Freelance marketing consultant and part-time surf photographer Mike Pireddu shares some photos and thoughts on the state of Italian surfing.
Tell us a bit about your background?
I come from Vicenza, a town in the north-east of Italy, 1 hour from Venice and the coast. Not a lot of surf around there, until you discover how to find the waves.
So how did you get into shredding waves?
With my friends at the beginning, after they returned from a trip to the Basque Country (it was around 1998). At which point we discovered other guys in our hometown surfed too. We made friends and would go surf spots around Venice together. Until then I’d never seen a wave break there, but I’ve found many since.
How does the Adriatic compare to the Med side for waves?
When my homebreak breaks, it’s really fun. On the north-west side, where I come from, the only good swell direction is SE. For the NE side, the fetch is too short to create good waves and it's super cold outside of summer. In the central and southern parts you can find much better spots with more swell options.
You just got back from a trip to Cantabria. What was that for?
In collaboration with Surfcorner (an Italian surf website) and SurfToLive (a surf trip tour operator), I organized a photography workshop where I explained the techniques and issues involved in surf photography, as well as analyzing images of some great surf photographers. We then combined that with a live photo shoot featuring some good Italian surfers (Roberto D’Amico, Massimiliano Spolverini, Alessandro Clinco, Alessandro Marcianò and Filippo Orso) so students had the opportunity to put what they’d learn into practice.
How did you become passionate about photography?
Basically there are two reasons: I got injured pretty young and pretty bad. And I’ve worked in the action sport industry since 2005.
Being injured considerably limited my sporting abilities. Whenever the conditions were too heavy I’d have to sit out and it got to the point where I asked myself “What can I do now?" “How can I continue to travel to these nice places with these top level athletes if I’m not able to keep up with them?" Taking photos was the simple answer.
Can you tell us a bit about the surf scene in Italy?
Surf scene in Italy continues to grow a lot. I see more and more people getting into it, taking surf lessons, going to the beach with boards, which is really nice to see. It may be small wind swell most of the time but people can still have lots of fun out there.
The most well-known places are Varazze, Levanto, Forte dei Marmi and Santa Marinella on the mainland. And then there’s Sardinia and Sicily of course.
In Italy, the surf scene is much more dependent on surf clubs and schools as brands or distributors in most cases are located in-land.
Tell us anything else we might not know about the surfing in Italy? Like is it ok to wear tight speedos in the line-up?
Ha! Probably not speedos but there’s definitely some other funny surf outfits around. Otherwise I’d say the level of enthusiasm around these parts is pretty unique. You can find some pretty crowded lineups even when it’s ankle high and really cold out.
In the past you’ve also worked as team/marketing manager in action sports? Do you continue to do that today or have you gone photography full-time?
I think that making a living from photos is really hard, there’s so much talented competition around these days. So I’ve actually always combined it with other work. For many years I worked as a sales/marketing and team manager for a distribution company in Italy (we had Insight, Rusty, Dragon among others). But today I now work as a freelance consultant. Recently I worked closely with Volcom Europe and that actually allowed me to develop my photo skills too by working with other photographers.
Is there anything that frustrates you about surfing in Italy?
My background is in business. I did an MBA and Strategic Marketing Course at UC Berkeley. Within the Italian surf and action sport scene, I often feel like people don’t have the right qualifications for their jobs and that can be frustrating at times.
From an overall experience (not necessarily just wave quality), what’s your favourite surf destination in Europe?
I’m growing to love Portugal more and more every time I go there. It’s a country with a lot of good waves, fun people and plenty of other stuff to do. Otherwise I’d have to say the Basque Country between San Sebastian and Biarritz.