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A Conversation with Jakob Gjerluff

There’s two types of surfers in the world: the cold water ones, and the warm waters. The decision doesn’t depend on you, but it depends on where you are born and raised at. As for Jakob, capturing the cold and remote places of Scandinavian countries with his camera wasn’t something necessarily rational, but it was only what he was used to. The cold, the wind, the endless road, the white mountains, the outdoors – it was his whole life, and instead of complaining about where he was at and taking it for granted, he decided to give it a chance. Allow himself to fall all over again for his country and the ones next to it.

Regardless, he could have hated it. Not anyone enjoys the freezing weather and the sketchy adventures that are never entirely secure, but he fell in love with it. With the help of his camera, he is now taking a place next to some of the greatest photographers of our time with his adventures and his focus on arctic places. Digging through his works is like putting yourself in a situation of vulnerability, something we’re strangers to – it feels like a different world, and it makes us dream.

Fascinated by his works and the way he transports us into his own little universe fulfilled by adventures & adrenalines, we decided to email him and chat a bit more about life in Denmark, how it all started and his exciting stories. 

Lad os gå?

Name: Jakob Gjerluff Ager

Age:  25

Resides in: Århus – Denmark. But traveling a lot between Denmark, Norway and Canada. 

I heard you’ve always been inspired by Chris Burkard and crazily enough, your first published work was shots of cold water surf that you took in Lofoten – the same location as one of your favourite pictures of Burkard. Are you looking up to any other photographers to keep yourself inspired? 

If you check on my Instagram account, I am currently following 766 great and inspiring photographers and photo collectives. I believe that exposing yourself to different kind of photography everyday will help you grow as a photographer and help you in terms of finding your own style. It is all about taking inspiration from your idols! 

Chris Burkard has always been a huge influence on my photography and his whole lifestyle and life story has always been something in which I try to compare myself and work towards. I was so lucky to meet him once in Portland in the SnowPeak shop. Me and my girlfriend were traveling through Washington and Oregon, we sniffed up that he was going to be around. I was totally starstruck a whole evening as we sat at the screening of his film “Cradle of Storms” and still at the afterward chat. He promised me to visit Denmark aka Cold Hawaii – hope to hold him up on his word in the future!

As for other photographers, I would like to make a shout out to Morgan Maassen (@morganmaassen), which is also a very talented surf photographer who really found his own style and is living the dream! His photography is very distinct – you can always tell if it is a “Maassen”. I hope to stand out from the crowd like him one day!

It’s easy to get lost in your pictures as they bring us something we aren’t used to see – cold far-off destinations, that involves adrenalines, adventures, but more especially, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. How did you become interested in photography? I’ve read somewhere that you learned by yourself, so you must have been really motivated! 

I wrote in my bio that I’m specialized in cold, wet and windblown places. It really was not a choice I made, as I grew up on the danish west coast and travelled a lot throughout Scandinavia as a child. In primary school, I did not feel as the other kids who played soccer or badminton. I was always more into skiing, surfing and sailing. A huge part of that scene is magazines filled with amazing pictures and of course, edits and movies. From a very young age, I dreamed of being part of those pictures and movies, either as an athlete or the photographer. 

As I grew older, I moved to Norway to become a ski instructor in Trysil at the Norwegian Skiing Academy. I should only have been there one season, but I ended up staying for 5 years. I lived in the mountains – skiing in the winter and rafting and kayaking on the rivers in the summer. This was here my photography career sparked and when I found out that this is something I wanted to do for a living. Today, it has only been a couple of years since I took photography more seriously for the first time and it has just been a ride since then!  

How was growing up in Denmark like? Were you surrounded by the outdoor since you were a kid? 

It was amazing! I mean, Denmark is flat like a pancake. The highest point being only 172metres above sea level, so there was not any mountains while growing up, but we were surrounded by water. From a young age, I was thrown in both the relative harsh and cold North sea separating Denmark and England and the Ringkøbing Fjord which is more like a water playground for all ages. It is known as one of the best places to surf in northern Europe and I spend my childhood and teenage years kitesurfing and sailing almost every day. In addition, both Sweden and Norway is only a day trip away so we spent many vacations in the mountains during winter and summer. In that way, the outdoors has been a great part of my life from a young age and I am so thankful for that.

You’ve been a tour guide in Norway for about 5 years, exploring all over Scandinavian countries and sharing your pictures at the same time. I imagine being in the heart of the action can get pretty dangerous sometimes, especially when you’re alone or surrounded by a group of people that entirely trust you. Have you ever experienced any scary moments?

There has been a few close calls throughout out the years. Both for me and my guests. A lot of what we do includes some kind of risk calculation. How risky is it? Is it worth it? It’s really down to cost/benefit. For outsiders, some of the things we do may look insane and stupid, but most of what we do is something we have trained for during many years. Every turn on the mountains is calculated and all risks discussed.
That said, nature always gets the last word and no matter how much you train and prepare, there is always going to be an uncertainty. That is also where the magic lies. It is what makes us feel small and insignificant – it is an amazing feeling! 

You’ve travelled to many different locations in the world, but you still end up chasing the cold remote places instead of warm countries. What is it about the cold environment that you are so hooked on? 

I love traveling and I have been lucky to be able to travel to a lot of fantastic places, both with my family and by myself. I love being in warm countries and enjoy walking around in my bathing trunks and scuba diving in glass clear waters, but there is something extra about cold places. I feel more at home here and I feel I can tell more authentic stories with my photography from these places. I connect on a whole other level and I hope you can feel that in my pictures! I’m also inspired by the people who does not need a white beach and warm waters to go surfing. Guys and girls who overcome freezing temperatures and howling winds to have a good time. The harder you work for something, the greater the payoff! Cold water surfers are some of the most stoked people you will ever meet! 

When shooting, do you have a main purpose that you want to share with people following your work or you simply keep yourself free from any thoughts, being in the moment? 

Technically, I try to keep my photography as intuitive as possible, trying to keep it organic. I want to put people in more extreme places and I try to inspire people to get out and find beauty and joy in harsh environments. I want to tell the stories of people who already do and show how many good times they are having! 

I believe you started school last year in “Multiplatform Story Telling and Production”. Was it hard to go back in classrooms to listen to people talk when you’ve been out exploring the world for so long? What made you decided to go back? 

That’s true, I went back to school last year at my home in Denmark. I decided to go because I felt that it was now or never in terms of education. I was diagnosed with a chronic disease last year, it is not as bad as it sounds, but I had to be in Denmark for a longer period for checkups and such. It was a way to make the best of it.
The school is basically a film school and I found it to be a great addition to my photography and storytelling. It has been a real struggle to move to a big city and not being able to travel as much. On the other hand, it has given me the time to set back and think about my photography, lay down strategies and develop my career business wise. In Denmark, you get paid to go to school (yeah, that’s right!) so I don’t need to worry about jobs and such at the moment.

While digging through your work, I remember liking pictures that you’ve taken back home, then suddenly, I realized you were in Vancouver! Would you say that British Columbia is quite similar to where you’re from? Would you ever consider moving there for a while to explore the wilderness that it has to offer? 

I lost my heart in Vancouver and Canada some years ago. Since then, I’ve visited a lot as my girlfriend lives in West Vancouver and studies at UBC. The climate is quite similar and the people are too. I kind of feel at home there already, and through my girlfriend and interests, I already made a ton of good friends. It just has so much potential in terms of cold water surfing, skiing, mountain biking, hiking and photography! I always said that Canada is like Scandinavia on steroids! I’m not only considering moving, I am 100% positive that i will live in British Columbia for a long period at some point. At the moment, I’m trying to visit around 3 times a year. 

If you’re not shooting, exploring, or learning in a classroom, what can we expect to find you doing? 

When I have days off (days without the camera are important), I usually drive back home in my birth town Ringkøbing, where my parents still live. We have a little cottage at the beach, right at the edge of the North sea. It is my absolute favorite place in the world! So, you’ll probably find me chilling there, surfing with my buddies, eating seafood and enjoying life at its fullest! 

If we talk about the future – where would you be in 10 years? Any goals/ideas? 

I hope that I am going to be able to live because of my camera. I hope to be able to travel the world and share my moments with great friends and loved ones. I hope to have my own little gallery somewhere by the coast and working with some cool outdoor companies!

My next step in trying to publish some of my stuff in a coffee table book, a Scandinavian cold water surf film and a little temporary gallery in an old German bunker.

I’m working with a couple of great companies at the moment and the future looks super exciting! 

Thanks for reading 🙂 #staywild #staywet #nopalmtrees

Follow Jakob through his Instagram/Website

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