'Don’t let fear influence the choices you make.’
One Endeavour was given this stand-out piece of advice recently by Jop Hermans; surfer, photographer and all-round inspirational figure.
We caught up with him as he was about to head out on his annual winter pilgrimage along the rugged Atlantic coast of Europe in search of surf and solitude. Jop spends four or five months a year living out of a camper van, while touring the best breaks the continent has to offer and taking great photos.
A Dutch national, he spends his summers at the coast as well, but back home in The Netherlands in a small village called Scheveningen, close to The Hague.
This might seem like a rather itinerant lifestyle for a 35-year-old, but Jop says it is the result of some soul-searching in his late twenties when he realised he wasn’t completely happy with his life.
He says: “I come from a fairly ordinary background made up of work, sport, family and friends, and I never really felt the need to go out and explore in my early years. I just ran with the plan without asking myself any questions.”
“I tried to be a 9 to 5 man until I was 29, but it didn’t suit me well. Then some changes took place in my life that helped me to get out of my comfort zone, take chances and put myself in challenging unknown situations. Doing this made me really feel alive, like I was participating in life, and I realised that my agenda had been filled for years with things I didn’t care about. At that point I decided to turn things around.”
As you might expect, Jop is happiest away from the rush of the city, preferring the outdoor life. He is focused on combining his love for photography and surfing into a commercial enterprise that will support him in the future, but while he works towards that he accepts a fairly basic lifestyle during the winter. Despite the hardships though, he says there is real beauty to be found in such experiences.
“I believe beauty can be found in small things when you wake up surrounded by nature. What I love most are the crisp, sunny mornings when you are breathing steam waiting for the sun to come up. I start off wearing my winter jacket, then I’m in shorts by noon.”
“It sounds romantic, but Portuguese winters bring all kinds of weather. You also have to be ready to sleep under cold damp blankets and put on wet clothes in the morning. Every coffee bar becomes a possible stand-in home to escape the outdoors, but you’ve got to love it all.”
He adds: “In many ways, it’s the people you meet that make the trip. Those I meet on the road can’t be categorised into types, because they are so different. Mostly I meet people who share my passion for surf and photography and who have decided to tackle life in a different way."
Jop has found that the more time and effort he puts into his photography business, the more recognition he is getting from the surf community. He has already immortalised a number of classic surf encounters in Portugal because he was in the right place at the right time.
He says: “I am learning that the more time I spend behind the lens, or editing images, talking to surfers and other photographers and following surf forecasts, the more people contact me via social media interested in my images.”
"The best part of working like that is the interaction with the people who surf, as a result I get the opportunity to follow exciting young surfers around the southern beaches of Portugal.”
Jop’s most memorable surf photography experience came during the first winter he decided to fully focus on this way of life.
I was in St Nazaré, Portugal, and a giant swell was predicted to arrive. I had never witnessed anything like it before and wasn’t sure what to expect, but I ended up seeing a serious day of big wave surfing that culminated with Sebastian Steudtner surfing a 90ft wave!”
Jop says he is proud of himself for making the decision to follow his heart without making any compromises, but admits it hasn’t been an easy path to follow.
His final word.
“The thought of not knowing what next year will look like does make me nervous, but I have learnt that doing what you love pays off eventually. I can look back and be proud of what I did and who I became.”