Photos by Jim Russi. Profile photo by Christy Bauer-Eriksson.
The ocean is the epitome of artistry and adrenaline for those who choose to participate in it. For the past 30 years, Jim Russi has been capturing these moments, freezing them in time and place, for a snapshot into the spirit of what happens when mortals and mother nature collide.
Russi has been a senior staff photographer for every major U.S. surf publication, yet his imagery might be most well known for the vivacious Roxy ads that have inspired females to get in the water for over a decade now. And beyond surf mags and industry ads, Russi’s imagery now steps on to canvas at the Thomadro Art Gallery in Hale‘iwa. A book is also in the works. Russi does not simply record images, he creates them.
Every role Russi takes on — artist, mentor, father, fellow — is met with fierce discipline and dedication. To see a tattooed and tanned Russi riding one of his choppers around the island, surfing one of his favorite neighborhood breaks on the North Shore, or setting up to shoot on the beach with his face shielded by a trucker hat — always with the enthusiasm of a fresh-faced grom — it seems he has got it wired. But this life was won by many mistakes that he is not ashamed to admit, which is what makes him so refreshing and inspiring.
“I made a lot of life decisions that set me back a lot,” he recalls. “I can’t go back and change it. I would have put a lot more energy into my craft than drugs and alcohol if I could go back. But it’s not as wasteful if I can share that with other young people. I’m not preaching to anyone, but if someone asks. … If you can learn from other people’s mistakes, you’re ahead of the game. At my age I’ve made so many mistakes, I’m not embarrassed to talk about them to help somebody else.”
Read the rest of this article in Issue II, on stands April 12, 2010.