Patagonia (the company, not the place) has staked its claim as a leader of sustainable clothing design and manufacturing. And why not? Its customer base (college students in frat jackets notwithstanding) consists of people who spend a lot of time communing with the outdoors in a variety of pursuits: climbing, kayaking, hiking, surfing and everything else that requires the right kind of comfortable performance gear. It would be hypocritical to love kayaking, while your purchases pollute a river in China, wouldn’t it?
But you can’t fully understand its mission until you go back to the 50s and 60s, when Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, was just a layabout surfer dude and world class climber doing cool things.
I’m not sure why (excellent PR strategy?), but suddenly, there are plenty of beautiful and entertaining ways to learn about him and North Face’s founder Doug Tompkins, and the unique culture they inhabited back then. And you don’t even have to care about rock climbing to be seduced. As long as you like nature, even only in theory, you’ll be taken by these books and movies.
Like climbing gear, the book is basic and modest, yet well-made, with a brown cloth cover and gold embossed lettering. I guess you could call it modestly lush.
I can’t speak to how an amateur or professional photographer would view the book. The me, the photos look interesting, if grainy and not spectacularly composed. But they, along with excerpts of old articles and modern essays by the climbers, tell an incredible story of youthful, naive ambition.
It’s also full of rock-climbing porn: rucksacks being hefted up snowy ridges, climbers wedging themselves into cracks, vintage equipment, and wind-burned, smiling faces of the climbers. Contributors include Yvon Chouinard, Dick Dorworth, Chris Jones, Doug Tompkins, and Lito Tejada-Flores. Given that two notable environmentalists emerged from this experience, it’s well worth a read and a place on your shelf or coffee table. Enter to win it below!
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Back in the 60s, there was an explosion of surfer films. The lifestyle of a chill surfer dude, and the fun bikini babes that hung out with them, was the lifestyle young people idolized.
Well, Yvon Chouinard, Doug Tompkins, Dick Dorworth, and Chris Jones embodied that culture. While they weren’t all surfers, they were climbers, skiers, and all-around chill and cool outdoor athletes. This campy and entertaining old documentary follows them as they drive in an old minibus and take a boat down the coast of South America to Patagonia, giving you a glimpse into a time before cell phones, Facebook and Instagram. Their intentions–climb a mountain and see South America while they were at it–were as pure as the snow-covered mountain itself. It’s a short watch, but worth it. Especially for the fantastic surfer-y guitar soundtrack.
After you’ve watched the short, original documentary, you can move onto 180 South, which follows Jeff Johnson, a mountain climber, as he tries to recreate the trip. While the original footage focused solely on the journey and climb, this documentary dives much further into the environmental challenges that face Chileans: dams, factories spewing toxins into the water, overfishing, and myriad other threats. Threats that Chouinard and others are trying to mitigate by buying up wild land and transferring it into trusts for Chileans.
The movie also a young adventurer’s wet dream. Johnson hitches a ride across the ocean on a sailboat, meets a beautiful surfer woman from Rapa Nui (Easter Island), and then takes her along with him down south, where he hooks up with Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, and Doug Tompkins, founder of The North Face. The beautiful footage will seduce you, until you’re thinking, “Shit, I need to leave the city and go do stuff like this. Where’s my passport?”
Bonus: The soundtrack, an update of what Chouinard and Tompkins would listen to if they had been born in the 80s, is even better than the first.
Round out your collection of inspirational outdoor porn with this coffee table book, which lushly illustrates and details the freewheeling culture of climbing, surfing, and natural wonder staked out by a small band of dudes criss-crossing the state of California in search of adventure, challenge, and pristine, natural wonder. Of course, Chouinard and Tomkins are in there, along with climbing pioneer Steve Roper and The Surfer’s Journal founder Steve Pezman.