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We promise this won't (really) hurt.

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Culture Shifters: Justin Jay

From Stab issue 64: Culture Shifters, with Justin Jay, 39, Lower East Side, NYC. Words by Derek Rielly.

What do you take from a North Shore winter, which, for the media, is actually a four-week, three-contest blast from November til a few days before Christmas? If you’re a photo-journalist in the very real sense, like New York’s Justin Jay, you stalk the Shore, telling stories with your camera. “Whether I’m shooting Diddy or Jay-Z or Kelly or Joel I put myself in the eyes of a 13-year-old fan,” says Mr Jay. “What would they like to see? There’s plenty of photos of Dane and Kelly ripping, but that’s not my lane. I want to see the surfers before and after they surf, getting in fist fights, partying, eating breakfast.”

Mr Jay says his game works ‘cause he’s an outsider, because hasn’t been in the industry for so long that his eyes cloud over the minutiae of this awesome multi-generational gathering of the world’s best surfers. “I was talking to (photographer) Steve Sherman and he told me that I’d forced him to step up his game, that his eyes had gotten stale and that he was now shooting things that he wouldn’t have seen otherwise.”

Following are Mr Jay’s images from his fifth trip to the North Shore, ostensibly shooting for a photo book called Beach Access, although he ain’t in no hurry to get the thing on the press. As he says, “my style of stuff lends itself to ageing. These are historical shots, rather than standard portraits. Plus, going back each year is like going to summer camp or winter camp, in this case, all the same faces, this great fraternity.”

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Photo above: Kelly readies to present Joel with world title trophy: “That’s at the foot of the stage. Kelly’s about to get called up to present Joel with the world title trophy, the trophy that Kelly isn’t going to get. For Kelly, there’s no glory in this moment. This is where he’ll be defined as second best and it’s killing him. For one brief moment, he looks like a broken man. Kelly is one fucking beast of a competitor. And losing makes his resolve stronger. But, in this moment, he’s both heartbroken and livid.”

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Joel fan in magenta bikini: “Surf contests are staid and refined in their own way. Before Kelly went out for his semi this dude ran out. The rivalry between Kelly and Parko was there, but it was relatively tame. When this guy ran out I heard all the local boys were pissed off. I heard Sunny Garcia was none too pleased. It was perceived as disrespectful in some weird way. This guy sure ruffled some feathers. I don’t know what happened to him afterwards. That’s not the getup you want to have around The Boys.”

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Mason Ho and Dane Reynolds, Surfer Poll Awards after party, Turtle Bay hotel lobby: “Who doesn’t love fucking Mason Ho? He’s cool, he has reverence for his Dad (Michael) and his Uncle (Derek) and he loves to party. He was definitely in the zone that night. Mason was out of his mind drunk, but he’s such a fun drunk. It’s a testament to his character that he wants to hug you when he’s drunk. Some guys just want to fight. As for Reynolds, seen here with the gear bag he was presented with, he’s a mysterious character. A lot of people think he’s purposely creating this mysterious artistic goofball character, but he’s actually in his own space. He’s super warm, he ain’t snotty, just shy and artistic.”

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Tanned hams and haunches, Surfer Poll Awards: “I described the Surfer Poll as a place where the girls show up in skirts too short and the guys show in suits too big. Surfer tries to put on this big gala event, the Oscars of surfing, and broadcast it like it’s a real show, but it’s so DIY. It’s a metaphor for surfing. There’s no intro music, nothing to keep it moving, no bumpers of music. It’s so arduous to watch that as soon as it finishes everyone is, like, ‘Let’s get it on!’ People get so liquored. The best place to get photos are behind the bar and in the bathroom, for that is where everyone hangs out.”

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Defend Rockaway from hipsters, no, wait, from looters: So, in case y’didn’t know, Rockaway is a stretch of beach on a peninsula just south of JFK airport in New York. In the thirties and forties, it was a jewel of a place for vacationing Manhattan families. Real nice. Then, thanks to urban developer Robert Moses, it became a bad-ass ghetto, as Manhattan’s projects were pushed out of the city and onto the beach. What should’ve been beachfront property that rivalled the not so-distant Hamptons, became a catcher’s mitt for the city’s poor devils, all shoved into high-rise public housing on the beach. Anyway, it’s proximity to the hep cats of Brooklyn has turned the joint around just a little. “And my buddy Anthony Dooley made these t-shirts,” says Mr Jay, “which are a tonguein- cheek reference to defend Rockaway from all the hipsters on their fixies and in their white sunglasses. But, then, Hurricane Sandy hit and it became literal. My buddy sat on his porch for four days with a crossbow as civilisation just broke down. There was looting, people stealing gas, all sorts of shady shit. But, still, it’s a really cool, unique place to hang out and surf. It’s a tight surf scene. It’s shady at night time, like, you don’t want to walk by yourself at night. When you talk about gentrification, it’s usually one demographic pushing out another. At Rockaway it’s all stacked on top of each other. As for the waves, it’s pretty fickle, but you saw the Quiksilver Pro in New York. When it’s good it’s world class.” 1. John John Florence 2. Greyson Fletcher 3. Taj Burrow 4. Christian Fletcher 5. Taylor Knox 6. Danny Fuller 7. Rob Machado 8. Mick Fanning 9. Dylan Graves 10. CJ Kanuha 11. Occy 12. Michael Ho 13. Balaram Stack 14. Ace Buchan 15. Matt Wilkinson

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Greyson Fletcher (son of Christian) and John John Florence, North Shore skate park: Greyson and John John are super good pals. Greyson was ruling the skate park this year. Hands down, the best skater. This was right before the premiere of John’s movie DONE. Greyson’s style is so fucking smooth. He has grace in his airs like Christian Hosoi and he looks like a bad-ass eighties skateboarder like Hosoi. It’s cool to see these Greyson and John inherit the skate and surf thrones.

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Greyson eats ass, Joel Parkinson’s world title party: “This is an uncharacteristic photo for me. In science there’s something called the Observer Effect, where looking at something will change the outcome. I hate that in photography. I like to tell stories and if you let people influence that story by hamming it up for the camera you lose the legitimacy of the moment. But, here, rest assured, I didn’t instigate it. Greyson has that superstar charisma and the girls are drawn to it.

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Nixon Weird Board Jam: “So Nixon commissioned John John’s shaper Jon Pyzel to shape six boards that were out of the North Shore paradigm. No five-ten thrusters, only single fins, fishes, mini-Simmons’, just whacky shit, and had this impromptu contest where surfers drew straws to see what board they’d get. One of the rules was that drinking beers was not compulsory but encouraged. Dylan Graves stuffed his wetsuit with beers, would catch a wave, pop a beer and drink a beer while he surfed.”

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Nixon Weird Board Jam: “There were no spectators on this little stretch of sand in front of Gums. It was like a group of top NBA players, the baddest basketball players in the game, playing random pickup in the gym and, then, the inventor of the slam dunk turns up. A lot of groms probably don’t realise how seminal Christian was and how back when he was a pro you weren’t rewarded by the judges for landing a sick air. Christian literally stumbled upon the contest and was asked if he wanted to join in. It totally drove home how special the contest was. It was crazy how deep the talent pool was. Judging, at this contest, was thumbs up or thumbs down by your peers. There was a healthy bit of cronyism and politics and intimidation. Dustin Barca won it while Dusty Payne grumbled about how the boards sucked.

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You can get at Justin's site here, or follow him on instagram: @justinjayphoto


Stab issue 64 is available online, here.

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