Over the past 10 years, MAGNETIC has been helping brands find their True North, to essentially find their place in this crowded world. As a branding agency we help companies navigate the waters of self-discovery and realization so that they have a consistent point of reference as they steer their business. This week I was able to spend some time with Ryan Moss to scratch the surface of who he is, where he draws creative inspiration from and what True North means to him.
If you aren’t familiar with Ryan, he is a native Californian from the central coast, but he also spends much of his time in Hawaii chasing surf both on board and with camera. A self-taught creative, Ryan has solidified his place in the world of surf and nature photography. Ryan has worked with clients including, Adidas, Red Bull, Surfing Magazine, Oakley, Fugoo, Reef, ESPN and has traveled the world photographing some of the most beautiful places on the planet.
Q: What is your definition of Adventure?
A: Reinhold Messener who is considered the world’s greatest mountaineer I think said it best:
Adventuring is adventuring and you can do it if you are on your own and you carry all your responsibilities on an ascent and descent. Sport is not adventure, sport you can count the minutes and seconds. Adventuring has to do with private, personal experiences. But the possibilities are endless, there are millions of mountains unclimbed.
I think the term adventuring is one of the most overused word these days and has sadly lost a lot of its meaning. For me an adventure is something that is going to take you to that edge and make you walk that fine line between being extremely uncomfortable and finding pure bliss. When I find out something has been done, the whole allure of whatever it is kind of loses its meaning to me. It’s inevitable that we are likely going to repeat something that someone has already done, but I want to try and find something… I want to find a line on a mountain or a wave… or put myself in a situation that pushes my abilities to their absolute limits but I also want it to not previously been done if that makes sense.
The rare times I have put myself in those situations the entire experience consumed me. If I failed, it would consume me. I would sit there and dream about the next time I could go back. For the times I was successful, I was in a state of pure bliss. Humbled with an overwhelming sense of just being present and a sense of accomplishment overtook my body.
Q: Ryan, What does the concept of True North mean to you?
A: In a time where the message has become diluted, much like a socked in day up in the mountains, it can be hard for individuals and companies to find their path. There are so many brands, agencies, influencers all trying to sell you on walking the same path , the same trail.
Robert Frost wrote once about two roads diverging into the woods and he chose the one less traveled and it made all of the difference. To me that’s what True North means. It means finding your way, your brand, your message, yourself. Not because you’re following all the trends… but, because you’re paving a way for the next trend, the future. I don’t want to do the Pacific Coast Trail or the John Muir trail, not because I don’t have a deep appreciation for nature, or a respect for the people who paved it, but because everyone is doing it.
I want to find some line across an unknown tropical mountain range or peak and let my imagination run wild. I want to be scared. I want to embrace every moment and savor it. I want the unknown. That to me is where all the magic happens and truly great images are created. Capturing and documenting all the emotion, fear, joy, blood, sweat and tears that go into paving the way for others is what excites me most.
Q: Describe a time when the odds were stacked against you, but you decided to move forward anyways. How did it work out?
A: Haha…. Well I have a few of these stories. I think it’s due to my over ambitious attitude and wanting to just go for it. In 2013 I set out to be the second person to traverse the entire Koolau Summit Range on Oahu. The kicker was I was going to attempt and be the first person to ever do it completely solo, self-contained, with no backpacking experience, or any real knowledge of the route. I had this idea stuck in my head ever since I first heard about it. I had spent very limited time traversing the southern sections of the Koolaus in day hikes. I was foolish for thinking I was going to be successful on my first attempt.
Nevertheless, I went for it. I flew in from a recent trip to Madagascar with Greg Long where we could have died from lack of nutrition and clean water. I was already 12lbs underweight, didn’t hydrate, drank beer and sake the night before, and to top it off there was a flash flood the night before I started. I took 70lbs of crap on my back that I didn’t even know why I really had it with me. I broke my tent the first night due to high wind gusts. I made my first attempt literally straight off a plane running on 5 hours of sleep, semi-hungover and straight into this “hike” which 45 people attempted and only one had successfully completed after 3 failed attempts.
Four years of planning and learning the route and cutting his head open after falling off one of the climbing sections. The odds were heavily stacked against me. I got off track a couple times but that wasn’t that bad. What was bad is after day 3 my kidney’s started to hate me and I almost went into to “Rabdo” – caused by overexerting your body and not taking in enough calories. I also endured two bad staph infections in my left foot and was now roughly 20lbs underweight. I looked like I was a concentration camp survivor when I woke up on Day 4. I was nowhere near civilization, my body was breaking down. I was running out of water and calling a rescue copter was not an option for me. I was determined to get myself out of this situation I got myself into. When I started out that day I was partially delusional and thought I could actually complete the entire summit if I just pushed through.
Anyway I remember that day being incredibly testing. I had to tell myself I could die up here. Looking back I probably wouldn’t have died, but it would have been a really uncomfortable next 48 hours spent up on a mountain with no real shelter, no water and still 14 miles to climb and walk down a really annoying hot state trail. After that failed attempt, knowing I went through the worst case scenario – or so I thought – gave me the mental confidence and clarity I needed. It taught me so much about how to keep my cool in really bad situations. Reminded me that I can overcome the odds, and not to be dumb and arrogant and do proper research and planning. After 3 more attempts, less than 6 months from my first attempt, I endured 1 twisted knee, 2 broken ribs, 3 allergic reactions, and I became the second person to successfully complete to Koolau Range. The fastest still to this day with 5 1/2 days and the only person to complete it solo and self-sustained.
Q: What is on your bucket list? And what is the single biggest thing on that list?
A: My bucket list includes paddling into 10ft wave at Teahupoo and successfully riding it. I wanted to check that off this past summer, but I couldn’t even spin around and paddle into an 8ft wave out there. So it will just take a little more time and experience I think. I don’t really bodyboard all that often. Maybe once or twice a year. So spending more time riding will help with that. There are also a lot of ridge lines, spires and peaks in Tahiti that I have had my eye on. I feel like everyone pays attention to Everest and famous mountains like that, for starters the rock is solid and not a pile of choss. But having spent time on Oahu climbing some of the peaks there and then spending limited time in Tahiti wandering in the mountains, I really would like to go back and just dedicate 1 trip to trying to summit one of those peaks. They are so much taller than they look, and it’s pretty intimidating when you’re up there.
Other than that, my good friend approached me the other day about climbing Mt. Shasta which would require crampons and ice axes. That really got me excited. I was pretty hyped on the idea of that. I hate being cold, so whatever it is that’s on my bucket list it will have to be located somewhere warm and revolved around getting really barreled or summiting some sketchy narrow ridge peak. On the work side of things, I would like to work on a solid submission to the next Red Bull Illume contest.
Q: What motivates you to continue creating?
A: My friends, peers, traveling, the ocean and nature are the main aspects of my life that I draw creative inspiration from. I will see an incredible image that one of my friends took and I’ll just be so driven to try and raise the bar again. Or, I mean I know I live a charmed life and have been incredibly fortunate to see places in the world on a regular basis that most people only dream of seeing and that’s my job to go to these places and document them. Knowing that, I feel like I have a responsibility to never half ass anything, or take anything for granted, because in the blink of an eye it can all be gone. I could get seriously injured, or sick and it could all be gone. I think that’s what really drives me.
A lot of people think that all I do is travel to these amazing locations, drink beer, hang out with pro surfers, party and get paid. Don’t get me wrong that is an aspect of my career, but a super small part of my career. What they don’t see is all the countless nights of not sleeping in order to make unrealistic deadlines, reading briefs and conceptualizing. Swimming in waves of extreme consequence, the time spent in the gym to train, and the countless emails exchanged. But if it was easy, everyone would be doing it and I would probably not be interested in this line of work. It’s an incredibly rewarding lifestyle and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities I’ve had, so I remind myself to not take anything for granted.
Ryan Moss is a creative ambassador for Magnetic Creative and a champion of True North. Please check out Ryan’s Work on the interwebs at Ryancmoss.com or follow him on instagram at instagram.com/ryan.moss – I will continue this series, posing these questions to some of the creatives that have inspired me in my life and my work. Check back often.