“There is a slight delay; I’m calling from a satellite phone because I’m out in the country!” Cyrus Sutton’s voice suddenly crackles in my headphones. He’s calling from Washington, Oregon, in the US and I’m in the hills of Byron Bay. He’s a man of the wild and I wanted to learn more about his story.
Cyrus’ career began a long way from his San Diego home. In 2020, on the wild islands of Samoa, the professional surfer’s bare flesh met with a reef break, leaving the young Californian kid with a staph infection that would take the best part of 12 months to heal. Unfortunately, that reef incident ended Cyrus’ professional surfing dreams although, unbeknownst to him, it would steer him towards a prolific career in filmmaking — one that would see him win an Emmy award at age 23.
Lessons from the sea
For Cyrus, surfing the wild waves of Samoa, Hawaii and Australia have instilled a deep appreciation of the ocean’s strength and pull. His project, The Next Wave; a Tsunami Relief Story, explores the ravages of the 2004 tsunami through south-east Asian island chains.
Following the ever-shifting terrains of independent filmmaking, which spans a good part of a decade, Cyrus has also produced Riding Waves (2003), Under The Sun (2008), Stoked and Broke (2011), Compassing (2013), Island Earth (2017) and, his latest project, I Am This (2019).
His 2011 project, Stoked and Broke, follows Cyrus and fellow surfer Ryan Burch on an eight-day walk through San Diego, California. Showing how the pair make their own boards, bamboo rickshaws, solar cookers and hobo stoves, the documentary explores minimalist surfing, masculinity and self-sacrifice.
Now, at age 37, Cyrus finds familiarity in the unfrequented places on earth. He is a man who relished months at a time on his own, living simply and off the grid. Over the last decade, Cyrus has refined his travelling vehicle turned home turned office into escapism fantasy. His 4WD camper, complete with a wood-burning stove, solar power and satellite WI-FI, leaves the young man editing films all over the world. One night he might be under the potent empty skies of the Nevada desert, or tucked inside a dusty cove on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico, or nestled in the forests of Oregon during the summer.
“I’ve never felt comfortable in cities or those busy environments. If I had to be in the city for an extended period of time, I would find my centre again in the wild. I am influenced by things happening around me. I create from a space of nothingness; silence and quiet are elixirs for me,” he shares.
Cyrus’ tanned face holds inquisitive eyes that speak of another life, one spent in the ocean chasing down perfect waves. He’s full of energy and curiosity. His inquisitiveness, I learn, is innate and woven into his DNA. Cyrus’ parents are professors, his father pioneering research into plant life that thrives in arid, desert-like environments. Always expanding, Cyrus reads a lot and engages with radical individuals who push the boundaries and many of these people become subject matters for his films. “The professors, doctors, business leaders and policy makers I interact with further enable my way of communicating, of seeing the world,” he explains.
When sharing his most wild adventures, Cyrus rattles off a long list of countries he’s experienced: Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Spain, France, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Russia, Japan, Indonesia, Cuba, Tahiti, Barbados, Chile and Peru — places most of us only dream of visiting. Cyrus, I learn, holds a deep love and respect for the natural world and his place in it, no matter where he goes.
Bringing together a tight-knit crew of artists and innovators, Cyrus built KorduroyTV, a DIY video platform focused on sustainability and regeneration. His role at KorduroyTV and various media agencies fund Cyrus’ endless exploration of the world’s untouched gems.
WORDS by Andrew Crockett
Andrew Crockett is most noted for his coffee table books on 1960s surfing culture and his work in the golf industry interviewing legends of the game. Learn more about him at hodaddy.com.au