Sam Anderson - The Ride Gallery

When and where did you start surfing?
My brother and I started surfing on Fripp Island, South Carolina on the US East Coast in 1990. It's a tiny resort island where for years we were the only two surfers on the entire island. The waves there are always far from epic, but it's pretty magical to grow up with 2 miles of beach break all to yourself. On the flip side, being that fortunate as a kid had the adverse side-effect of making me slightly agoraphobic in the lineup as I grew older. I've been seeking out uncrowded waves around the world ever since.

What is it that you love about surfing and the culture that comes with it?
At the heart of it, I think surfing and surf culture are all about the pursuit of happiness and well-being. It's physical, mental and spiritual exercise all at the same time. Throw in a dash of adventure, exploration and "thrill of the chase," and you've got one pretty compelling, albeit healthy, addiction. A smart guy once told me to follow people and things that generate positive energy and to distance myself from people and things that suck energy like a black hole. I've always found the global surf community to be one that is remarkably creative, hopeful, and buzzing with energy, so I cast my lot with them a long time ago.

Do you have a session that stands out as your most memorable?
Ever since watching "The Endless Summer" and Rip Curl's original "The Search" literally hundreds of times in the early 1990s, I've made surf travel a priority in life. I've been fortunate enough to have committed to memory some pretty epic sessions from around the world. Wintertime Raglan reeling for days. Months of warm water barrels at the edge of the jungle in Panama. Solo rivermouth sessions in northern Spain. Ice cream headaches surfing in the North Sea off the famous old golf course in St. Andrews, Scotland. I'm still buzzing off a session at my home break of Tybee Island, GA from a few months ago. Oil-slick, chest-high, beach-break barrels that I had all to myself under the stars for an hour before the sun was up. Pure magic.

How did you come to be involved with art, what sparked your passion?
My mom was an incredibly talented artist, and she nurtured that passion in me at a young age. I was always bugging my parents to take me to art museums, to get art lessons, or to buy art supplies. I'm a bit bookish, so I was really into studying art history books even at 8 or 9 years old and trying to copy the old masterworks with my crayons. I did a scary good copy of Gaugin's "Yellow Christ" when I was in 6th grade and it earned me the affections of the prettiest girl in class. And so I learned the true power of art.

What made you want to apply this passion for art to your passion for surfing?
Quite purposefully, I've always pursued great art alongside great surf in all of my travels. You can take in some of the worlds great museums while surfing across Europe. The Guggenheim Bilbao is just a short drive from Mundaka, and they are two of the world's greatest! New Zealand has a such a rocking art scene I was on the verge of emigrating. The street art in Central America will blow your mind. Art and surf have always just gone hand in hand for me. Likewise, some of today's most notable contemporary artists - Ed Ruscha, for example - are heavily influenced by surf culture. Artists and surfers have a lot in common. On some level they're all rebels.

What kind of education have you had?
I earned a B.A. In Economics with a minor in Art History from The College of William and Mary (strategically chosen for its proximity to Virginia Beach). A few years later, I earned a Master's degree in Arts Administration from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

Can you tell us a little bit about the Ride Gallery and the philosophy behind it?
I founded The Ride Gallery with a dual mission: 1) to represent great artists working at the intersection of high design, street art and surf culture and 2) to direct gallery proceeds to fund arts education and cultural entrepreneurship initiatives in the developing world. Surfers are pretty good at tramping around the world spending tourist dollars, but I realized it's not often that surf travelers endeavor to make a more lasting positive impact on the developing countries that open their doors to them. My personal talents happen to be in the art world, so I'm trying to leverage them to create a virtuous cycle where art can breed economic opportunity.

It's still a relatively young venture, but what has the response been like so far?
The response has been wonderful and has really exceeded my expectations. The gallery itself has benefited from some tremendous press coverage, and Ride Gallery artists are regularly catching the attention of the international art media. We've sold and shipped artwork across the globe, and we're actively funding a series of arts education projects in Panama. All in all, it's been a great first year.

What do you love about your job?
I love being able to craft and execute my own ideas and vision. The simple act of creating something - whether it's a business or a singular artwork - is always a challenge and always rewarding.

You talk about this on the Ride Gallery site, how important is art in relation to social and economic development?
Look around and you'll see that the creative industries are at the forefront of the present economy. Enabled by new technologies and digital media, it's the product designers, innovators, and content creators that are now pushing the economy forward. Coming from that world, I was blown away when meeting people in Panama who would do farm work all day in the sun for just $7/day. Well what happens when you put these new technologies and digital media skills in the hands of rural people in the developing world? You discover that these skills are at once an incredible tool for democracy, journalism and storytelling, but they also represent a serious force for economic advancement. They unlock tremendous potential for entrepreneurship while also opening doors for participation in the global marketplace.

What can we expect from the Ride Gallery in 2014?
Great things! We'll be expanding a bit into lifestyle goods, starting with a series of limited-edition "fine art" skateboards and select apparel designed by Ride Gallery artists. Following that, you'll see the introduction of a "print-of-the-month" subscription service with small runs of stunning new works being produced monthly for members.

Where can we find you online? 


Posted by: Matthew Ryan, on February 5, 2014
Categories: Interviews

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