Ironically, far beyond its suggestion of a life behind bars, the term "lifer" also refers to freedom. It’s a freedom to dedicate oneself fully to a passion, and to let that pursuit form a basis of who one is.
In the action-sports world, we often find these lifers out on dawn patrol or setting the skin track — the guys and girls who endure the bad days because they know just how worth it it is for the good ones.
These are the people who sports photographer Matt Alberts set out to document in 2013. After falling in love with the wet-collodion photography process — an old-school, long-exposure photography medium that is processed on a sheet of metal with the help of silver nitrate — he set out in an Airstream trailer to travel the American Southwest in search of lifelong skateboarders along the iconic Route 66, and The LIFERS Project was born.
The unique process takes time, but it’s an investment that Alberts feels reflects the dedication of his subjects. “With its sensitivity to UV light and long exposure times, wet collodion is believed to have the ability to see beneath the skin, revealing one's soul and character,” notes Alberts on his website.
From his initial trip through California, Arizona and Mexico, Alberts was so blown away by the people he met along the way that he decided to create “The Seasons Collection,” a multimedia collaboration with Cadillac that tells the stories of action-sports lifers pursuing their passions in a variety of media. Split into three distinct realms — SNOW, SUN and WATER — the LIFERS Project focuses on skating, skiing, snowboarding and surfing, as well as the lifestyles and characters that go with them.
After following skaters in California, and skiers and snowboarders throughout the mountain West, Alberts travels to New Jersey for the first chapter of his WATER series, documenting the unique surf culture of the Northeastern U.S. Along the way he runs into local surf-shop owners Chris Cooper and Mesanko, area legend Dean Randazzo and pro surfer Sam Hammer, all of whom have grown up through the trials and tribulations of finicky East Coast surf.
“You have to want to surf to be a surfer here,” says Hammer, one of the most accomplished pros ever to come out of New Jersey, in the video. “It’s always changing, it’s windy, it’s cold. Most of our best days are when people don’t even want to be on the beach.”
It’s this type of dedication, not the conditions, that draw Alberts and his project to the Northeast. Follow The Seasons Collection as they make their way north for the next episode of WATER, diving deep into the New York City surf scene.
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