Jill Manos surfing winter waves In Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, Canada on December 09, 2021
© Karl Funk

Discover the rugged surf scene of Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia

We challenged three East Coast photographers to showcase the spirit of Lawrencetown's surf scene. Here's what they captured.
By Ben Osborne
5 min readPublished on
Imagine this: it’s February 17 at 5 AM, the thermometer reads -7 degrees celsius. You know well that with the moist maritime air, there isn’t any winter jacket that’s going to defend you from the harsh bite of winter in Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia. But no matter all the excuses you can come up with, the pull of the coast is strong enough to get you out from under the covers. Why? Because the surf is pumping and the lineup is empty.
Durrell Borden captures a winter surf lineup outside of Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia.

Local lineup

© Durrell Borden

The Cold Embrace

The rugged coastline of Nova Scotia is singular. Colliding with the harsh environment of the Northern Atlantic, the weather is anything but welcoming on most days. But for surf photographers Durrell Borden, Jillian Cluett, and Karl Funk, it’s the scenes that accompany the harsh reality of Nova Scotia, and the moments of magic in between that make the surf, and the accompanying community worth sticking around for.
Each has their own story of how they came to surf photography. Borden with the initial goal of getting photos of himself surfing, Funk with the landscapes drawing him in, and Cluett when she found the joy of swimming around the lineup. But what’s kept them around, donning 6 millimeter wetsuits and dealing with frozen digits on a daily basis? A steadfast dedication to their craft, inspired as much by the wild landscapes as by the community that chooses to play in the harsh environments.
Local surfer rides wave outside of Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia.

Local ripper in Lawrencetown

© Durrell Borden

“When the temps hit -22 with wind chill, I'm inspired to look my current boundaries dead in the eyes and be comfortably uncomfortable.”, says Borden.
It takes dedication, grit, and determination to surf in Nova Scotia year-round.
Durrel Borden
Cluett, who first picked up a water-housing when she was living in Australia, has done her fair share of traveling. Her acquired worldview has only magnified the value of the surf community in Lawrencetown.
Surfer awaits perfect wave outside of Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia.

Waiting for the perfect wave

© Jillian Cluett

“The more I travel, the more I appreciate the grit it takes to commit to surfing in a cold climate. Whether it’s the extra prep to scrape ice off the windshield for dawn patrol, driving home with a garbage bag on the seat , hair snags in hood zippers, or frozen toes…” says Cluett.
“Stoke still translates even on frozen faces. It’s amazing.”
For Funk, it’s almost as if the harsh weather is reflected in the attitude of the local community. While it might be rugged, in the end it’s all about respect.
Jill Manos Walking the beach post surf In Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, Canada on December 09, 2021

Jill Manos navigating the snowy shoreline

© Karl Funk

“Lawrencetown is a zero bullshit kinda place. People here work hard and play hard. I had a pretty humble working class childhood, so in many respects the people and the vibe here feel familiar. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else,” says Funk.

The Hub: The Lawrencetown Surf Co.

Perhaps nowhere is the no-nonsense, arms wide open embrace more apparent than at Lawrencetown Surf Co. A landmark in the Nova Scotia Surf Scene, local and visiting surfers alike gather with frozen toes and windburnt faces to share stoke, check out the latest shapes and perhaps even chat with the owner and former pro-surfer, Nico Manos.
Manos is no stranger to good waves after a career wandering the globe and sharing lineups surfing with the likes of Dane Reynolds, Kelly Slater, and Sally Fitzgibbons—but more importantly he knows the importance of a local hub, and that’s just what the Lawrencetown Surf Shop has become.
“Lawrencetown surf Co does an amazing job of creating a positive first experience for people. They'll get you set up with all the gear and guidance for an awesome day surfing in Lawrencetown,’ says Funk.
When the weather’s harsh, a warm embrace is exactly what you need—and Lawrencetown Surf Co. brings that in spades.

The Search

This past winter, Red Bull called on Cluett, Funk, and Borden to capture an image that not only represented the surf community in Lawrencetown, but also challenged the photographers in a new way, to capture an image that really meant something to them, which would eventually be displayed in Lawrencetown Surf Co.. While each image shone a different side of the surf scene, as a whole they represent what the greater Lawrencetown vibe is all about.
For Funk, he was able to capture an image that portrays the grit it takes to surf in Nova Scotia through a unique individual.
“I think the image reflects how much of a powerhouse Jill is,” said Funk.
Jill Manos getting her surf gear ready at Lawrencetown beach, Nova Scotia, Canada December 15 2021

Jill Manos prepping at Lawrencetown beach

© Karl Funk

“The air temperature that day was pushing -20. Without a second thought Jill is ready to get amongst the elements.”
For Cluett, it was the positive, no-matter attitude she witnessed during her shoot that has become a staple in the community—and it showed in her final image.
“The gals absolutely ripped and kept me laughing the entire shoot. It was cold, windy, raining, hailing, sunny, overcast, with a fiery sunrise and then the most beautiful rainbow — classic Maritimes. The weather will hit you with a little bit of everything.”, Cluett recalled.
For Borden, this was an opportunity to show the open arms of the surf community.
"I'm trying to tell more stories with my photography, and I feel like that photo, in particular, tells a story,” Borden said.
Durrell Borden sits by fire near Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia.

Durrell Borden post surf campout

© Durrell Borden

Sunshine or snowstorms, nature sends us waves. It doesn't discriminate, nor does the dedicated Nova Scotian surfer.
Durrell Borden
While each image tells its own story, the real story is told when they’re lined up next to each other. Like each wave in a set that has its own unique shape, size, and character, the sum of the Lawrencetown surf scene is far greater than its parts. The best part? The swell is just starting to build.
Visit Lawrencetown Surf Co. to check out all three photos yourself:
Three photos captured by local surf photographers displayed at Lawrencetown Surf Co..

Red Bull Winter Edition Exhibit at Lawrencetown Surf Co.

© Jillian Cluett