Tommaso Varriale Interview

Tommaso Varriale is an italian surfer and freelance photographer. Born in Rimini in 1986, Tommaso began to travel around the world since the early years of his life. From his own travels was born the passion for photography.

Hello Tommaso. So! What else can we say to introduce yourself?

Hi Davide, as you just pointed out, i started travelling very early, when i was child, joining my parents’ trips, mostly in the wintertime. These very long holidays lead me to approach photography and surfing, two worlds which still totally influence my life. I remember this clear shot of my childhood: mummy and daddy skipping all the queue of parents waiting for teachers ( many hours to know the kids’ marks and behaviours, during the school meetings), and going directly to the director, just to communicate our next trip’s dates. They firmely believed this travels would have educated me much more then a traditional school routine.

So i grew up in this open-minded lifestyle, for sure un-common, and i started to practise sports as much free, as skating (at that time mostly unknown…) and surfing. Year by year, i went on improving photography more seriously, using it even for my surfing experiences, and always at little steps, i begun to work with specialized magazines…of course never leaving my surfboard!

Let’s talk about you as surfer. I saw you taking waves in Sri Lanka, Morocco and Canary Islands. What we add to the list?

Well, i would have many many others countries and coasts to add to this list, mostly the ones where surfing built a real culture – as California, Hawaii, Indonesia. I was lucky enough to travel a lot, but not always in the famous “surfer lands”. Anyway, i always brought everywhere with me my two big passions…in India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Saint Domingo, Canaries, Maroque, Spain, France and many others which honestly I forgot. I spent my past wintertimes mostly in Sri Lanka, a wonderful country where i could really practise and learning . Even if there are not so much spots and different kind of waves up there, i consider myself as a surfer with lot of road ahead!

I begun surfing in my little town, Rivabella, where the sea is just in front of my door, and this remains my favourite beach, even if not famous for the italian surf-culture, at the same time, i never stop seeking for other waves, in much wider seas, adding even pieces to my surf. Now, with a rich quiver and using many different boards, as i like, i can say it’s a real fun every time i meet the water.

Which of these trips is in your heart? And what is your next destination?

Actually, i would say Sri Lanka! In the last few years, it was nearly my second house…a real paradise where living far from worries and concentrating on waves for entire mounths. a real different habit from our western stressed life! It ‘s not for case that they call Sri Lanka “ the land of smile”.

My next destination? Really don’t know. Actually i’m working on video making, so would be great to find a good set for maybe a real movie…lots of ideas are already waiting in the drawer (that’s a secret space). At the moment, waiting for the next surfing trip, i’m looking forward to visit Sardinia with some friends.

You live the surf in a spiritual way, a sort of return to the origins. About this, what do you say of the Alaia board?

Mmm…I would say it’s not that i live surfing in a spiritual way. This surfing world helps me definitely to explore a deep spiritual aspect of my life, i always nourished, a real heritage of Aurelia and Paolo, my amazing parents. I was always impressed by Divine Light, by everything which spreads all around joy, love and serenity…trought the teachings of yoga, prayers and other spiritual trainings, i can say smile is my everyday life attitude! Very far from all that habits which damage body and soul. This spiritual way of looking all that exists, is also what i try to express in my photo work, in my surfing style and in my every single thought…as somebody said “seek for God, and everything else will come to you (…)“.

Your one is a very interesting question, but i cannot say to have been influenced by Mantras, in my approaching Alaja-boards, but in a very simply way, Thomas Campbell’s performances! When i saw for my first time, The Present, one of his masterpiece, i was completely shocked from Rasta, Delmoro, Malloy which surf with that wooden board in Waimea Bay without any fins! How crazy ! I was So excited, that i contacted, while organizing my Sri Lanka departure, “Alaia Religion”, a team of Italian guys which shape and design this kind of pure boards, and which started immediately to project for me a special Alaia, shaped for the reef, so i was also able to shot some pics of this new experiment. Well, it was not always easy, sometimes i found rough sea, strong wind and (impegnative) waves, and i have to say it’s an hard job to surf with a wooden table, which neither can floating, and does not listen at all to your needs!!! But the result was a nice photo session, and the best wape out ever done! Using that board on a glassy waves, i could concentrate on little movements, balance, improving my feet’s sensitivity but forgetting big actions. Alaja design is really different by a common surfboard, you can get an impressive speed as there is not any fins helping, frictioning or stabilizing. But i received the best gift exactly from Dave Rastovich ( the same who gave birth to all this project, inspiring me with his video), during his Italian tour, could mark his label on a Alaia-board I was shaping, what an unforgettable experience!

We close this first argument. I saw that you’re supported by some sponsors. Usually there is a duty to mention them. Who are they and what do they do for you?

Everything started by trying Greenfix Surfwax, a 100 % ecological wax which doesn’t melt under the sun and more, it has a powerfull grip! I’m that kind of person who like to appreciate all what I consider good, and so i called the retailer to make them my congratulations, to trust in a Eco surf products! Ordering even some stuff, so that i discovered this web site That’s a new italian retailer which sells as much as possible ecological products. During our first meeting, i showed them my portfolio and future projects; their interest lead us to a fruitful collaboration, so that now i became their slider, giving my exchange keeping their label on all my videos, photos reports and interviews.

Slidetribe supports me with lots of technical stuff, as wax, leash, bags. I’m just waiting for my new 4’3 and 3’3 wetsuits to try on! They are always very kind providing all my needs as a surfer, and i’m so thankful for this! One of my next projects is, an upcoming retailer for long, short, SUP and much more quality products. That’s thanks to a very good friend if i was proposed as a freesurfer and video maker for these surfboards. So we are going to realize a short movie full of actions, about how to use a 9’1 super-performing longboard at his best! Sputnik Cosmik Toys for the boardshorts!

Now let’s talk photography. Where and when exactly this passion was born?

To be honest, i think there is not a precise birthday. I remember that year i had to leave for India, and just the day before departure, i included in the luggage my father’s analogical Pentax camera, and a countless set of films for all cases…well, but i don’t want to remember the bill for printing all that. Of course, i absolutely think that’s the best way to improve! How many mistakes. Yes, i studied photography at school, but i practised mostly by myself…shooting and shooting and shooting, it’s the best way to get good results, together with a bit of talent, insight, and a loud alarm clock to wake you up at the best moments: sunrise, sunset, twilight…!

Today i prefer using digital technology, even because of my many video projects; with the latest version of Canon EOS 60D i got high quallty both in photo-sessions that in HD-movie. Well, video add to photography the chance to hear, and if you find the right music for the rhythm of the action, the final feedback become much more exiting! medium format is not something i use so often, because of the high costs and even for the uncertainty of results, but i agree with all that reporters which honour its finest film grain. In some occasion, when the theme is delightful, i like to approach 6 x 6 film.

What gave you the most satisfaction until now? What is the greatest reward you’ve had?

Absolutely my first publication on a surf-magazine, one and half page only for me! What an unforgettable moment! One day, my friend Roberto comes to me asking to join him in his trip to Varazze, to make some good photos: the weather forecasts had preview a very big swell, which still we rember. It was in december, 2005 the 5th . Well, i was at my very beginning in practising photography, of course never took any photos of surfing, but…why not? I jumped obviously in this adventure! We arrived in Varazze during the night, and the sea was already so loud! At our awakening, the show was really unbelieveble: i neither though it was possible to see a big swell like that in my area…well, my surfing experience had only two years of life, at that time! Roberto gave me (diapositive) slide films and a camera, and i started shooting . Unexpectedly Emiliano Cataldi, a talent surfer, sprang out and jumped into this big session, and i was lucky enough to catched him while he was surfing into a perfect tube riding. For at least 10 days, that photo was my first though…did i shot at the right moment? Were exposure, diaphragm, framing, everything correct?? Ah, the alchemy of analogical cameras! Well, seeing the “best photo of the year”, printed out on a real magazine, just after my first day as a photo-reporter, was the best ever reward ever!

I saw your report on Dreams Up Life. Who usually cooperates?

The photo of Varazze was edited by Surflatino. They used many other photos of France, Sri Lanka, Italy surftrips on their publications .

I surely want to say thanks to Roberto from a precious friend! For the many chances he gave me to believe in my work, going on improving and the many satisfying experiences!

I also worked as a photographer and slider for Surfsession, Surfnews,…see my hang five on Surfguide 2010, Romagna section. Then, Cristian Corradin gave birth to his free magazine Dreams Up Life publishing even many of my works and a long 12-pages-report about Sri Lanka…that has been my first cover! What a great emotion!

I close with this question. Then: surfing and photography! In front of a beautiful swell, which of the two you renounce?

This is really an interesting question. A short time ago, if the swell was too big, i always ended up to my camera, until i was exausted.. that was like a surfing session. But today i prefer photographing lightning, sunsets, uncommon situations, and in many other moments. But in case of waves, i give my camera to some friends and i go in!
Well Tommaso, thanks for conversation. Want to say something else?

That was really a pleasure to have this interesting chat with you, Davide, really thanks! I love to remember my wonderful past and present story, and many adventures of my entire life. This is also a good occasion to thanks, my wonderful parents Paolo and Aurelia, my girlfriend Ketty (she’s also an artist and surfer all my friends! and all the being which walked with me, guiding and supporting me in my every project! Matteo Paganelli, the movie maker who’s collaborating with me now, and finally, the most important: God, which is so great to give a so precious, rich, joyfull life, always full ofsuprises!

Interview: Davide Fioraso

In our featured section instead, you will find an extract of Thomas Varriale Photography.

The photos on this itw of Tommaso in action are by KettyArt – Mauro Ladu – Baba – Ilaria Morresi.