A life of travel, surfing, and creativity are on our minds a lot of the time over here at Korduroy. When we caught wind of Australian travel journalist, Sandy Tinari, we saw a number of common ideals that we had to find out more about. This “sea gypsy” (she goes by the name of Mohken, a nomadic tribe from Indonesia who believe deeply in the power of nature and in the importance of living in harmony with our oceans and wider environment) started as in the broadcasting industry but quickly found her way into a life in photojournalism that has kept her on the move ever since. Learn a little bit about her journey as well as enjoy some of her imagery in this artist interview.
What’s your background and how did you find yourself traveling and documenting your experiences?
Growing up living over the dunes at Scarborough beach in West Oz, life was always about surfing and travel; given that Western Australia is such a big, isolated state. I remember dusty days spent camping on the north west coast and surfing for hours with a pod of dolphins in the southern town of Denmark…happy times that sparked an interest in travel when I was young. WA has a beautiful coastline and amazing waves but I always wanted to discover what was beyond our vast desert borders.
My first surf trip with friends to Bali at 18 years-old was the appetiser – the smells, colours, sounds, culture, eye-watering food, tropical sun and surf and Japanese surf punks covered in ink. That freedom of piling on a motorbike with boards, thongs and a wad of Rupiah fueled the surf travel stoke. When I got home I studied photo-journalism and Indonesian at university as I saw it as a way I could combine work and travel. It was only years later when blogs were already popular that I had a delayed lightbulb moment – I’ve spent my life documenting others but why not share my experiences also. To feed back into the inspirational circle that fed and led me.
How is it being a woman on the road? Do you travel alone or are you with someone?
Being a woman on the road there is no doubt you have to have a sense of awareness about your personal safety. There are pros and cons. Deciphering between the two can be the biggest challenge. If you completely close yourself off, your travels are merely looking through a window. Be too open and you can easily find yourself in places you’d rather not be. But, saying that, I’ve been very fortunate and from talking to friends there doesn’t seem to be much difference whether you are a guy or girl travelling. I’ve only had someone try and mug me once but that was in London but I know guy friends who have had much more hassle, with pick pockets and car break-ins etc. I’ve also found that as a woman you can be seen as less of a threat and so are easily welcomed into local communities or out at local surf breaks.
If alone what tips to do have for women travelers?
I’ve travelled more often with friends and my boyfriend than I have alone but my last trip to Bali in April I surfed solo. A key tip for women travellers and surfers that I would have is to never actually surf alone at a new place, it just isn’t safe. I always go out with friends or head out with a surf guide. Taking a lesson or joining the local surf club if you’re going to be around a while is also a brilliant way to make new friends. I find people are always stoked to show you around.
Always show confidence, courtesy and caution; respect for culture and an overall awareness that the ‘road’ can take just as easily as it gives. And take wet-wipes! Most importantly, travel light. The three B’s are all you need; one board, bikinis and a backpack. Baggage fees and crowded airports are a nightmare when you have too much gear.
What things to you find yourself compelled to document? What inspires you?
I’m constantly inspired by the search for uncrowded waves and the beauty found in all cultures. That’s why I aim to take the road less travelled to seek out the lesser celebrated surf towns. It’s refreshing to see that there are still places that are untouched by marketing and the globalisation of surf. That’s what I’m compelled to document; that raw, unfettered grassroots surf stoke.
It’s also the small moments of beauty that could easily be overlooked that I’m drawn to… tired faded signs, soft beach light and the subtle visual definitions of surf culture that can be find in artwork, clothing, expressions, habitation and food even.
I also think the mainstream media never gets beyond the headlines but in seeing life through surfers’ eyes and that of their communities you get a sense of the true picture. Europe at the moment is case in point. The newspapers are all about currency exchange rates and politics but what about the families struggling to survive. From surfing’s point-a-view there is a generation of surfers here that can’t afford a surfboard or wetsuit, or ever dream of travelling to the tropical waters that they see in magazines.
Is this is lifepath or just a phase for you?
This is totally a lifepath for me. I left Australia more than a decade ago and I’ve fallen in love with and picked up so many habits of the culture and chilled out lifestyle of southern Europe. It’s almost like I now belong no where but every where at the same time. I’ve met so many cool people along the way and have an amazing network of friends worldwide. Regardless of distance we are all like family and are always organising visits and surf trips. Work wise as a freelance it is also starting to get interesting, and I’ve just got married and we are now already planning a new adventure. I’ve always wanted to surf in Oman and India, Liberia also sounds super interesting. I saw something cool on Bangladesh the other day too…
We also want to work on giving back more, particularly when it comes to the environment. We were in the Maldives in November last year, 10 years after our first surf trip there. I was shocked by the change and the amount of litter in the water now. Plastic water bottles are a plague! I still need to work out how I can contribute in a greater way but if through documenting our experiences I can help to raise environmental awareness, even in a small way, it would be worth it.
What has traveling taught you about the world you never knew when you were growing up?
Travelling has been awesome as a teacher. It’s taught me not only how resilient you can be but also that even though the world it so beautifully diverse, we are all still so much alike. I’ve met surfers from all walks of life and countries and we are always looking for the same thing…to surf good waves with friends and family. The six-degrees of separation exists – the world really is small, especially for those who gravitate towards groomed sandbars, rock slabs and dreamy points. In a way this reinforces it’s fragility.
My travels have also highlighted that life is full of the unexpected. I’ve found places such as Indo and the Maldives increasingly crowded and now try to only travel there on shoulder season. On the flip side I’ve discovered unbelievable empty waves in Tuscany and Liguria in Italy and all along Portugal’s coast. It’s surprising but brilliant to experience that in such a busy, populated continent. And even better when a post surf glass of wine or beer is cheaper than a Diet Coke in Portugal!
What has traveling taught you about yourself?
At times my friends and I lived tough, with just the shirts on our backs, surfboard under one arm and camera in hand. Experiences, such as only being able to afford to eat rice in Indo for weeks on end, really brings home an appreciation for what you have in the more fruitful times and showed me that I was stronger than I thought. I’ve also found that travelling has really taught me that there is nothing more enjoyable than of being in the moment, of taking the time out of our busy lives to chill out and live life as it happens – it’s good for the soul to slow down and just watch the world turn.