Surf Shacks 011 – Cyrus Sutton

Cyrus Sutton is a moving target. The founder of now spends most of his days working on filmmaking projects, committing himself to environmental issues and surfing – all of which take him all over the world. He embodies the true surfer spirit within us all that strives to live simply, be creative and innovative in all our endeavors, explore while treading lightly, live a healthier life and just enjoy surfing. Using a lot in Encinitas as his home base, Cyrus has been living mostly out of his modified van for the last 10 years. We recently caught up with Cyrus in his element to see what he has been up to lately.

Cyrus Sutton is a moving target. The founder of now spends most of his days working on filmmaking projects, committing himself to environmental issues and surfing – all of which take him all over the world. He embodies the true surfer spirit within us all that strives to live simply, be creative and innovative in all our endeavors, explore while treading lightly, live a healthier lifestyle, and just enjoy surfing. Using a back yard lot in Encinitas as his home base, Cyrus has been living mostly out of his modified van for the last 10 years. We recently caught up with Cyrus in his element to see what he has been up to lately.

Who are you?

Name is Cyrus, I’m 31 years old and the only son of two college professors.

What do you do for a living and how did it all come about?

I am a filmmaker and a surfer. It’s kind of a long story. I started surfing professionally when I was 18 thanks to Devon Howard who was the editor of Longboard Magazine back in the 90’s. He mentioned my name to this company Hang Ten. I had a couple meetings and they said they were going to give me money to surf. Nothing like kids these days. Just a few grand to travel and pay for food and surfboards but being 18, that was a ticket to explore the real world. My parents really wanted me to go to college, but even though I wasn’t in school I had this desire to learn that exploded once it wasn’t forced on me. I started learning a lot about photography and filmmaking. I read a bunch of books and attended a few classes for shooting and editing video. I liked being behind the camera. I made my first surf film at 20 called Riding Waves. It was a day in the life of 5 surfers who approached the waves differently – Rob Machado, Joel Tudor, Dane Reynolds, Donavon Frankenreiter and John Peck. They all opened up and talked personal stuff about their families and why they surfed. It combined longboarding, shortboarding and showed alternative boards being ridden well. It did pretty well in festivals and sales-wise. I found myself taking meetings at big film agencies in LA and not really thinking about trying to get a few bucks from surf companies. From there I worked in LA as much as I could stand and committed to living simply, so I surf or go hike and fish between jobs. I’d always use the money I earned doing commercial and TV work to fund surf projects. I started the website in 2009 to promote a less consumptive surf culture.

Where are you from? How long have you lived in Encinitas?

I grew up in Long Beach, then moved to Seal Beach. I moved to Encinitas 12 years ago when I was 19.

Tell us a little about the area. What is your favorite part about your community here in San Diego?

Encinitas was first put on map because this Indian guru Paramahansa Yogananda settled here in the early 1900’s. The house I live in was the original hotel then brothel of the area. It was built in 1887. People mostly come here to slow down and get healthy.

What is your favorite part about your van and home base?

I got my van almost ten years ago now. It’s such a good life, I value free time over anything and have a home that you can take with you makes life so much less complicated if you do it right. Last year I had the time to convert it into what it is now with the help of friends. I used to just sleep on a piece of plywood surrounded by steel now it feels like a proper home. As for my home base; I’ve lived in every part of the house over the years, but now I live in the yard in a Shinto tea house that an old Japanese man built in the 80’s. It’s great because I have a little sanctuary right in the heart of downtown Encinitas.

How much time do you spend here vs. on the road in your van?

The last couple years I’ve been on the road most of the time. Either via jet or in my van.

Where is your favorite place to park it?

Friends driveways, suburban streets, 24 hour fitness parking lots…

Where and when did you learn to surf?

San Onofre with my Dad.

Where is your favorite place to surf (locally and globally)?

Cardiff breaks a lot and usually fun when it’s small. Around the world is a tough one, I’ve always gotten really lucky when I go to the east coast of the us and luck into the hurricane swell of the year or something like that.

What has been your favorite travel destination and why?

Mexico and Central America. The people are awesome and you can surf almost everyday.

You have a lot of boards around here. What is your magic board these days?

Just been riding my log and glider when it’s real small and a thruster when it’s over waist high.

We love your site. Why did you start

I wanted to inspire surfers to take a more hands on approach to surfing. Most of the good surfers I’d had the opportunity to meet and document were very involved with their equipment – always tinkering, fixing, altering their fins, boards etc. They knew a lot about the ocean; the tides, swell direction, intervals, winds. Surfing was the just a result of being connected with your place. Where I grew up, surfing was mostly about fashion and status. I thought surfing had lost a lot of the best parts about being a surfer. I was influenced by guys like Andrew Kidman, Jack Johnson, Chris Malloy and Thomas Campbell, all who seemed to be trying to return surfing to something more contributory to society as a whole. I wanted to take the sentiment online.

What are the most rewarding parts of doing Korduroy?

When we release a video and people enjoy it.

What are the challenges and things you dislike about running a surf blog?

Many challenges, there’s no money in it so it’s all about doing it for the love of it.

How do you see the current state of online media and content in the surf world?

It’s great, I love watching the diversity of stuff. There’s the contests, independent passion projects and then all the surf edits. There’s so much more content coming out every day than there was just in 2009 it’s mindblowing.

What are your thoughts on the surf “blogosphere” phenomenon these days?

The surf blogosphere? I don’t know, I think for better or worse it’s all about Facebook and Instagram now. There was never any money in “surf blogging.” Look, surfing is about having fun and consumes a lot of time to do it well. It’s always been the king of leisure activities for cultures wealthy enough to support it. I think we are entering a time when we’ve burned through a lot of that real wealth and we’ll look at the past few decades with fond memories. I feel lucky to have played in this time.

Tell us about your latest project.

It’s called Island Earth, and it’s about the GMO controversy in Hawaii. How it came to be and potential solutions through small scale diversified agriculture. It’s been a lot of fun to explore a part of Hawaii that has nothing to do with surfing.

What do you think the global surf community needs? What is missing from our lives that you’d like to see out there?

Hmm… Well it’s very selfish now. I think everybody could really learn a lot (myself included) about the traditional Hawaiian approach to surfing. Being an advanced society they really learned how to deal with finite resources like waves. Now there’s this attitude that if I don’t take this wave someone else will and that’s a bad thing. There’s also no or little respect from beginner surfers in the lineup. But that’s not entirely their fault, they’ve just lost the role models.

You’re a writer/blogger, business owner, filmmaker, surfer, man of many talents. If you had to choose one to enjoy and make a living at for the rest of your life, which one would you choose and why?

I’d choose filmmaking for sure. I don’t know if there’s another job that gives you access to peoples lives like filmmaking. I’ve learned so much through the process, every project is like a course in life. And it feels great to capture and share the experience with others.

Check out more from Cyrus here:

Regressing Forward

/ Photography & Interview by Matt Titone

Check out more Surf Shacks here.

Matt Titone

A goofy-footed graphic designer who hails from the first state, Delaware. After attending Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL then graduating from SCAD in Savannah, GA with a BFA in Graphic Design and Illustration, Matt moved to NYC and found work as a freelance designer and art director. In 2006 he moved west to Venice, CA where he co-founded ITAL/C Studio and now resides a bit further north in Oxnard.

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