“the feeling of driving to the beach, the heart rate goes up when you think there's a decent swell and you're going to get that first look…”
From Cornwall to Nova Scotia, cold water surf to very cold water surf. We caught up with Adam Cornick to talk about Canada's ocean playground, the pursuit of adventure in -20c winds and the cold water surf scene in Nova Scotia.
How did you end up in Nova Scotia?
Around a decade ago I was living in Cornwall with my Canadian girlfriend, who after years of living in the UK, asked whether I'd be up for relocating to Canada. I'd previously spent many years working and travelling around the world, but usually in warm climates to escape the UK winter. I knew it would be a life adjustment but I was well up for the experience. After I received my Canadian residency we quit our jobs, sold all of our belongings except a backpack of clothes and a surfboard each and bought 2 one-way tickets to Canada.
How was the transition from Cornwall to Canada?
My girlfriend, now wife, is originally from Ottawa which is a 15 hour drive from the coast so I was never too keen on moving there having lived by the sea my whole life. We did a little research but it really ended up being a bit of a finger on the map moment and the finger hit Halifax in Nova Scotia. I could see it had a long and exposed coastline with potential to pick up Atlantic swells and from what I could see there was a very photogenic landscape too. When we arrived in Halifax we didn't really know anyone, had nowhere to live and had no jobs lined up, so we certainly did things the hard way. The next few years was about building a life here and putting the puzzle pieces together. As we've lived here for coming up to ten years now, we feel increasingly confident that we made a great decision, we love it here. Halifax as a city is a great place to live and raise our kids with clean sea air and lots of outdoors to explore. We have beaches a short drive from the city, we have lakes to swim in basically in our backyard, outdoor ice skating rinks and a ski hill 45 minutes away.
What might an adventurer find there?
Nova Scotia is a picturesque Maritime province that attracts a lot of tourists who come to sample the slow, simple and friendly way of life. Locations like Lunenburg, Peggy's Cove and the Bay of Fundy, with the biggest tides in the world, are all big draw cards. There's also a recent upswing in the amount of craft breweries, distilleries and vineyards around the province which are a welcome addition. Nova Scotia has a diverse landscape all surrounded by ocean and you're never too far from the sea. The car license plates here reads "Canada's Ocean Playground" and with nearly 4000 offshore islands and a little over 7500km of coastline, it's not hard to see why. For me, the icing on the cake is Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail in particular. I've been lucky enough to shoot assignments on the Cabot Trail for the last two years that corresponds with the leaves being in full colour at the end of October and it remains one of my favourite locations to explore and capture shots.
Tell us about the surf...
There's surf potential along the whole Atlantic coast but it's getting to know the conditions and knowing when each spot will be working. Once you have that knowledge it’ll help to make the decision on when to jump in the car and take a drive to the spots a little further away from the popular spots near the city. Local surfers keep an eye on the weather charts when it's hurricane season as the large swells can light up even the sleepiest of spots. Generally the surf can be a little lethargic during the summer months but really fire up during hurricane season and in to winter, but winter comes with its own set of challenges.
Just how harsh are the seasons?
Winter can be pretty brutal. We get a few severe winter storms each year which usually results in a substantial dump of snow. Those storms usually bring a decent amount of swell due to the storm system and is usually when I need to shovel the car out of the yard and take the camera out to get shots as I think it creates the most eye catching surfscapes. It starts getting cold in November and doesn’t really warm up again until late Spring, so the winter can feel like it’ll never end. Water temperatures can vary a lot over the course of the year. In the dark depths of winter the sea can get below 0oc and actually start to turn to ice slush, which makes duck-diving a slightly unpleasant experience. Summertime can see the ocean get as warm as 20oc, but with a strong Northerly wind can drop to single digits overnight which is a jolt to the system. Winter sessions require 6 mil hooded wetsuits and at least as thick mitts and booties. The hardest part is getting in and out of your wetsuit when the windchill Is in the -20s. Quite a few people opt to drive home in their wetsuit which is a safer option. In mid winter there can be frost bite warnings when the windchill becomes dangerous. Being surrounded by the ocean does mould our weather patterns and it’s not unusual to get a front of mild weather sweep through and melt all the snow and ice for a couple of days before it cools off again. Summers, despite never being long enough, can be stunning with hot days that cool off at night unlike a lot of the country that can be uncomfortably hot and humid day and night.
What inspires your photography?
The photos I’ve featured highlight the extreme winter conditions along with the beauty it can produce. I previously awaited winter with a mixture of dread and anxiety but now look forward to what it has to offer. I've learnt that dressing in the right clothes for the conditions is paramount and then the only restriction is your enthusiasm for getting out there. In 2016 I finally realized a dream and quit my less than creative office job to pursue my photography full time after it became too tricky to balance the two when the photography started to take off. Shooting winter content has been a large percentage of my commercial work within the realms of tourism, lifestyle, architecture and winter sports. When I'm shooting surfing I try to capture the scene in a way that involves the viewer, as if they are coming over the hill and seeing a scene for the first time. I'm trying to replicate the feeling of driving to the beach, the heart rate goes up when you think there's a decent swell and you're going to get that first look.
Roaming with the wind, choosing destinations by dropping a pin somewhere on a map and connecting with the wild are vibes that we hold close to our hearts at Passenger. Adam is one of those guys living a lifestyle that is inspiring. His stories stirr feelings to go out and seek adventure ourselves, embrace the elements not matter how far or near (or cold).
Images By Adam Cornick @acorn_art_photography