What if we told you that off the coast of northern Italy is a man-made reef, created after flooded cars and debris from an old road were dumped into the ocean in the 70s, which now helps generate some of the most stunning waves that side of the Med?
As wild as it sounds, that's how the legend goes off the shores of Genoa. We know the cars were dumped and, coupled with those powerful storms that can rip across the Med, it can make for a neat reef break, not far from shore. We also know that a whole load of debris from an old road was plopped nearby, forming an under water sandbank. Anything sent to the bottom of the ocean should be met with scorn but the locals have accepted that it happened more than half a century ago, and nothing is going to change any time soon.
Spot guide: Italy
Or, well, those are the whispers on the wind. So, welcome to Italy as you've never seen it before. With around around 7,500kms of coastline, the majority of it kissing the Mediterranean Sea, it should be no surprise that everyone's favourite boot-shaped country gets waves. Yet, surf photography out of there is kind of few-and-far between -- and what does trickle through is usually courtesy of a Medicane, which means, it's big, windy and non-inviting.
Well, enter Andrea Giana, a photographer out of Italia who captures the waves of his home country exquisitely. Setups that look like they belong in the southern hemisphere, waves with a bit of umph to them, framed in a manner we've not seen from out of there in, well, forever. And it is damn good viewing.
To find out more about Italy, we tapped up Andrea to talk about the culture, the waves, the fickle nature of the Med and how despite doing this for the past 10-years, he's just broken into the mainstream.
Hey Andrea. Tell us a bit about yourself, where did you grow up and how did you get into surf photography?
I grew up in Varazze, Liguria, in northern Italy where I've been shooting surf images for the past 10 years. Here, you can't help but be a lover of surfing, it feels like it's one of the European destinations for it, and it's home, you know? It's been in my veins since I was a child.
For sure, but to the wider community, Italy’s not associated with amazing waves, but your pics show a different side to that. What makes it so special?
I am of the idea, whoever seeks finds. We all know that Italy is a fantastic place and I am very proud of this and very patriotic, I love my country and my nation. So in my photos I try to find that extra thing, which makes the place we live so special.
There's nothing like good waves at home; guessing a lot tucked up in that part of the country are from medicanes?
Yeah, let me tell you a short story... here in Varazze we have these beautiful waves, 50 per cent are given by nature and storm surges but for the other 50 per cent are man made. Because in the 70s, after the Fascist era, more than 1,000 cars were damaged by the large flood of Genoa.
Back then, vehicles were taken by boat and dumped on the seabed. It's extraordinary but also, made a sort of artificial reef here and we get good waves
Back then, vehicles were taken by boat and dumped on the seabed. It's extraordinary but also, made a sort of artificial reef here and we get good waves. Horrible that's how they dealt with it. [Ed's note; evidence here!]
Wait, what? that's a wild story. So that's how the surfing community started there? What's the community like?
The surfing community here in Italy is large. Many young people and children but also many old locals, called local heroes by me, real people with good souls. One thing stands out in the Ligurian spots but especially in Varazze, there's a load of respect for the sea but also for each other. The waves we have here are not easy and unfortunately they are not for everyone, the most important thing is to stay safe.
How would you describe the wave types – barrels? Beachbreaks?
We have all kinds of waves, from west to east, easy and difficult, big and small, for short boards or long boards. Mainly a reefbreak -- thanks to those cars.
Whenever we share one of your photos, there are many comments who do not believe it’s Italy, what would you say to those who don’t believe it?
First of all, every time you share a photo of me you fill me with happiness and I am grateful to you.
One of my most famous photos was a wave with big palm trees in front, in fact it looks like a tropical place instead of Italy. For those who do not believe in it, I just say that they are welcome to come over to Italy and they will certainly be happy with the beautiful waves here, but also with the food, nature and art that surrounds us.
Do you think more can be done to promote Italy as a surfing destination?
Yes, I think it is possible, surfing is one of the sports with the most contact with nature ever, and here we can take advantage of it. In my city they are doing a lot for this and also the surf shop has always been a hand, since 1998 (@varazzesurfshop)
What’s a typical day like in the life of Andrea Giana?
Good question! My typical day is always full. Unfortunately, I'm not a full time photographer but it would be my dream and I'm working on it a lot. I have a very simple job, which takes me 12 to 8 hours a day and sometimes leads me to work more than 230 hours a month. Not easy when I have a 10 month old baby girl as well. But she is the most beautiful thing in the world.
My typical day last week was working at night and as soon as the work is finished, I drive home and don't go to sleep, I go to photograph the sea, it was like that for three days in a row. I love what I do and am always looking to improve and learn new things. I would like to fill every moment of my days with photographs and make a job of it, some day.
Talk us through four of your favourite shots.
This image has unforgettable colours, a strong sunset, there were few in the water because it was really big. I like to shoot the waves from afar to give meaning and a particular composition to the image, almost always.
Then this next image, I was close to the same point of the image above but you can clearly see the spot. Here in Varazze, we also surf at night if possible.
Ok, these last two were taken from the window of my house, in my pyjamas [laughs].
The photograph of the palm trees is epic. I remember that moment very well, it was on a lunch break and I was taking pictures from 6am, I was very tired I had three SD cards full of photographs, I was eating when suddenly I heard the loudest sound of the sea I looked out the window and I started to see these huge barrels arrive. So I continued to shoot.
Luck or fate to be there at that right time?