Looking Sideways Vol. 1Inspiration
Matt Barr and Owen Tozer launch Looking Sideways Vol. 1 – A Visual Exploration of California Board Sports Culture
Photography by Owen Tozer
Matt Barr and Owen Tozer have spent over 20 years documenting the culture of Californian surf, skate, and snow. Looking Sideways Vol. 1 is their first book, a homage to the characters of the board sports scene in California.
Growing up in ‘80s Manchester, Matt Barr loved all things board sports – skateboarding, snowboarding, surfing – and hunted down every bit of magazine coverage or film content he could find, which was almost exclusively Californian. Owen Tozer, growing up in south-west England, stole Californian surf magazines from the local shop (he couldn’t afford the expensive imported mags) and obsessed over photography as he developed his own artistic talent and photography skills. California remained the mecca of board sports, even for British kids, and as the two developed their careers and passion for documenting board sports, SoCal was calling.
The pair travelled to California in 2019 to capture content for their podcast, Looking Sideways, on a journey they now refer to as a ‘pilgrimage’. Their first book, Looking Sideways Vol. 1, is a record of that pilgrimage, brought to life by Tozer’s unique portrait photography, and a roster of interviews with some of the most influential athletes and creators in Californian board sports culture.
They never intended to turn that pilgrimage into a book, but with the collection of insightful interviews conducted by Barr and portraits captured by Tozer, the pair realised just how special their trip was, and how much the Californian scene affected board sports around the globe.
For Matt, the trip was as much about gathering the stories found in the pages of the book as it was visiting the place that, he says, has influenced the course of his life from thousands of miles away.
‘With so many possible guests for the podcast, I wanted to speak to people who summed up California’s diverse contribution to the culture,’ explains Matt. ‘Because as important as traditionally venerated alphas like Herbie Fletcher are, they aren’t the whole story. Equally important, at least to my mind, are the lesser-known tales from trailblazers such as Circe Wallace, or legendary travellers like Craig Peterson and Kevin Naughton. You’ll meet them all in these pages.’
‘The focus of this trip was always the people,’ continues Owen. ‘It was such a pleasure to meet and photograph so many interesting characters and to hear some stories first hand. It makes me realise how many great stories there are, and it’s both inspiring and frustrating to know we can never hear them all. We could spend a year in California – a decade, even – and still not scratch the surface.’
On their travels from Ventura to San Diego, the pair interviewed and photographed the people who have defined and shaped modern surfing, skating, and snowboarding, from surfers Herbie Fletcher and Cori Schumacher to skater Jamie Thomas and skateboarder and snowboarder Cara-Beth Burnside. They call their book a ‘homage to an influential culture in flux, and a lovingly compiled tribute to the state that continues to define the global board-riding conversation’. Beautifully compiled and filled with interviews from the biggest names to the lesser-known trailblazers, Looking Sideways is a capsule of Barr and Tozer’s pilgrimage, and a loving tribute to board sports.
‘The feeling I get when I’m in California is that everything possible is happening simultaneously, every day,’ says Owen. ‘A million narratives crossing over at traffic lights and converging on beaches, a compelling feeling of potential, and of endless possibilities. And yet there’s a calmness. The land itself gives off a powerful sense of timelessness to me, and the images it throws up are archetypal. Each corner turned holds the potential for an iconic moment or scene made familiar by movies, surf films and magazines. The shops look cool, the signs look cool, the cars look cool. As a photographer with limited time there I want to drink it all in and savour it.’