Last fall, Warren Smith went to Maine to clear his head with some brisk New England air and a few decent waves. He invited Dion Agius, Craig Anderson, and Sterling Spencer, and between scoring rampy left handers and organizing a photography show to benefit Hurricane Sandy relief, the trip turned into something more than he anticipated. I caught up with Warren en route to New York City to get the story behind his East Coast sabbatical.
So what was Fix the Shadows?
It was originally a photography show that we put on last fall in Maine. I went there for three months, rented a house, built a darkroom, and invited some friends to come through. The idea was that we would hang out and surf, and whatever photos we all took there, we would develop them at the house and put on a show at the end of the trip with everything we got. After Hurricane Sandy, we decided that all the proceeds should go to Waves for Water to help out with the disaster relief.
Proxy Noise used to be the home for a lot of your photos, but it seems like that ended kind of abruptly. What happened?
Proxy Noise was always kind of a secondary thing for us, and it’s hard to explain, but we just got so busy and I don’t think we were really giving it the love and attention that it needed to be what we wanted it to be. Dion has a bazillion things going at the moment, and he needs photos for all kinds of projects, so we couldn’t give it the sweet, sweet attention that it needed to be something we were both proud of. We kind of just let it burn out rather than half-assing it and putting something out there that we weren’t completely pumped on.
So you were in Maine during Hurricane Sandy?
Yeah, I was, but luckily we didn’t get nearly the kind of damage that you saw in New York and New Jersey. We lost power, and it was definitely still a crazy storm up there, but we got off easy compared to other areas. The beginning of the storm really sucked, but the back end of it gave us some really good waves.
I think a lot of people would be surprised to see such good waves in Maine.
Totally. I don’t know how stoked the people of Maine—what would you call them? Mainers? I’m not sure they’d be too happy with their beautiful little waves getting exploited by us, but yeah, there are some good waves there. New England in general gets pretty good waves, but it’s just not the kind of place that people want to go on a surf trip because it’s goddamn freezing. I don’t think there’s any surf in the summer, so you have to wait until the fall and then you’d consider it warm if the water got up to 50 degrees. It will drop all the way down into the 30s, so it gets pretty ridiculous. The little community of surfers there is incredible. They’re pretty much the most diehard surfers you’ll ever meet. Every year they are in rubber from head-to-toe, and they drive to the beach with a jug of warm water in the trunk so they can pour it into their suits before they put them on. They’re gnarly. It’s impressive to see how dedicated those guys are.
Did you know going into it how good the waves could get there?
Yeah, I’ve been there quite a few times and I’ve made some friends in the area. It’s beautiful, it’s quiet, the waves can be amazing, and for that moment in my life it was pretty much exactly what I needed. I wanted a break, but actually, it was really stressful getting the show together so maybe it wasn’t much of a break in that sense.
Had you ever put a show together before this?
Yeah, but this one was a lot more work because it was all kind of on my shoulders. It was just this idea Nick LaVecchia and I had in passing at dinner one night in Maine, and then fast-forward three months and it’s something that people have invested a lot of time and money into, so it was a lot of stress to get everything together. But it was a blast and I’d do it again in a second. To have some of my best friends come through and to see their film from start to finish, from cruising around with a camera to finally seeing the printed work up on a wall—not to mention being able to surf in between all of that—was really an amazing experience.