The Skeleton Coast of Namibia, the cliff-bound shores of Morocco, tiny Japanese islands, Russian backcountry…Anna Ehrgott‘s seen it all, surfed it with the enthusiasm of a grom, and snapped a few dreamy film shots along the way. At 26, she’s wasted little time. After dropping out of an environmental studies degree—she found school too confining—Ehrgott settled into a career as a free surfer and founder of a surf accessory brand, Sagebrush Board Bags.
She’s on the road nine months out of the year, but Topanga Canyon, a “rootsy” community north of Los Angeles, as she describes it, is home. Ehrgott grew up there, and despite bouncing around Southern California a bit and spending plenty of time on the road, the hills, the sea, and easy access to a major airport brought her back home. During her short stays at home, she’s busy with Sagebrush: sourcing recycled materials to make the bags, and promoting, distributing, and selling them. That is, when she’s not in the water or hiking through the hills.
Ehrgott’s Instagram reads like a travel diary. Her photos from around the world, shot on everything from old Bell & Howell Canonets to waterproof disposables, feel like something you might find in a family album—grainy, unassuming shots of wild places and beloved people. We caught up with the young surfer and entrepreneur to learn more about the role photography plays in her travel and day-to-day life, and get the story behind some of her favorite photos.
How long have you been shooting photos? How and why did you start?
My dad was big on adventure travel and his photos from the less-beaten paths are what originally inspired me to pick up a camera. He could start a conversation with anyone and the trust he created with people showed in his photos of them. I took a couple film photography classes in high school and college and loved the entire process. I haven’t found the same joy or aesthetic shooting digital, so I’ve continued burning through rolls of film and wads of cash as a hobby that complements my lifestyle of spending a good amount of time in beautiful places with people I love.
What do you shoot on now? Why film?
I recently got rid of all my Minolta gear and am switching to Nikon. I’m a big fan of trial and error, and after breaking a couple Minoltas I figured I need something a little more sturdy. Nikon made these sweet little bodies called the F-series, so I picked up an FG and have been loving it so far. I switch off between an SLR, a small rangefinder, and disposables, all which I keep in my arsenal for different uses. I like the lightweight point and shoots for hikes or places where I’d feel uncomfortable visibly toting a bulky camera around. Disposables are great because if you lose them it’s only $12 down the drain instead of a couple hundred (or thousand if you’re shooting digital) The focus range is about three to eight feet on the waterproof ones I use to shoot surf, and I can usually get a photo or two off each roll that I’m really happy with.
What about your relationship with the outdoors—have you always been a surfer?
I’ve always been a nature freak. As a kid I was on this kick where I thought I could be the first person to discover edible plants so I’d run around the hills taste-testing things like oak tree bark and white sage. I found a couple things like chamomile flower (apparently I wasn’t the first to try it, though). Turns out not much really tastes all that good around here. Apparently the Chumash Native Americans used to live off around 850 calories a day, and that was during a time when we still had trout swimming in the rivers.
My childhood was spent camping and backpacking with my family. I always had to be outdoors, whether it was trail running or horse riding, but surfing came in from the periphery and swept my other hobbies to the side. I’d get a ride down to the beach with anyone I could, and would surf no matter how windy, cold or small. I think that’s a common thread between all groms.
I surf pretty close to every day, conditions permitting. I’m partial to longboarding, seeing as I’m surrounded by swell-starved, perfect point breaks, but when I travel or the rare bigger swell wraps in, I’m always happy for a change of pace and the opportunity to mess around on shorter boards.
I snapped this photo of Leila Thomas at Malibu just as the water temps started to warm up this summer. Shot on a waterproof disposable. It really embodies what I love so much about the relaxed atmosphere during smaller days here.
I had gone to Morocco with a couple friends from home, then ended up extending my trip and staying in the town of Imsouane for a month. It’s a tiny fishing village surrounded on all sides by undeveloped land and pristine waters. I saw this stone abode a couple miles up a dirt road where fisherman often come to harvest sardines and sleep for a few days before returning home with their catch. Although Morocco is part of the African continent, it is devoid of the big five (elephants, lions, giraffe, rhino, and water buffalo). As much as I love seeing wildlife, it was a bit of a relief not to have to worry about coming face to face with a rhino on my morning run.
This was the last day of a road trip circling California from San Diego, up the interior of the state, spending time in the Sierras then down the coast from Northern California back to Topanga. We really lucked out with waves in Santa Cruz. Here Russell Holliday gets a fun one. Shot on a Bell & Howell Canonet
This VW bus was SO noisy and SO slow, I developed a newfound respect for all the owners of these beautiful beasts. Shot on a Bell & Howell Canonet
One of my favorite spots on the Central Coast that seems to blow offshore more than anywhere else in the area. I shot this after a long solo session. My feet were frozen and felt like nubs as I walked onto the pier to watch waves break from above. I was kind of freaking out watching these rainbows appear after every wave like clockwork. Shot on a Minolta x370
Pro surfer Victoria Vergara and I went to Japan for a shoot and some events, but being the groms we are, we spent every free second in the water. Shot on a waterproof disposable camera.
This was 10 or 11 hours south of the border in Baja. This area is known for its endemic boojum trees that look straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. We spent a good chunk of time around there, then ended up spending longer than we had planned due to rainstorms washing out the roads, which resulted in us getting days of perfect waves with no one else able to make it down to join us. Shot on a Minolta x370
For the last three years, I’ve spent each January on the Big Island of Hawaii with my friend Sarah Lee (@hisarahlee, who shot the photo) who grew up there. We surf our brains out, eat fresh food, and spend ungodly amounts of time in the water. It always starts my year off on a good foot. I feel focused, healthy, and happy. My time spent out there is a highlight of the year.