Nat Cox – RC23 Featured Photographer

Nate Cox is a 20 year old filmmaker and photographer who was raised and still resides along the coast of Carpinteria, CA.

What led you to becoming a photographer?

The date is June 24th, 2015. It was a warm summer afternoon at Rincon. I was 12 years old and enjoying a quintessential beach day with friends. Per usual, we all paddled out to try our hand at catching a few waves! Though this day was different for me… Instead of riding my typical sun-beaten Wavestorm, a family friend had let me borrow their beautiful Al Merrick handshape. A bright red swallowtail with a melted wax job, I thought I would transform into Kelly Slater right then and there. It was this day that the surfing “bug” decided to bite me. Fast forward a few months, and I was all-in. DEEP Surf Magazine became my daily dose of surf culture, and during this time I was beginning to hear talk of a winter quickly approaching. My first winter season of being truly immersed in our local culture just so happened to coincide with a time we all look back on with fond memories now… that being the legendary El Niño of 2015/16. As a relatively new surfer, large El Niño surf meant one thing and one thing only for me; time out of the water. For nearly 4 months strong west swells bombarded our coastline, and It was in this time that I hung up my wetsuit, and picked up a camera. I spent nearly the entire winter riding my bike from one Carpinteria reef-break to another, all whilst making photographs of every set wave that passed through the lineup. From maxing-out Rincon, to Drake Stanley taking off on one of the biggest waves I have every seen at home… the winter of 2015/16 allowed me the opportunity to fall in love with the art of capturing moments, and has given me memories that will last a lifetime.

Tell the story behind the cover barrel gracing the RC23 Poster.

To be honest, when I first saw the RC23 poster I didn’t even know it was my photograph! This image was captured during the Rincon Brewery Pro Division final last year. I was swimming on that magical inside double-up section of The Cove with my camera and there were countless perfect waves going unridden that day… I couldn’t help but fire off a few frames.

What is it about the Rincon Classic that brings you back each year?

The Rincon Classic is so special to all of us. Everything from the history of where it started to where it is now and the generations that came before us. During the winter season, our small town revolves around Rincon. To have a local event every year where we get to highlight the best surfing, see familiar faces, and hang with friends is something I look forward to every year!

Favorite moment at the Classic?

It may be hard to pick a specific moment! Though, if I have to select a single personal experience it would be from the 2019 Rincon Classic. It was the first year the contest ran in The Cove and the waves were pumping on the afternoon of the last day. I vividly remember paddling out immediately after the last heat of the day ended and scoring perfect Rincon with only a few close friends until the sun went down!

Favorite subjects and waves to shoot?

I will point the lens at anything and everything that conveys emotion or tells a real story. As for my favorite wave to shoot, nothing comes close to Rincon and the personal connection I have there.

What would you say have been your greatest achievements behind the lens?

I would like to believe my greatest work is still ahead of me.

What is new with Nate Cox?

Things are always changing! As I shift my focus away from creating work in the surf industry, more new ideas and opportunities have presented themselves. Although there is one possible project in the works that is still surf-centered, I am very excited about the possibility of bringing it to life and sharing it with our community! Keep your eyes peeled, you will absolutely know what it is when you see it… that is if it becomes a reality of course.

How would you describe your relationship with Rincon?

Rincon is such a special place. For a lot of us, it is where we learned to surf as kids, and had some of our best waves and rides. Rincon has given me my best memories in the ocean. Everything from warm beach days as a youngster, to the longest wave of my life, to the friends I have made there. During our summer months, I dream about racing down the line on a stretched-out wall in The Cove. From the waves I have had there, to the rides I have witnessed others experience… nothing compares. I could go on for hours about Rincon, but I’ll save those words for a private conversation between The Queen and I.

Who have been your biggest inspirations and why?

There is such a long list of people and things. From artists and musicians, to films I’ve seen or places I’ve been, I try to find inspiration in different things. That said, I tend not to focus on what other photographers and filmmakers are doing. I believe that the more you inundate your eyes or obsess over other artists, the more your work will begin to look like someone else’s rather than your own. In this wild world of comparison and competition, it seems to be more and more that I notice young up-and-coming artists bowing down to their heroes and inspirations. This continues to remind me that tirelessly seeking attention, affirmation, and admiration is a race that will never be worth running. Keeping a small circle, having friends I trust, being diligent in my work, and always keeping in mind the One who created me will forever be the priority. Remembering the way that making photographs captivated me all those years ago is something i still hold on to, and continuing to learn keeps me interested. It is never-ending.

Any trips planned in the near future?

There’s nothing major on the calendar as of now! A couple trips here and there. I would love to make it out to Europe and Australia next year.

What would you tell the next generation of area youth that dream of following in your footsteps and becoming a photographer?

Do it because you love it. Chase your dreams and set goals. At all costs, do not listen to what the world tells you is right. The idea of grinding every single day, the no-sleep-until-you-make-it mentality, and the notion that if you aren’t financially successful before the age of 20 your career is over… is a trap. Go at your own pace, make things that excite you and if you feel burnt out, take a break! Good things come to those who wait.

Who are your crew?

I tend to move about alone for the most part. I always seem to enjoy the quietness and creativity that personal space gives me, but I love nothing more than walking out the Rincon gate and surfing with friends!

Are you primarily a photographer or would you consider yourself a filmmaker as well?

Photography is my first love, but in recent years I have begun to wear the “filmmaker” and “director” hat more often.

Most classic experience growing up surfing at Rincon?

Easy answer! It was Sunday, October 22nd, 2017. A late fall afternoon, and the waves were pumping. I must have been 14 or 15 at the time, and I had spent over an hour battling the crowd in The Cove with no luck. Just as the sun began to dip below the horizon, the biggest set of the day came marching around The Point. Paddling over the first one you could see what seemed like endless lines stacking to the Channel Islands… I was terrified. I barely made it under the first two waves and as I came up from a rather weak duck-dive, I saw the third wave of the set begin to hit the Rivermouth section and suck itself wide towards the inside sandbar. I continued to paddle towards the horizon, along with at least a dozen surfers next to me bumping shoulders. As the wave got closer, the crowd watched as a surfer raced down the line. With a beautiful high-line into a classic Santa Barbara bottom turn, the surfer hit the lip what felt like inches from my face. “GO GROM!” Screamed someone from on the shoulder. Before I knew what was happening the surfer had fallen in front of me and I was the one in position to go. With only a few paddles, I was in and up with more speed than I had ever experienced at that time. A crystalline wall was stretching ahead of me… Blue, backlit, it was beautiful. This wave was far beyond my young skill level, yet I believe sometimes Rincon brings out parts of our surfing we didn’t know were there. As I flew down the line, (holding on for dear life of course) I dug in my heel side edge for a shaky backside bottom turn and managed to place my surfboard into the lip. It connected. One fluid motion from bottom to top, a clean backhand snap. It was the first one I had ever done and it was pure magic. I rode that wave to the freeway and walked back up the point only to see yet another set filling into The Cove. With the sky and ocean glowing orange, it was that experience that changed my life forever, and the feeling that Rincon gave me that day is the reason I will never stop surfing.