Thinking about blond beach boys and girls on sunny white beaches when surfing comes to mind? Think again. The world of surfing is much more diverse than the stereotypes. Photographer Stephan Vanfleteren proves it with Surf Tribe, an exhibition about the international surfing community in Kunsthal Rotterdam.
Stephan Vanfleteren, born and raised at the Belgian coast, exposes in his photos that surfing is more than competiton. Surfing is a culture that focuses mainly on a deep respect for the ocean. It is about the sense of nothingness against the forces of nature, about winning and losing battles with others and with themselves.
Vanfleteren traveled around the world - beyond the traditional surf spots of California and Hawaii - looking for people who live in places where oceans touch the land. He recorded an almost fluid community, with nature as its master.
Leo Cabral, free surfer/airport employee, Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil, © Stephan Vanfleteren
Corinne Helmers, free surfer/tattoo artist, Coolangatta, Queensland, Australia, © Stephan Vanfleteren
More than seventy black-and-white portraits show in Kunsthal Rotterdam the persons behind the surfers, in all their strength and vulnerability. What connects them is the love for the water and the addiction to the waves. The photographer immortalized young talent, surf icons, living legends, league surfers, freesurfers and surfing hippies. They are not depicted in action shots while riding azure waves, but in serene portraits shot in Vanfleteren’s own pure and gripping style.
‘Surf Tribe’ is an ode to the people whose souls belong to the ocean.
Surf Tribe. From 13 October to 13 January at Kunsthal Rotterdam. www.kunsthal.nl
Top image: Tamaroaarii Kalama, surf talent, Oahu, Hawaii, © Stephan Vanfleteren