Meet Todd Glaser: Surf Photographer And New Mizu Ambassador
Picture this… It’s 6 am at Fiji’s famous, awe-inspiring surf break, Cloudbreak. You’re out in the water amongst some of the best surfers on the planet, only you don’t have a board. You see the next heavy wave picking up and know it’s going to be fast, barreling perfection over Cloudbreak’s shallow live coral reef. You have one job to do and you can’t mess it up: capture the moment on camera as one of the world’s top pro surfers drops in.
Welcome to Todd Glaser’s world. A renowned surf photographer whose iconic images have been featured on multiple SURFER magazine covers, in the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, the New York Times, and much more, Todd is our newest Mizu advocate. While Todd may be well-known for his years capturing pro surfers’ most iconic waves and world title captures from both in and out of the water, he is equally talented shooting the lifestyle too. He’s also a great caretaker of our beautiful planet, having traveled to some of the world’s most far-flung corners and seen the impact our human actions are having on it. We couldn’t think of a better fit for Mizu, and we’re stoked to welcome Todd Glaser to our team. Read on to get to know Todd better.
Q: You've traveled with multiple-time World Champion surfers, found new waves, and made images in places that hadn't been seen before. How was that experience, and what was your biggest takeaway from the time you've spent on the road?
A: Todd - Getting to turn my passion for surfing, the ocean, travel, and photography into a career is something I never really could have imagined. Growing up pretty shy I used the camera almost as a reason to share the room or space with a lot of people I’d only seen in films or read about in magazines. I’ve always admired their passion for surfing and finding new waves and am so grateful that together we’ve shared the ride! It’s one thing to admire surfing, but to see some of these athletes’ genuine consideration for others and freakish talents outside of the water is a mere glimpse into what they do in the water. It takes a special breed to not only be able to put on a contest jersey and win titles but also drop everything at a moment’s notice, fly halfway around the world to surf what might be the swell of the year and to go the path of -- what at times might seem the most resistance -- in hopes of finding new waves all in the name of fun. Prior to the lockdown, we were on the road around 150-200 days a year for several years...When you’re living a life so much on the road it seems oddly normal being surrounded by so many doing the same thing, following their dreams, and seeing the world at the same time. It’s only when you slow down and take a step back that you realize how fortunate we all are for those opportunities and however great they are, having a good routine at home is equally fulfilling.
Q: What’s it really like to be in the ocean -- just you and your camera -- navigating some of the world’s most intimidating and powerful waves?
A: Todd - The ocean is constantly changing, which teaches us to be patient but open to change, while also being prepared for any sort of situation. With a lot of sports, you wake up knowing that the big game is two Sundays from next week, whereas with surfing and water photography you’re working with nature. Maybe not even working with… more responding to nature. There was a time when my phone would ring and I’d be on the plane that night swimming around in really big waves halfway around the world the next day so we always had to be prepared. Being in the ocean with or without a camera is my happy place. It’s where I feel most comfortable and it’s up to me and my own experience to decide where I should be and when. To me, there’s no better feeling in the world than swimming around being both physically and mentally challenged by the ocean.
Q: We’re seeing you around North County San Diego more than we ever did before which we guess means you are spending less time chasing waves. What does life look like for Todd Glaser today?
A: Todd - It’s kind of funny, but there was a time when I don’t think I spent more than 6 weeks in San Diego at once for more than 15 years. Crazy to think about that now considering it’s September and I haven’t been on a plane in 9 months! Life is really good right now and I’m not living a life of reactionary impulse based on the size of the storms in the ocean. We have friends at home that my wife Jenna and I can make real plans with knowing that we’re not going to flake. Enjoying simple pleasures like walking to the beach, going for a swim, or heading out on a bike ride has brought our relationship closer. What’s more, I’ve developed a passion for cycling (which Jenna loves) so we’ve been able to get that same sense of adventure but much closer to home.
Q: Rumor has it you and Mizu co-founder Jussi Oksanen are friends and can be spotted wearing Spandex together on your road bikes. What’s up with that?
A: Todd - Let’s just say Jussi is no slouch on the bike… He’s fast, real fast, but besides that, you can feel that sense of adventure that he has in his blood since so many years of snowboarding. Similar to the way I love to surf and make images in the earliest rays of light, that’s when you can find Jussi on his bike. His idea of a mellow ride is totally biased and usually makes your legs hurt but in the best way possible. The only way to slow him down is to ride in the afternoon when it’s hot -- his Finnish blood can’t handle the heat!
Q: We also heard you are showing him the ropes on how to take underwater photography. True story?
A: Todd - He’s a natural! Photography is such a great way to connect with fellow photographers, artists, musicians, and people in general. When Jussi mentioned he wanted to try water photography I knew he’d be a natural, but also have a fresh perspective. Most importantly I wanted his first experience to be safe (that’s the inner lifeguard in me.) But going back through the images after our session I really understood that a creative is a creative, and given a little time they can compose, capture, and create in any situation. We’ve only shot in the summer, but I’m excited to get him out there when the surfs a little colder...
Q: We are so stoked to have you join Mizu as an ambassador. Why did you feel it would be a good fit for you?
A: Todd - I’m so stoked to partner with a brand like Mizu that embodies the ethos of living a life of adventure, minimal environmental impact, and maximum fun! The increase of waste and plastic consumption is filling our landfills and beaches, all while depleting our natural resources and creating a pro-consumer/waste life. No one is perfect and unfortunately, as the world gets busier it is easier to make excuses in the name of ease. But what’s better than leaving a place looking better than you found it? Part of that is being responsible for how we choose to create a reusable system in our day-to-day lives. My wife and I have used the same cutlery set for three years now along with our reusable bottles and coffee cups. Last year we made a pledge to see how many cups we could NOT use and over the course of a lot of traveling ended up using only 6 paper coffee cups in total.
Mizu not only stands by its products but the company was born out of necessity by environmentally conscious athletes themselves. They genuinely want to inspire positive change. Also, in addition to helping us minimize our waste further through our partnership, Jussi promised to show us some of his favorite camping spots, haha!
Q: What 3 tips would you have for any budding surf photographers who are reading this, and wondering how to make a career out of their passion?
1 - Fall in love with the ocean, your craft, the outdoors. It’s so important to love what you do and embrace the challenges that arise…Anyone who has ever succeeded in their passions has put in more work, more time, more training than the others. For some, it comes easy, but without a work ethic, you will never know your full potential.
2 - Set your alarm clock early, then set another one an hour before that! Morning light is so beautiful and has the greatest range of tones from pitch black to purple dawn, orange skies to bright blue all within an hour or so. It’s the beginning of the day, a new beginning…capture it!
3 - HAVE FUN and leave the beach cleaner than when you got there.
Friday 09-18 at 9am PST
Instagram Live Q&A with Todd Glaser @mizulife
Hosted by Mizu Co-Founder Jussi Oksanen