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The wandering chronicler

Words by Hannah Tapping

Following swells and surfers, Luke Gartside’s photography evokes a sentimentality and appreciation of space and time, resulting in a deep connection between people and place.

For over ten years Luke Gartside has been documenting surf culture through stories and photography. After graduating from Plymouth University in 2015, he settled in Newquay and joined the team at Wavelength magazine, Europe’s longest-running surf title. During his time at the publication, which included a four-year stint as editor, he was able to travel widely, capturing eclectic surf scenes from New Zealand to the Outer Hebrides. However, Cornwall’s rugged coastline has always remained his favourite subject.

“I love the way the weather, light, and surfing conditions change so drastically, between the seasons and from minute to minute,” he says. “My goal is always to capture images that evoke the sensations of being out in the elements. Whether that’s surfing amid the bright blues of summer, or huddled beneath the cliffs during a winter storm.”

“Most of my favourite local spots require a bit of hiking to get to,” he continues, “little coves and tucked away beaches framed by grand scenery – which often forms the backdrop to my shots.” A big part of Luke’s working practice is learning about the intricacies of the coastline, in order to forecast where and when the best waves will be breaking and to pick the best angle from which to capture them. With over 400 miles of swell-drenched Atlantic Ocean frontage, Cornwall provides ample opportunity for this kind of exploration. “It’s always struck me how lucky we are to have such complete access to our headlands, bays and beaches via the South West Coast Path,” he says, “a luxury not enjoyed by many other wave riders around the world.”

Getting to know each local community is also key to Luke’s approach. “The South West is full of passionate and talented surfers, hailing from all different walks of life, but united in their dedication to their local spots. I’ve been lucky enough to work with the country’s top professional surfers,” he says, “but there’s also something so special about capturing a workaday local hero on the best day of the year at the break they’ve spent their life surfing.”

Since stepping down from Wavelength and going freelance at the beginning of this year, Luke has been working on a range of photography and writing assignments for various brands and publications. No matter who the client, he always seeks to maintain an editorial approach, where crafting a narrative and aesthetic that will engage the viewer is the top priority. “I love working with small, independent local companies,” he concludes, “but also, bigger brands looking to authentically navigate the surfing space.”

Left | Pete Geall, fresh home after a stint living in Western Australia, standing casual as you like in a whomping Cornish barrel.

Right | Jack Johns leans into a brilliant blue wall during an early summer session in west Cornwall.

Left | A gentleman takes his morning stroll between the sandy shoreline and mist-shrouded peaks that define much of northern Spain's coastal landscape.

Right | In Galicia, 'Percebeiros' risk their lives to retrieve goose barnacles from the swell battered rocks - in fancy restaurants in Madrid, a plateful can fetch over 100 euros - here Santi Diaz returns with the morning's haul.

Top left | Alan Stokes throws a sunlit arc at north Fistral - the break he has frequented more than any during his 20-year-long career as a professional surfer.

Top right | Devon-raised big wave specialist Tax Knight photographed near his adoptive home in Ireland for a profile feature in Wavelength magazine.

Bottom left | Oil Adams clad from head to toe in thick neoprene following a session in the norernmost reaches of the British Isles.

Bottom right | Reubyn Ash framed by sun-blushed spurned and folding sandstone in north Cornwall.

Top left | Adam Griffiths observes the lineup as a squall blows in from the Atlantic.

Top right | The morning sun burns brightly through a cascading lip as Harry Timson tucks in for the tube.

Bottom left | Seafoam snagged on the dark rocks of the Hartland peninsula.

Bottom right | Corduroy swell lines rolling into Fistral beach one beautiful Februray evening.

Above | Harry Timson admires the surreal geology during a winter escape to Portugal's southwestern tip.

Instagram @lugarts

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