From Stab issue 70: Cyrus Sutton is that rare lo-fi traveller who ain’t afraid to show his two valves, the explorer and the hot do vendor (selling weenies), if y’catch our drift.
If living cheap and easy off the land makes your heart best like a jackhammer, then cyrus here, filmed, director, rad surfer, is your messiah. When he ain’t on the road in his van he rents the yard of the oldest house in San Diego. “There’s a little wooden shed I sleep in the winter. I pull my van inside whenever I’m home.” Cyrus’ movies Compassing, Riding Waves, Stoked and Broke and the website Korduroy.tv all feed into the modern need to back off from all our electronic devices and conveniences. But don’t go thinking Emmy-award winning Cyrus is a dull boy. Ask him about his travel philosophy and he says, “Drive fast, take chances.” And when you ask him about Japan, where he is currently touring his new film, he says, “Surf’s ok. No tubes around these parts. Lots of fallopian tubes, though. Crazy horny women here.” A messiah and a devil. A lot of ying and the occasional yang. Cyrus has living dialled. Now let’s soak in his hot tub.
First big adventure trip: When I was 14 my high school surf coach took me and a couple of buds to Baja. He lived in the back of a liquor store and always kept his weed stuffed in a film canister that was lodged in his door handle. Our first pit-stop after crossing the border was to get a case of Coronas which he downed before we hit the dirt roads. We camped on cold empty rights for days and I got drunk for the first time.
The difficulty of adjusting back to normal life after a stint in the wilderness: The more I spend time away from where I grew up (Orange County, CA) the harder it is for me to function back home. I honestly can’t relate anymore and at this point I’m just going through the motions.
Tell me a lil more about the OC… Orange County is what it is. I grew up there. My parents were university art professors and that’s where they found jobs. There’s a lot of great people who live there but the more I traveled the harder I found it to live there. So I left and moved to Encinitas (San Diego) when I was 19. Unfortunately, Encinitas is becoming more and more like Orange County now. It seems like a community suffers when the cost of living is such where only people who either work all day or have inherited a good amount of money can afford to thrive. And while the quality of life appears to go up by the new sheen that their money can buy, it actually goes down because the people have increasingly less connection to the place and each other. I’m psyched on living in either a small town or dense city where, out of necessity, community is king.
Preferred method of travel: My van. No jetlag, no boardbags, no hotels. Just home all the time with new scenery.
Greatest act of kindness: Helping people who’ve broken down or gotten stuck on the road.
Greatest act of cruelty: Misleading people on where to go so I can have it all to myself.
Most money spent on an airline ticket: Anytime I’ve tried to bring camera gear and surfboards to Australia or Indo.
Rules for packing: Depends on if you’re road-tripping or jet-setting. If I’m road-tripping I don’t skimp on essentials like extra gas, water, propane, stove, pot and pan, cup, spork (a cross between a fork and a spoon – handy!), water filter, air and fuel filters, fan-belt, a good jack, socket wrench set, duct tape, motor oil, fix-a-flat, air compressor, tequila, peanut butter, canned sardines, olive oil, fishing pole, lures, Leatherman, speargun, fillet knife, wood fillet board, .22 riffle with ammo (not in Mexico), slingshot, flares, jumper cables, headlamp, camp seat, toys for kids, porn mags (to bribe cops), gardening bucket, tarp and astroturf mat. Go easy on comforts. A cell phone packed with good podcasts and audiobooks, a couple of magazines and books will go a long way. You’ll find that adjusting to new surroundings and meeting new people keeps you pretty content and preoccupied.
Rules for jet setting? I don’t really have any suggestions here. I just try to under-pack. Clothes are most people’s biggest struggle. I’ve just gotten used to wearing the same thing everyday. I’ve also been blessed with an absence of body odour. But my feet reek like hell though so I always bring a bunch of socks if I can’t wear sandals all the time.
Best trip: Two months in Mexico earlier this year. It was during the most generous run of swells the South Pacific has doled out in a long time. I drove with my buddy Cliff over 3000 miles and there were waves every day.
The worst: Tavarua 2004. It was the first trip I’d shot 16mm film. Thomas Campbell gave me the lowdown and I showed up with Rob Machado and a bunch of new gear. A typhoon formed right over the top of us and it squalled the entire trip. Then the boat ride back soaked all of our stuff.
Most amazing place: Just a place I go every year where I can camp out, hang with old friends and surf, fish, look for arrowheads and play scrabble.
Most scared: Every time I drive in Mexico
Moments of utter surrender: Six years ago while staying with Dave Rastovich I had all of my 16mm camera gear stolen twice. After the second time I had a spiritual experience. All ambition was beaten out of me. Luckily, I’d bought insurance and eventually got everything replaced.
Most money spent on excess baggage: Back when I used to shoot 16mm I would have fees near $1000.
Most extreme poverty you’ve seen: Newport Beach.
Most extreme wealth you’ve seen: Newport Beach (depending on your definition of wealth).
Craziest thing you’ve seen: Mexico never ceases to amaze me.
Where could you live apart from home: I don’t have a home anymore, I live in my van. So that solves a lot of problems.