TWO FOR THE ROAD
48 hours iN Nicaragua with Jimmy Chin and Jeff Johnson
Photography by JIMMY CHIN & JEFF JOHNSON
Jeff Johnson, a writer and Patagonia’s first staff photographer, met director Jimmy Chin in 2007 when the two extreme sportsmen were caught in a snowstorm. They were climbing El Capitan in Yosemite Valley 10 years before Chin would return to film his Academy Award-winning documentary Free Solo on the mountain.“We were on the radio, bantering back and forth,” recalls Johnson. Jeff was scaling one of El Cap’s sheer granite walls—which can reach up to 3,000 feet, 2.5 times the height of the Empire State Building. Around the corner was Chin and another mountaineer, Conrad Anker, both of whom had conquered one of the world’s most dangerous stretches of ice and rock in Chin’s 2015 film Meru.
Jeff Johnson, a writer and Patagonia’s first staff photographer, met director Jimmy Chin in 2007 when the two extreme sportsmen were caught in a snowstorm. They were climbing El Capitan in Yosemite Valley 10 years before Chin would return to film his Academy Award- winning documentary Free Solo on the mountain. “We were on the radio, bantering back and forth,” recalls Johnson. Jeff was scaling one of El Cap’s sheer granite walls—which can reach up to 3,000 feet, 2.5 times the height of the Empire State Building. Around the corner was Chin and another mountaineer, Conrad Anker, both of whom had conquered one of the world’s most dangerous stretches of ice and rock in Chin’s 2015 film Meru.
In 2008, four months after that first conversation, Johnson and Chin found themselves in Chile together. They were both working on the adventure documentary 180° South, which retraced the legendary trip to Patagonia taken by Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins—the men behind Patagonia and North Face respectively. Inspired by the movie’s focus on kindred renegade spirits, Johnson and Chin bonded over their love of climbing mountains, riding waves, photography and travel. For David and Evan Yurman, the outdoors and adventure are both constant sources of inspiration, especially Chouinard’s book Let My People Surf. So it was only natural for Johnson and Chin to road-test a selection of our men’s jewellery while on a recent surf trip to Nicaragua.
In 2008, four months after that first conversation, Johnson and Chin found themselves in Chile together. They were both working on the adventure documentary 180° South, which retraced the legendary trip to Patagonia taken by Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins—the men behind Patagonia and North Face respectively. Inspired by the movie’s focus on kindred renegade spirits, Johnson and Chin bonded over their love of climbing mountains, riding waves, photography and travel. For David and Evan Yurman, the outdoors and adventure are both constant sources of inspiration, especially Chouinard’s book Let My People Surf. So it was only natural for Johnson and Chin to road-test a selection of our men’s jewellery while on a recent surf trip to Nicaragua.
Q: WHY NICARAGUA? WHAT WAS IT LIKE TRAVELING TOGETHER?
Q: WHY NICARAGUA? WHAT WAS IT LIKE
TRAVELING TOGETHER?
Jeff:
We went to film the second part of 180° South, which was a six-month trip to South America exploring the origins of Patagonia with Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins. For the last 10 to 15 years, I've probably climbed more than surfed. So, I've gotten really into the climbing world, and it was fun to bring Jimmy on this trip to Nicaragua and share some of my thoughts on surfing.
We went to film the second part of 180° South, which was a six-month trip to South America exploring the origins of Patagonia with Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins. For the last 10 to 15 years, I've probably climbed more than surfed. So, I've gotten really into the climbing world, and it was fun to bring Jimmy on this trip to Nicaragua and share some of my thoughts on surfing.
Jimmy:
Jeff’s spent much more time in the water than I have, and he loves to climb. I've obviously spent a lot more time climbing than he has, so we have a lot to talk about and a lot to learn from each other. These interactions and exchanges are gold. Life is very simple on the road when you're on a surf trip. It's creative, it's being out. Simple living. That's our roots. You don't need much. And that's such a nice reminder in this day and age. We stayed inthis palapa on the beach, going with fishermen out to the breaks. A lot of boat rides, or just driving along the coast looking for good breaks. You're surfing five to six hours a day, eating and then passing out at like 8:00pm. It was a dream trip—just perfect.
Jeff’s spent much more time in the water than I have, and he loves to climb. I've obviously spent a lot more time climbing than he has, so we have a lot to talk about and a lot to learn from each other. These interactions and exchanges are gold. Life is very simple on the road when you're on a surf trip. It's creative, it's being out. Simple living. That's our roots. You don't need much. And that's such a nice reminder in this day and age. We stayed in this palapa on the beach, going with fishermen out to the breaks. A lot of boat rides, or just driving along the coast looking for good breaks. You're surfing five to six hours a day, eating and then passing out at like 8:00pm. It was a dream trip—just perfect.
Q: SURFING VERSUS MOUNTAIN CLIMBING?
Jeff:
It's tough. Ask anybody—Jimmy or any great athlete. Hands down, they will say surfing's the hardest thing they've ever done. I think my addiction to surfing comes about partly because it's not always available to you. So, you're always just barely getting your fix because it's so elusive. Whereas, a mountain, rock or even a skateboard ramp doesn't move. But with surfing, you're dealing with Mother Nature and you are at her whim.
It's tough. Ask anybody—Jimmy or any great athlete. Hands down, they will say surfing's the hardest thing they've ever done. I think my addiction to surfing comes about partly because it's not always available to you. So, you're always just barely getting your fix because it's so elusive. Whereas, a mountain, rock or even a skateboard ramp doesn't move. But with surfing, you're dealing with Mother Nature and you are at her whim.
Jimmy:
Surfing has drawn me in over the years. It moves me in the same way that climbing, skiing and being in the mountains has moved me. There are so many parallels between the two—being in the elements, feeling the power of Mother Nature. In surfing, you track the swells from storms. As a skier, you're tracking storms for snow too, the bigger the better. There are so many parallels between the two— the physicality, the mental aspects, the amount of commitment it takes to get good. In skiing, the feeling of carving, and driving your skis and the G-forces you feel when you make a really good turn are so similar to a bottom turn when the rail of the surfboard's in the water. I started surfing probably 20 years ago, but I'm a mountain guy.
Surfing has drawn me in over the years. It moves me in the same way that climbing, skiing and being in the mountains has moved me. There are so many parallels between the two—being in the elements, feeling the power of Mother Nature. In surfing, you track the swells from storms. As a skier, you're tracking storms for snow too, the bigger the better. There are so many parallels between the two—the physicality, the mental aspects, the amount of commitment it takes to get good. In skiing, the feeling of carving, and driving your skis and the G-forces you feel when you make a really good turn are so similar to a bottom turn when the rail of the surfboard's in the water. I started surfing probably 20 years ago, but I'm a mountain guy
Jeff Johnson began surfing at the age of 16. When he turned 18, he moved from California to Oahu’s North Shore to be in the heart of surf culture.
Q: JEFF, YOU ONCE SAID THAT ORGANIZED SPORT IS NOT CREATIVE AND IT WAS ONE OF THE REASONS WHY YOU GRAVITATED TOWARD THE FREEDOM OF SKATEBOARDING. IS SURFING AN EXTENSION OF THAT FREEDOM?
Q: JEFF, YOU ONCE SAID THAT ORGANIZED SPORT IS NOT CREATIVE AND IT WAS ONE OF THE REASONS WHY YOU GRAVITATED TOWARD THE FREEDOM OF SKATEBOARDING. IS SURFING AN EXTENSION OF THAT FREEDOM?
Jeff:
Yeah. There was a point in my life when I was 12 years old and playing soccer, football, baseball. One day I just quit all organized sports, cut my hair and got a skateboard. And from there on out it was just punk rock and skateboards. I didn't care about winning or losing as much. I got into surfing because I looked at surfing as this subculture. You have these guys where you're not sure what they're doing and they kind of have their own thing. Of course, there's a side of surfing that's super competitive, but I wasn't interested in that. I was more interested in the subculture and the mystique around it. It was just a lifestyle choice. Even photography is a lifestyle choice, you know? So, I could travel the world and surf my brains out.
Yeah. There was a point in my life when I was 12 years old and playing soccer, football, baseball. One day I just quit all organized sports, cut my hair and got a skateboard. And from there on out it was just punk rock and skateboards. I didn't care about winning or losing as much. I got into surfing because I looked at surfing as this subculture. You have these guys where you're not sure what they're doing and they kind of have their own thing. Of course, there's a side of surfing that's super competitive, but I wasn't interested in that. I was more interested in the subculture and the mystique around it. It was just a lifestyle choice. Even photography is a lifestyle choice, you know? So, I could travel the world and surf my brains out.
Q: MAYBE IT’S BECAUSE YOU BOTH STARE DEATH IN THE FACE SO MUCH THAT IT’S A WHOLE DIFFERENT WAY OF LIVING YOUR LIFE?
Q: MAYBE IT’S BECAUSE YOU BOTH STARE DEATH IN THE FACE SO MUCH THAT IT’S A WHOLE DIFFERENT WAY OF LIVING YOUR LIFE?
Jeff:
It really humbles you. And Jimmy can be a testament to that. I've seen a little bit of it, but the stuff that he's seen is just crazy.
It really humbles you. And Jimmy can be a testament to that. I've seen a little bit of it, but the stuff that he's seen is just crazy.
Jimmy:
I’ve learned that time is the only true currency and this isn’t a dress rehearsal. And I agree with Jeff. Ultimately it really humbles you. That’s a good thing to help you keep your feet on the ground. Contemplating your mortality gives you a good perspective on life. You learn it’s about the friendships, and the adventure... you know, pushing the edge of human potential. And what comes with that. You make sacrifices, but you also have incredible shared experiences and create incredible bonds. These are all things that I think everybody can relate to, even though these experiences come from a world that you might not be familiar with. I've had some of my most powerful experiences in the mountains, in the ocean and out in the elements where everything's stripped away and raw.
I’ve learned that time is the only true currency and this isn’t a dress rehearsal. And I agree with Jeff. Ultimately it really humbles you. That’s a good thing to help you keep your feet on the ground. Contemplating your mortality gives you a good perspective on life. You learn it’s about the friendships, and the adventure... you know, pushing the edge of human potential. And what comes with that. You make sacrifices, but you also have incredible shared experiences and create incredible bonds. These are all things that I think everybody can relate to, even though these experiences come from a world that you might not be familiar with. I've had some of my most powerful experiences in the mountains, in the ocean and out in the elements where everything's stripped away and raw.
Q: HOW DO YOU OVERCOME FEAR?
Jeff:
I don’t think you ever overcome fear, you just learn to deal with it in a different way. It takes time like anything else.
I don’t think you ever overcome fear, you just learn to deal with it in a different way. It takes time like anything else.
Jimmy:
You have to pay your dues, examine fear and live with it until you can move past it. You can also help manage fear by being objective about it. Often people become paralyzed by fear when they don’t distinguish between real risk and perceived risk. It can seem overwhelming if you don’t separate the two Fear also comes in many forms. It’s not only the physical risks, but emotional risks and making hard choices in life.
You have to pay your dues, examine fear and live with it until you can move past it. You can also help managefear by being objective about it. Often people become paralyzed by fear when they don’t distinguish between real risk and perceived risk.It can seem overwhelming if you don’t separate the two Fear also comes in many forms. It’s not only the physical risks, but emotional risks and making hard choices in life.
Q: GEAR IS IMPORTANT IN YOUR WORLD, ESPECIALLY FUNCTION BEFORE FORM. FORM. BUT WHAT ABOUT FASHION AND JEWELLERY?
Q: GEAR IS IMPORTANT IN YOUR WORLD, ESPECIALLY FUNCTION BEFORE FORM. FORM. BUT WHAT ABOUT FASHION AND JEWELLERY?
Jeff:
We found out that we actually are kind of gear nerds, but in the way that we like less gear. We're trying to do more with less, whether it's surfing or climbing, and the whole less is more thing is definitely Yvon's ethos. Especially in climbing—climbers just live that way. They have to have literally less weight on them to do better. So they're always trying to figure out how to do more with less. It's when you can't take anything else away and it's in its most pure form. We actually started geeking out about the jewelry because we saw how well made it was—even the clasps. The clasps are seamless, and there's so much thought put into every little detail. It’s really impressive. It was totally eye opening for us.
We found out that we actually are kind of gear nerds, but in the way that we like less gear. We're trying to do more with less, whether it's surfing or climbing, and the whole less is more thing is definitely Yvon's ethos. Especially in climbing—climbers just live that way. They have to have literally less weight on them to do better. So they're always trying to figure out how to do more with less. It's when you can't take anything else away and it's in its most pure form. We actually started geeking out about the jewelry because we saw how well made it was—even the clasps. The clasps are seamless, and there's so much thought put into every little detail. It’s really impressive. It was totally eye opening for us.
Jimmy:
And that appreciation for elegant design has to do with our aesthetics as visual story tellers, but also having used a lot of different tools. It's always the simplest, most elegant design that stands the test of time. You know something's well designed when it hasn't changed in 50 years. So both Jeff and I were drawn to the pieces that were very simple and beautiful and elegant, yet timeless. For me, seeing the choices that Evan [Yurman] made in these pieces was something I also really appreciated because when you choose a piece, you're also choosing the choices that the designer made. I feel a certain connection to that process.
And that appreciation for elegant design has to do with our aesthetics as visual story tellers, but also having used a lot of different tools. It's always the simplest, most elegant design that stands the test of time. You know something's well designed when it hasn't changed in 50 years. So both Jeff and I were drawn to the pieces that were very simple and beautiful and elegant, yet timeless. For me, seeing the choices that Evan [Yurman] made in these pieces was something I also really appreciated because when you choose a piece, you're also choosing the choices that the designer made. I feel a certain connection to that process.
FOUR QUESTIONS ABOUT NICARAGUA
Jeff
Best Break: We can’t tell you (surfer’s secret) but it was an outer reef where we ended up scoring the best waves of the trip. Best Meal: Snacking all day on fresh ceviche the boys made from fish caught right then or the day before. Best Board: I traveled with three boards. My favorite is the 6’ 2” Ghost by Pyzel Surfboards. Biggest Wave Surfed: Biggest wave surfed: Definitely the outer reef wave. We had two great sessions out there and the last one was pretty huge.
Best Break: We can’t tell you (surfer’s secret) but it was an outer reef where we ended up scoring the best waves of the trip. Best Meal: Snacking all day on fresh ceviche the boys made from fish caught right then or the day before. Best Board: I traveled with three boards. My favorite is the 6’ 2” Ghost by Pyzel Surfboards. Biggest Wave Surfed: Biggest wave surfed: Definitely the outer reef wave. We had two great sessions out there and the last one was pretty huge.
Jimmy
Best Break: We got a lot of really good waves on this trip. But, we don’t really talk about the best breaks… so the best break we surfed is the one that shall not be named. Best Meal: The fresh fish we had for dinner every night, simple, with rice and beans… and the ceviche. Best Board: I traveled with three LOST boards from Matt Biolos/Mayhem. I spent most of my time on the 5’11” Quiver Killer, but the 6’0 KA Driver and 6’2” Sabo Taj were also really fun. Biggest Wave Surfed: At an unnamed outer reef in Nica. Also happened to have my longest hold downs there.
Best Break: We got a lot of really good waves on this trip. But, we don’t really talk about the best breaks… so the best break we surfed is the one that shall not be named. Best Meal: The fresh fish we had for dinner every night, simple, with rice and beans… and the ceviche. Best Board: I traveled with three LOST boards from Matt Biolos/Mayhem. I spent most of my time on the 5’11” Quiver Killer, but the 6’0 KA Driver and 6’2” Sabo Taj were also really fun. Biggest Wave Surfed: At an unnamed outer reef in Nica. Also happened to have my longest hold downs there.
Jeff Johnson and Jimmy Chin met whilst working together on the documentary 180° South. In the film, Johnson follows the 1968 journey of Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins, driving from California to South America while surfing along the way. Like the legendary pair, he eventually attempts to climb a mountain in Chile’s Patagonia region where Chouinard and Tompkins have spent their fortunes trying to conserve the pristine wilderness.
Jeff Johnson and Jimmy Chin met whilst working together on the documentary 180° South. In the film, Johnson follows the 1968 journey of Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins, driving from California to South America whilst surfing along the way. Like the legendary pair, he eventually at-tempts to climb a mountain in Chile’s Patagonia region where Chouinard and Tompkins have spent their fortunes trying to conserve the pristine wilderness.
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