interview / spencer pirdy

There’s a shitload of surf photographers that roam the Earth these days. Some are there for Instagram glory and the pat on the back of a 10k plus social following. Others are talented as all hell, but stubborn and eggy as fuck. But when you ask Corey Wilson why he’s here, he’ll tell you he’s in it for the journey; he’s in it for the people, the places, the laughs and all of the adventure that comes along with it. This guy has amazing talent, so much so that he’s arguably the best, most sought-after surf photographer in the world right now. The images speak for themselves. Whether he’s nailing the shot while keeping himself from being sucked over at Teahupoo, treading the deep sand of Pipe shadowing Mick Fanning, or scaling the Cliffs of Moher for a perfect landscape angle, Corey is constantly in the thick of the journey, excelling. While his talent is omnipresent, maybe more impressive is his positivity and yearn to progress further. If you ever have the pleasure of meeting him you’ll realize why we are all Corey Wilson fans.

Where are you from originally and where do you currently reside?
I was born in Santa Cruz, CA. I spent most of my life there before attending photography school in Santa Barbara. Now I am currently based out of Newport Beach, CA.

Tell us about the crew you grew up with, like Luke Rockhold, Miles, etc.
I try and surround myself with positive and successful people. My closest friends are doing cool shit with their lives and it inspires me to be as best as I can. We are always doing fun trips together and working on projects to further our careers. You meet lots of new faces throughout life, but none are more important that the ones that helped you get where you are today.

When did you start gaining interest in photography?
Looking through magazines seeing amazing imagery from all over the world got me curious. I knew that I wanted to travel for work and not be stuck in a cubicle. I picked up my first camera when I was about 17, and once I shot my first image that I was proud of, then I got addicted to it. I knew it was something I wanted to do for a career so I enrolled in photography school. After three years of a lot of hard work I received a bachelors degree in professional photography.

Were there local Santa Cruz photographers that inspired you?
There are quite a few photographers from Santa Cruz that inspired me to do this type of work – Dave Nelson, Nate Lawrence, Ryan Craig, and Sammy Olsen. They were always getting the best photos in the mags and traveling all over the globe. I wanted that lifestyle so bad. They inspired me to set a goal for my life, become a staff photographer for Surfing Magazine.

What’s in your equipment quiver, and who is this new friend of yours, Peggy?
I started with Nikon gear and have stuck with it since the beginning. Over the years you acquire so much equipment. Cameras break, others get flooded in your water housing and often times thousands of dollars of gear gets stolen from your car. I try and keep it as simple as possible with one main camera, one backup and a couple lenses. The Nikon 24-70mm lens rarely ever comes off my camera. I try and take my camera everywhere I go. The best images usually come when you are not expecting it.

Pegasus is my new drone that I recently brought into my quiver. She is an absolute hassle to take around the world with me but I am currently in a bet with Mick Fanning, and if I win he has to carry Pegasus everywhere we travel together.

Where’s your favorite place on earth to travel?
Everywhere in the world is different and each place has amazing things about it. It just depends on what mood you are in. If I want to go snowboarding then my favorite place is Japan. Tahiti has my favorite wave. Ireland has the best bars. Portugal has the best food. South Africa has the best wildlife. Alaska is the most beautiful. And the list goes on and on. Each place I have traveled to has something amazing about it.

What’s the best part of photography?
Being able to share my life with people through images, and being able to relive my memories in the future.

You live life on the road a majority of the year, so what’s the best part about coming home?
I often travel for months on end. After a long trip I always look forward to coming home and hanging with friends and family. It’s hard to keep in contact with friends back home when you are on the road, so whenever I am home I try and make the most of it.

What’s your favorite photograph you’ve ever taken and why?
I don’t have a favorite photo yet but I do have a favorite moment that I have captured. It was taken this year of Owen Wright and his family. In 2015 Owen had a terrible injury. In Hawaii during a surf at Pipeline Owen suffered a severe concussion and had minor bleeding of the brain. He had no clue that he was injured until he took a nap. I found him in his room pretty much unconscious. He spent weeks in the hospital and a lot of time at home treating his injury. Owen had to take an entire year off, slowly getting back into the water. While this was happening his girlfriend at the time was pregnant with Owen’s kid. Owen returned to competitive surfing in 2017 and won the first comp of the year. The entire surf industry was in tears of happiness. My favorite moment I have ever captured is when Owen and his family were on the stage after he won the comp.

Who’s your favorite subject to work with?
The best people to work with are the ones that are up for an adventure and positive on life. I have a certain surf crew that I regularly travel with and the best part of working with them is they don’t make it feel like work. Guys like Mick Fanning, Owen Wright, Matt Wilkinson, Mason Ho and Gabriel Medina are my favorite people to travel with.

What do you hope the future holds for you?
I want to keep bettering myself and grow into different genres of photography. I am ready for a change. There are some assignments coming up in the near future that will allow me to transition into bigger and better things. I’m excited for what is about to come.