Chris Burkard is not your ordinary photographer or creative producer. At 31 years old, Burkard travels to the deepest corners of the globe, capturing stories and perspectives that aim to inspire humans to seek out the unknown and develop closer relationships with nature and all of its beauty.
We had a chat with Chris about his incredible lifestyle, perfect day, how he preps for trips, what he loves about SurfEars and what's next for him.
Delve in and learn more about Chris:
Tell me a little about yourself – where are you from and how has that shaped who you are and what you do?
I was lucky enough to grow up in Pismo Beach on the central coast of California which lends itself to a life lived outdoors. My first memory of being outdoors is spending time with my family at the local beaches. That’s where my fascination with the ocean began and why I started trekking up and down the coast in search of waves, which eventually led to searching along coastlines around the world! I remember my mom paddling me out on a boogie board pushing me off into the water and saying the ocean is your friend. I was always scared, but I loved the beach.
What does your perfect day look like from sunup to sundown?
A perfect day usually starts with yoga before the sun is even up. Starting my day grounded is my favorite thing on the planet. Then, ideally, some sort of sunrise shoot in the ocean or mountains. At some point during the day I really just love to spend time with my kids and family. And then my favorite thing is to end the day in the water in the ocean because everything is usually warm and glowing. Catching a few waves with friends as the sun dips is literally the best feeling in the world.
What originally sparked your interest for traveling, photography and a love for the ocean?
Growing up on the Central Coast of California, I never got the opportunity to travel much. I was always inspired by the ocean and the rolling hills around it. I think as a photographer that’s always been one of my biggest goals, to show locations and pay tribute to the landscape we find ourselves in.
What is the most rewarding part of your lifestyle?
Along with allowing me to gain a deeper appreciation for amazing places around the world, it also allows me to inspire more people to care about our planet and hopefully get them out of their comfort zone to explore and experience it on their own first hand. I think that’s probably the most rewarding part for me. I don't think I would be half of who I am without traveling. It broke down my ego and my pride and made me see a world that was well outside the small town I grew up in. If there’s one thing I want the people who see my pictures to do, it would be to travel.
Out of all the trips and adventures you’ve been on, do you have a favorite place?
Iceland! No doubt. It's such a magical place and no matter how many times I go there I keep getting drawn back. I have been 31 times and each time I get just as excited as I was on my first trip. My advice is to go where people aren't, which is pretty easy. You just venture to the locations that aren't on the tourist trail. It’s an amazingly diverse country, but I cringe when people just stay in Reykjavik and only explore a couple hours from the main city. The country has so much to offer if you just get out there and explore!
You spend a lot of time in the ocean, especially in cold locations. What types of things do you do to prepare yourself for these amazingly beautiful and far-out locations?
Preparation is one of the most important steps. Without properly preparing you can leave yourself open to missing opportunities to capture photos and it will eat up precious time on a trip. To begin, my studio and I use Google Map Engine to build out detailed maps of the locations that we are planning to capture. You can add destinations, location images, and details about accommodations or food along the way. Packing correctly also will help you optimize your traveling space. Make sure the essentials are always available. My essentials are my camera kit, a headlamp, multi tool, light jacket, beanie, and light tripod. One last step in preparation is finding out where the sun will set and rise.
You’re a SurfEars ambassador – tell us a bit about their product and what you enjoy about the ear plugs?
Well, as a lifelong surfer I have always struggled with my ears. It is the achilles heel of surfing in cold water. So when this product came along I was immediately drawn to it because of the ability to still hear what is going on around you in the water. It was the best I have ever tested. I never go in the water without them.
Would you recommend them for other surfers/surf photographers and people who spend a ton of time in the ocean?
Totally would. One of the biggest issues with surfers ear (bone growth closure in cold water) is that you don’t really realize it is happening until it’s too late. So I always recommend people start using ear plugs early on. Having clogged ears is no joke, it can really affect a large part of your life including your ability to sleep, drive, and just think clearly.
The Leisure Collective
A big part of traveling is embracing the unknown and sometimes just going with the adventures in front of you – any words to live by that you share with young photographers/travelers?
I hope to push people to seek out the unknown and allow a bit more uncertainty in their lives. This is how you grow the most and ultimately develop a closer relationship with nature. Don’t be afraid to let go of control, that’s when the most amazing moments of any trip happen.
What’s next for you? Any upcoming trips that you’re particularly excited about?
Future goals would always be to simply inspire people. Create work that is meant to last a lot longer than I am. I always hope to continue exploring parts of the globe that feel wild and remote and ideally bring those experiences back to people through social media, books, films and articles. There are a couple remote Russian Islands I have my eyes on that I want to visit.
From his books to his recent film "Under An Arctic Sky", which documents the journey to the most remote corner of Iceland in the middle of winter in search of perfect surf, Burkard is an inspiration for everyone who's looking to squeeze everything they can out of life through traveling.
You'll be hard pressed not to give him a follow @chrisburkard. Our bet is after a few weeks you'll be itching for that next adventure across the globe!