Chris Nelson


Chris Nelson // Image: Richie Hopson

Writer and journalist Chris Nelson is the author of numerous best selling books exploring surf, culture and travel including the critically acclaimed Cold Water Souls: In Search of Surfing’s Cold Water Pioneers. This anthropological study took him on a 3 year journey to the planet’s most inhospitable outposts including Nova Scotia, Hokkaido and Iceland seeking out those hardy waveriders who call these icy line-ups home.

He has appeared at Port Eliot Literary Festival and contributes to the national press from The Telegraph to The Independent and The Guardian on surf and travel issues as well as surf media across the globe from Huck to Glide and Surfline to Magicseaweed.

As a screen writer he has worked for the likes of O’Neill creating a tribute to the late, great Jack O’Neill and has interviewed some of youth culture’s most interesting entrepreneurs from low brow artist Robert Williams to Wired Magazine founders Louis Rossetto and Jane Metcalfe and Atari pioneer Nolan Bushnell to write 9 x 25 minute episodes of ‘The Ripple Effect’ for Red Bull Media House x Hamblin Imagery.

Chris is a former editor of Asylum and Freeride magazines. As co-founder of the London Surf / Film Festival and Approaching Lines International Festival of Surf, he has hosted talks with some of surfing’s most exciting icons from 7 x World Surfing Champion Stephanie Gilmore to multi-award winning filmmakers.



5 minutes with…

What’s your connection to the sea? What drew you to the sea and why surfing?

Growing up in the north in the 80’s was pretty grim, everything seemed grey and there was a lot of strife and social neglect. I remember catching some late night footage of surfing and I was transfixed by it. It was all neon and crystal blue waves. It was mesmerising – about as far removed from Thatcher’s Britain as you could get. But there was no access to any surf culture – no way of finding out about it. Then by pure chance I met a couple of surfers at a party in the late 80’s and I persuaded them to take me to the coast at Saltburn. I stood up on my first wave on this massive log and was hooked for life.

When and why did you get into writing?

I was ‘science boy’ as a kid – determined that I would head off to the Amazon to discover some new exotic species or cure a hideous disease. But at the same time I was also a prolific reader. I loved writing and, more than that, I loved hearing people’s stories. The more I got into surfing, the more that took over.

What piece of your work are you most proud of?

I guess I’m most proud of Cold Water Souls. Travelling around the globe and meeting some amazing people, hearing stories they’d never shared before and bringing it all together on a deadline I thought I’d never hit. I remember arriving in Hokkaido and only knowing one person, and yet managing to track down and talk to the key guys who pioneered the surfing lifestyle back in the 70’s.

Who do you most admire?

People who are motivated, imaginative and positive.

What would be your dream session?

Right hand point break, just a handful of friends, head high swell, long and walling, with a little barrel section on the end. Could be boardies or snow – either is joyous.

Image: Roger Powley

Image: Roger Powley