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By Ed Toy
Photos courtesy of Jimmicane
St. Augustine has always been a quaint little surfing town with a fishing problem. Just ask Jimmy Wilson and Zander Morton, who both grew up in St. Augustine and have gone on to make successful careers in the surf industry. Wilson and Morton started out hanging around the Surf Station as teenagers, eventually working at the shop together in high school.
Back in those days local surfers like Gabe Kling, Jody Davis, Jason Hadjis, Scott Calvin and OCL’s graphic designer Brian Hornung were mentors to younger surfers like Wilson and Morton. Vilano was the spot on higher tide, Anastasia State Park at low tide, and on any given day when the surf was up, you could find the list of area all-star surfers jockeying for position in the shallow barreling waves. Afterwards everyone would head back to the shop and talk, judging who got the best waves that day and heckling the ones with the biggest wipeouts. The older crew really inspired the younger surfers to make something of themselves.
Jimmy Wilson, also known as Jimmicane, started shooting photos with his father’s camera after breaking his ankle skating at Kona skatepark with local surfers Matt Whetmore, Johnny Barclay and Zander Morton. His first surf photography was at Matanzas Inlet, and then Sebastian Inlet with pro surfer (and future Flagler graduate) Eric Taylor. He had a knack for capturing the action, and was awarded a check for $15 from Eastern Surf Magazine (ESM) after entering a photo for a Surf Station Ad. Soon after, Wilson purchased his first waterproof camera housing, and ended up with a spread in ESM. ESM dedicated an issue to St. Augustine a few months later and at 15 years old Wilson decided to dedicate his life to surf photography.
He had begun taking classes in the photography program at Daytona Beach Community College after high school, when he was approached by Transworld Surf, where he had interned the previous summer, about flying to Barbados to shoot on-the-water photography with Kelly Slater. Despite missing classes at school, Wilson could not pass up this amazing opportunity. Upon his return, he decided to quit school and move to Puerto Rico to pursue his goal of shooting surf photography full-time.
At that time it was very difficult to make a living shooting surf photos, especially in Puerto Rico, but fortunately Dick Meseroll, Photo Editor and Co-Founder, offered him a position as his assistant at ESM at the age of 20. Eventually his eye for surf photography at ESM landed him the position of photo editor at the internationally-known and respected Surfing Magazine and he moved to California.
Zander Morton started out his career as a professional surfer, traveling up and down the east coast with Gabe Kling and Asher Nolan, where he discovered his love for writing about the sport. His good friend Wilson pulled some strings in the industry and recommended him for a writing position as associate editor at Transworld Surf, working with editor Chris Cote. Morton went on to become editor of Surfing Magazine until the magazine closed up shop last year. Around the same time, another close friend, Ryan Ripko, left his job as shipping manager at the Surf Station and started working for West Wetsuits, also in southern California.
As fate would have it, Wilson, Morton, Ripko, Ross Howatt, and good friend Dylan Graves, a pro surfer from Puerto Rico with family in St. Augustine, rented a house together in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, and the “St. Cardiffstine” house was born. If you’ve ever met any of these classic characters, you can just imagine the sort of shenanigans that must have gone on back in those days. Ask any of these guys and they will say that those were some of the best days of their young lives. If those walls could talk…they would have some entertaining stories to tell of happening backyard barbeques, rousing Jaguar and Seminole football games, and chill get togethers after long surf sessions.
These days the crew has disbanded, but they are still close friends. Wilson is social media creator at Vans Surf in Newport; Ross Howatt is the North America Snow and Surf marketing manager and Ripko is a product developer for the compa. Morton, back from traveling around the globe following the World Surf League, is a field editor for Surfer Magazine.
What really stands out for this crew of St. Augustine surfers is how tight our community is, and the breadth of talent that has come out of such a small Florida beach town. Jason Woodside is a visual artist whose large scale works have graced walls in his New York City home as well as in Los Angelos, Paris and Australia. Jake Burghart is now Director of Photography of Vice Media LLC, an alternative Canadian-American digital media broadcasting company focused on arts, culture, and news topics.
So what’s next for surfing in the small city of St. Augustine, Florida? Up and coming young surfers like Noah Brownell and Benji Lange are the hope of the next generation of surf stars, and they still have the local crew of rippers to back them up. Morton, Wilson and Ripko are proud of their St. Augustine northeast Florida roots, and are an inspiration to those of us who dream to make a living in the surf industry.
Find Jimmy Wilson and Zander Morton on the web and social media:
Jimmy Wilson Instagram: @jimmicane
Zander Morton Surfer Magazine: SurferMag Dot Com/author/zmorton/
Zander Morton Instagram: @zandermorton