Ozzie Hoppe - Photographer

When and where did you first get involved with surfing?
I think I was about 10 yrs old when my mom left inland Northern California and relocated to Costa Rica. She wanted my brother and I to be excited about the new location so she bought us some boogie boards with plastic screw-on fins. It was a while ago and the only surfing I think we had seen up to that point was the cartoon rendition of "surfing" in an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so we were pretty naive on the matter.  With one of the best beach breaks in Costa Rica (although we had no idea at the time) right in front of us, we started stand up surfing our boogie boards until we got some key advice several months later that we may want to actually get a real surfboard and that is when it all began.

What is it that you love about surfing and the ocean?
The post surf drowsy elation, the prickly skin when I put on a shirt after a surf, the nostalgic cocktail of smells that seem to entrap themselves on us, sometimes I don't shower just to keep the neoprene scent on me:-) The inspiring people that are met in unlikely situations both in the water and out of the water and the ever present urgency for travel that it gives us, it all circulates into a rhythmic weave that makes us approach life in a certain way that is unique to our relationship with the ocean.

How and when did you first get into photography?
I fooled around with it in high school, I had an old Nikon and took a photo class, which then led me through a carnival ride of different art practices, from drawing/painting, sculpture and back to photography quite some time ago when I was starting to figure out that much of my life was to be spent on the road and that I felt a certain need to photograph what I was seeing.

When did you decide to start travelling the world and documenting your adventures? 
My brother and I used to hitchhike in Costa Rica in our teenage years. We'd pack some canned tuna, kilos of bananas and these immensely dry Costa Rican crackers along with some pretty dismal camping gear, then my mom would drop us off on the side of the road and we'd assemble these hodge-podge rides up and down the Pan American highway. I guess this feeling never left and now that I look back on it, that is how it all started. As I got a little wiser, more reliable transportation replaced thumbing it and I felt an urgency to document the odd situations, the people or the fragments of peculiar light that peppered these adventures.

You have been to a LOT of places, are there any destinations or any shots you have taken that stand out as your favourite or most memorable? 
Anytime I encounter rural communities and/or solitary people living sustainably, it always blows my mind to see how far the world has gone in the other direction while there is a population out there that lives purely off the land and rejuvenates it's surroundings to continue feeding their lives. I saw this all over the Himalayan regions of India, but what really amazed me was the time I recently spent in rural Rajasthan, India, that I was able to document. It was the desert culture with its cow paddy architecture in a ruthlessly arid terrain that made me re-think how we live our lives. 

Who/ what inspired you to follow this path in life?
Hands down, my brother. During the more orthodox periods of my life when I was in school or had a job, my brother was always somewhere I wanted to be, seeing and living these crazy capsules and instances in every odd location he could put himself into and unbeknownst to anyone, no social media, no trail of existence, no digital identity, just in the middle of nowhere hanging out with people you could never plan to happen upon. He did and has done this for his whole adult and prior adult life, this has indefinitely inspired me to take chances with uncertainty, say yes to everything, even if it sucks and leave expectation at the door for the potential of anything that might be coming in front of us, knowing that whatever happens ultimately just adds to the dynamic interpretation we have of reality as we experience different contexts of living.

Where are you currently based?
Margaret River, Australia for the time being, attempting to figure out the endless assortment of waves on offer here:-) as well as the current shark culling situation. Then Indo starting in May.

What is it that you love about your job? 
The possibility of anything to occur as a result of the freedom of movement we have. This freedom can be scary and exciting at the same time, which me makes me feel as alive as I can be.

Are you working on any big projects at the moment?
I am really excited about a project, She and the Sea (sheandthesea.com site launching on March 14th) coming up in the N.Hemisphere fall season. Going to be driving/surfing for 2 months up the Pacific Northwest coast from Oregon, USA to the islands off of Vancouver, Canada, with my two talented friends Elissa Pfost and Kara Sparkman. I often travel solo, so it will be really nice to have the chance to journey through an amazing place with amazing people. The whole trip will explore the unique group of women who surf the Pacific Northwest and we will all be collaborating on photography, art and writing to document everything, followed by the exhibition of what we come up with.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
5 years ago I wouldn't have guessed being here where I am today, so 5 years from now pretty much anything could reasonably happen,...I really enjoy the possibilities of living completely outside of the framework of my own upbringing, in places where it takes quite a bit of research to understand local customs and cultural mindsets. I love the challenge this presents and if it also comes with a good mix of water and creative time, then I could not think of a place I would rather be, so perhaps somewhere within this environment:-)

If you had the opportunity to photograph any one person or one thing in the world, who/ what would it be?
Hermann Hesse, shortly after WWII.

Where can we find you online?

Web: www.underfireweswim.com
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/ozzie.hoppe
Blog: underfireweswim.tumblr.com
Instagram: instagram.com/UnderFireWeSwim


Posted by: Matthew Ryan, on February 25, 2014
Categories: Interviews