Surf Shack: a photo series by Quinn Matthews

The "Surf Shack" series is a collection of images by Quinn Matthews featuring world-renowned surfers at several surreal locations, including in California, the Caribbean, El Salvador, France, and Panama.

Matthews is the video director for the long-awaited 2020 return of "Westside Story" to Broadway.

In his latest photography collection, the American photographer, filmmaker, and artist teamed up with digital fine art gallery Santo Gallery to deliver a surprising fusion of his skill sets and stunning imagery.

The Birth of the Photo Series

Quinn's twin brother Reed was Daniel Malikyar's (Santo Gallery co-founder) roommate and soccer teammate in college. At the time, Quinn was traveling the world documenting the world's most influential surfers.

In parallel, Daniel was doing the same with DJ Marshmello during his initial rise to fame. When they met, the two immediately connected over photography.

From the earliest phases of what would eventually become Santo, Quinn stayed top of mind as a key artist whose work to represent.

While the gallery features a diverse range of subjects, one core value is echoed throughout: participation breeds understanding.

Those who belong to their own individual subcultures reflect them best, and Quinn's photography proves as much, as his deep involvement in the surf community reveals itself in his imagery.

Quinn Matthews: an American photographer and filmmaker | Photo: Matthews Archive

The Selection Process

Santo Gallery founders and curators Rosi Norton and Daniel Malikyar accompanied surf photographer Quinn Matthews in reviewing his entire body of work, selecting imagery that played a significant role in shaping his career documenting the world of surfing.

Once a shortlist was curated, the "Surf Shack" series was narrowed down to reflect Quinn's candid and evocative style of shooting.

Featured subjects include surfers Dane Reynolds, John John Florence, Victoria Vergara, Balaram Stack, and Josie Prendergast.

Dane Reynolds

Dane Reynolds, El Salvador | Photo: Quinn Matthews

Location: El Salvador

Quinn and Dane Reynolds swam out during an odd hour when no one else was in the water.

They noticed there was turmoil in the water with fish jumping around everywhere - an indication of a shark in the area.

They felt the conditions and lack of surfers were the perfect opportunities and, despite the warning signs, kept pushing in search of the shot.

This image captured Dane's biggest ever air reverse and was the first surf magazine cover for photographer Quinn Matthews.


Sandbar Blues

Sandbar Blues, Caribbean | Photo: Quinn Matthews

Location: Caribbean

Quinn and a couple of surfers caught wind of a hidden wave out in the Caribbean.

This particular spot is a closely guarded secret, and they'd been monitoring the swell in the area and waited for the right swell to hit.

They flew in, ventured out for the spot by boat in pitch-black darkness, and almost got swallowed by a swell in the process.

When the sun came out, it revealed a perfect white sand bar out in the middle of the ocean with the bluest water you could imagine.

The white sand reflected light up from the bottom of the surface, giving a mirror effect of the sky on the glossy water.

The group surfed all morning, camped on the reef, and flew out the next day to miss the storm - a 24-hour-journey that led them to the most picturesque scenery imaginable.


John John Florence

John John Florence, Western Australia | Photo: Quinn Matthews

Location: Western Australia

Quinn and John John Florence set out to surf in the shark-infested waters of Western Australia.

As a photographer, you're a good 30 feet away from everyone in black fins and a wetsuit, easily resembling a seal.

The first thought that came to Quinn's mind while out on the water was – am I going to make it back to shore?

Despite the eeriness of the water that day, the two came together to create this beautiful image.


Hossegor Sunset

Victoria Vergara, Hossegor | Photo: Quinn Matthews

Location: Hossegor

This was Quinn's first international surf shoot - traveling out for Hurley to document some competitive surfing in France.

The conditions were non-ideal, and Quinn had pressure to find the right moment when he noticed Victoria Vergara, a young local French surfer at the time, on her longboard stylishly surfing the smaller sets.

Quinn recognized the perfect feel of the scene and captured Victoria stylishly surfing a small wave during a perfect French sunset.

Quinn described it as "warm French water on a perfect French evening."

The impromptu image went on to be the best of the trip.


The Cove

Balaram Stack, Panama | Photo: Quinn Matthews

Location: Panama

Quinn and Balaram Stack headed out to Panama in search of the perfect wave.

After two weeks of searching the outer islands, they got wind of a big swell heading their way.

The two set out with a guide in the pitch-black darkness pre-sunrise.

With no idea of where the reefs were, they took a major risk by blindly floating through the various bays to find the right wave.

When the morning came, they found a world-class wave that had never been surfed before.

This image captures the very first wave; they went on to surf it for an hour until a crazy rainstorm and high tide interrupted the session.

The two had discovered a wave at a location that had never been done before.


The Wave

The Wave, California | Photo: Quinn Matthews

Location: Laguna Beach

Early morning in Laguna, Quinn woke up to the foggiest conditions he'd ever seen in California.

You couldn't see five feet in front of you. It seemed like a terrible day to shoot, but he went out anyway.

When he got to the beach, you couldn't even see the waves breaking.

He swam out, and the fog was so thick you couldn't see, let alone hear the waves breaking.

You had about a second's notice before the wave would break, so it was almost like shooting blind.

When this perfect set came at Quinn, he was in the right place at the right time and shot the image and immediately went out on the beach to review it - he had "the one."

This image truly feels like a painting because, unlike most images of waves, the fog layer takes you out of the setting.

Feels like a tranquil moment in time with perfect textures.

This image was also a life-changing moment for Quinn. After seeing the reaction to the shot, he decided to pursue surf photography for good.


Out to Sea

Josie Prendergast, Huntington Beach | Photo: Quinn Matthews

Location: Huntington Beach

Quinn was out shooting along the California Coast for a Billabong retro-style surf campaign when he noticed a great moment on an ordinary day in Orange County.

Australian/Filipina professional longboarder Josie Prendergast was effortlessly standing up as waves approached her, giving the illusion that she was riding the wave backward (rather than paddling over as most surfers would do).

When surfing, you typically search for "movement"; it's rare that you're able to capture a perfectly minimal "moment."

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