the bread and butter of good days. Hurricane season June-October holds promise and a lot of hype. At least the water is warm then but I’ve chased my tail a lot trying to score good photos then.
Where have you traveled in your creative
West of New Jersey. I’m still dying to go East. It’s not really about filling the pages of my passport as it is to see something with my own two eyes. When I think of travel I think places like Machu Picchu, Egypt, The Middle East, The Himalayas, The Sahara. I could go on and on. I’ve been to the wave rich Meccas (The Mentawaii Islands, Tahiti, Hawaii, Central America). It just feels like a given that I’ll keep seeing great surf destinations, but I want to see the natural world too. If that makes sense.
What sort of things did you learn on your travels? Any interesting stories?
Before I left for Tahiti my grandma dropped me off at the train station and said –Learn something you didn’t learn before.–” That’s pretty much the vibe of travel for me.
With advances in technology what do you hope happens in the way of your craft?
What I hope doesn’t happen is the official death of print. Everything is digital now and I don’t mean the cameras per se. All content is online and viewership is being driven in that direction. I’m even subjecting those who are interested in my work to view it 600pixels wide. Ugh that sucks! Absolute gems are being thrown away online but that’s just what it has come to, so you must adapt to survive. Digital really changed the way photographers operated when the technology was new. It changed the way media outlets were staffed and it has opened up a world of possibilities. As well as closed doors for many. Photography is an evolution and you are destined to extinction if you think otherwise.
What do you love about the East Coast?
I love that it’s still surprising. It still keeps you on your toes and there is still so much to see here in my own backyard.
What do you hate about the East Coast?
I used to get really bummed when I thought the waves would be good and they turned out not so much. If you can get past that, you will never hate the East Coast.
What’s your life’s motto?
Whatever the next fortune cookie says.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
I really can’t fully define inspiration. It has been a concept I have been trying to pin down for a few years. Everything in the world influences me. If I don’t like something. I don’t do it. If I do, I do. I don’t know exactly what drives my interest in the things I like. Sometimes you have to do nothing to form an idea and sometimes you have to be grinding 24/7 to achieve your goals. I find it’s the moments in between the chaos while in the midst of life, work and the void of time filled, that’s when beauty is revealed. Without hard work you can never appreciate these respites no matter how fleeting they always seem to be. That being said, my friends inspire me. They’ve taught me to keep plugging along, that I’m on the right path and they will be there to support me no matter what I do. Golden sunlight helps too.
What advice would you give to aspiring surf photographers?
Follow your heart and shoot what makes you happy. Don’t try and copy what other’s are doing because then you aren’t you. Be friendly. Run regularly. And don’t beat yourself up, if you want it you’ll get it.