Interview with Splitlife - Jakob Gjerluff Ager
Artic Sundowner

Interview with Splitlife Collective

Interview with Micayla from Splitlife Collective. Micayla is pro-mountainbiker from Vancouver, British Columbia. She races all over the world and if that that wasn't enough she is also a very talented artist. Splitlife collective is about artist with different roots in the outdoor world. 

Original interview:

Recently accepted into school to study photography, we check in with Jakob to gain a little insight into how he lives his life, his most recent adventures, and how he'll adjust to his new life at school.

How long have you been involved in Guiding and where exactly have you worked?

I started teaching sailing 11 years ago for small single handed boats like Optimists and Lasers. After high school I decided to do a season in Norway, where i started guiding and teaching skiing. I eventually moved there more permanently, and started guiding on the rivers. In total I lived in Norway for 5 years on and off, skiing in the winters and rafting and river kayaking in the summers. This year I moved back home to Denmark, and at the moment I am teaching kite-surfing on the west coast.

Amazing! Did I also see somewhere that you made a kayak?

Yeah. Well, I actually found it in pieces! The original owner lost it and it was taken by the ice, crushed and tossed on the beach, where I eventually found it. Last summer I spent what seemed like thousands of hours grinding it down, cutting out the bad fiberglass, casting new pieces, painting etc.. It actually came out great! It's eggshell white with custom teak-wood fittings. Kind of proud about it. But fiberglass isn’t really a walk in the park to work with.

Wow that sounds like so much work! I'm guessing half the joy of getting the kayak was in the process of the project itsel?

Yeah of course! I love DIY projects and fixing stuff. I would love to be really good at wooden craftsmanship. I really admire people who can take pieces of wood and with their hands and simple tools turn it into quality goods. That's awesome. So it sounds like that kayak has quite a story... what's the craziest story you have out of all of your adventures? Haha oh the craziest stories I try to keep to myself at the moment. I don’t think I'd get to do some of the stuff I do if my mom knew... But being in the mountains, on the oceans and in whitewater rivers have brought me some close calls, often very far from assistance and help, which keeps things exciting. Once I guided a rafting boat down a Norwegian river, a 77-year-old man had a heard attack in the middle of the nowhere. For 45 minutes we did CPR on him, got him back to life 3 times and finally we were able to stabilize him. At the point we had air-assistance he was alive, loaded into the helicopter and rushed to the hospital. I clearly remember the whole thing, down to the minutes, like flashes in my head. I remember the exact point he got ill, fell to the ground and I decided to start CPR. I remember the phone conversation my good friend and college, Ole Andreas, had with 911, telling us it would be 45 minutes before assistance could reach us. And the relief I felt when finally the thundering sound of the helicopter could be heard approaching down the mountains, and making a bold landing on a rock in the river, blowing waves of water and sticks through the air. When you do these things and go to these places you are never 100% in control of the outcome. Over time you build sets of rules and ways of thinking, by which you learn to deal with whatever may come. Call it “calculated risk” if you will. It’s totally up to you to find your limit. I think it is in the basics of adventure, the uncertainty of outcome, what may happen on the way and sometimes final destination. Isn't that what we love about it? And sometimes its scary as sh*t!

Ummm wow. So we'll just ad "Life Saver" to your resume. That's some serious stuff! What can't you do?!

Card games, board games, especially Trivial Pursuit. I hate it. Its like common knowledge and stuff like that, doesn’t stick in my head. I remember the weirdest things, but when it comes to current politics and history events.. argh.. and I'm actually really embarrassed about it. Lot of the things that people "should know” I don’t know, or at least don’t remember. Both of my parents are schoolteachers, but I think they are okay with it..

I wouldn't be too hard on yourself, I think being able to save lives, survive in the outdoors, and travel to cool, remote places most people have never been seems a heck of a lot more useful and fun than being stuck indoors playing trivia games about politicians. Speaking of traveling, where in the world have you been?

Haha yes very true. Hmm Ive been to Bolivia, Peru, Greenland, Canada, couple of the states, Vietnam, Australia, the Philippines, Cuba and most of Europe.

I know your recent trip just took you to the Philippines, how was it?

It was so great. Lucky to spend 3 weeks with my family and girlfriend, beach hopping, from one white bounty beach to the other. Cheap tall drinks and sunburns. We took the PADI open water license and were lucky enough to dive with both sharks and sea turtles! It was soo great.

Sounded like a nice vacation! I heard the culture there is amazing.

It is so great! The Filipino people are the most kind and warmhearted people I have ever met. They don’t have much, but live life simple and joyful. I think their key is a rather equal society. It seemed liked they are much better to think of the greater good and sharing what they have with each other. To be so far away from home and feel so comfortable wherever you go, that’s rare. The scenery is also amazing. The Philippines are a collection of 7000 islands, all with their own white sand beaches, palm trees and crystal clear water. What's not to love? A pair of board shorts, a hammock and maybe a scuba mask and you're good to go!

Sounds like a pretty great lifestyle to me! I'll have to go there someday. So if you could pick your top 3 places you've been to, what would they be?

Tough one! I would have to say the Pacific Northwest, Vancouver Island. I totally fell in love with the cold coastline, the rainforest and the mountains there. As a photographer and adventure-lover, that is really the place to be. It’s just a matter of time before ill find myself living there. Number two would be Lofoten, northern Norway. Never have I been to a place with such dramatic landscapes and weather. Last winter I went there on a media project to shoot big mountain skiing. We sailed around the fjords for a week on 72 ft sailboat, and hiked straight from the boat to the peaks. We had all types of weather: from snowstorms to rain to bluebird-days. Lofoten is a mecca, not just for skiing, but also for cold-water surfing. On the last days there I hooked up with a couple of Swedish dudes. The most stoked guys I have ever met! They moved to Lofoten just for the surfing. There isn’t really much else to do there either, except fishing.. Everything smells of fish up there! Anyway, I had one of my best experiences by the ocean ever. The waves where pumping, conditions perfect and I got some of my best surf-shots those days. My version of Chris's.jpg My third pick would be Bolivia. It was the place I went by myself. It was like throwing myself right into the fire. No one speaks English there, and the country is so corrupt you start questioning everything. You could book a tour of the state prison in La Paz, but the tours are illegal and if you get caught you have a good chance ending up in there yourself!! But the country has the most diverse nature and landscapes. From huge deserts, mountains reaching into the sky, to deep jungles and the beautiful pampas. My favorite part was when we did a 4 day trip, driving a Landcruiser around the Uyuni salt flats and desert, sleeping in small concrete huts along the way. I think those were some of the most beautiful yet hostile places I have ever been.

Top 3 on your Bucket List?

Antarctica, Alaska, and Iceland. Mountains, cold coastlines and snow.

How do you maintain balance in your life?

By pulling out the plug, and being alone. Either totally alone, or with my girlfriend or family. The biggest part of my job is being social, understanding and always analyzing people. That takes so much energy, so the best way for me to recharge is just being off-duty out there. In the water, the woods and the mountains. Nothing is better. A cold October evening, just you and your board, in stormy cold waters. Somehow that brings the peace in my mind I need. I'll hike alone to a mountain top in the middle of the night to ski down by the light of a headlamp, and some find that weird, but the next day, they will often find me in a whole different mood, then they'll understand.

Does your photography come into play here?

About photography and this. What I am pursuing in life, is these moments. The moments where I feel I’m balanced. It's so clear when you reach it, and the more you do you, the more you want it again. When all the components line up and you just feel genuinely happy and fulfilled. I fear that a lot of people don’t reach this state very often. People stressing through time in chase of empty temporary satisfaction. I hope with my photography I can inspire and encourage people to find more simple ways to find a more pure joy, than you can get from your new 55” LED screen or big SUV.

What's your favourite photo and why?

My favorite is a photo by Chris Burkard from Lofoten. Is shows a surfer doing an aerial in front of a huge mountain face. The scene takes place in Unstadvika, one of Lofotens best surf spots. The picture inspired me in so many ways, combining all my passions in one capture. On my media trip up there I had the goal to just see this place, and, by pure luck, i got talking to a guy who later i found out was one of Sweden's better surfers. I pitched my dream to him, of seing this place, and two days later we were on our way. Perfect sets rolled in between sky high mountains peaks on both sides, finally hitting the cold, white, sandy beach. All the conditions a surfer and photographer could've dreamed of came together that day. That one day where I, by pure coincidence, got the opportunity to be there. Some of the shots I got in the bag that day will be printed in the next issue of Nordic Surfer Magazine, my first published work!

You have so many amazing stories and even more amazing photos; what do you most typically shoot with?

My first camera was a canon 350d, then 30d, 500d and now I have a canon 7d, which I’ve been using for a couple of years. I recently bought a Sony A7S, a mirrorless full frame camera. It its definitely the future, but so far it takes a little time to get use to.

So you're starting school in September. What does your curriculum look like and how do you think you'll fare sitting at a desk all day?

Ohh yeah, its actually pretty scary. I haven’t sat in a classroom since high school, and I don’t remember being quite good at it haha. The course is 3 and a half years and called “Multiplatform storytelling and production”. Its basically film producing and storytelling through different media. Most of the days we will be shooting, editing, and producing, so not too much desk sitting! It's actually super cool; we get to do everything around the production. From idea to post-production, all on state-of-the-art equipment! After 2 years we get the opportunity to be interns in companies around the world or exchange with other schools. Ill do anything I can to get either into Vancouver Film School or a Canadian studio - the big dream being Sherpas Cinema.

I think Sherpas would be a great fit! Super talented folks for sure. So your ultimate dream job: Guiding or Photography?

Mainly photography, but maybe a mix. Actually I love it the way I have been doing it so far. I've been using guiding and the guiding society to get me to the places I want to take my photos, earning the skills to be there, and knowing the right contacts. I think its necessary to be in societies that surrounds the sports you want to cover, for understanding the thoughts and ideas of the athletes as well as really being able to document the spirit of the sport. I couldn't agree more. You truly embody what we at Split/Life are all about. Ok, so one piece of advice you could give humanity: Haha I don’t think I am anyone to give out advise… But I guess, allow yourself to have big childish dreams and work hard. Nothing comes easy, and there is only one who can make it happen for you. That is the model I’m living by these days. I’m not exactly rich, but I'm happy. Do stuff, go places, and have a blast!

Thanks so much Jakob! You're a one-of-a-kind human, and a total inspiration. If you want to know more and see more of his amazing work, be sure to check out his site and instagram!

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