The wilds of Scotland make for a nation like no other. From the stunning, sparsely-populated highlands in the north, to the more industrious cities in the south, it's a mix of untamed Mother Nature and beautiful architecture, all encapsulated by a raw, rugged coastline. The west is peppered with exposed islands, and to the east? Slabs crash over reef, all set against a backdrop of ancient castles and unrivalled spectacle.
There's a variety of world-class set ups, too. Head to the north for Thurso, one of Europe's more user-friendly barrels and home to a pro tour contest. In the outer isles, you'll find a plethora of befitting scenarios, should you have the inclination to go on a deep search. Just try to steer clear of late spring and early summer, because this Celtic beauty can be marred by midges in the north west. These flying menaces are more than just noise. They are nuisance, personified.
But given the swell season falls over the more frigid months in the UK, you're going to avoid all that anyway. Plus the country has a free camping policy, meaning you can pitch up, wherever you like – if you can brave the cold temps. And even then, this isn't for the feint hearted. These slabs are rough, heavy and can break into shallow water. It's fickle and can rarely be worth the effort and it's why this gallery took months to curate, this isn't just a one-time venture.
But when the elements aligned (as they rarely do) it can be good, just know what you're getting into before you go; remote, heavy slabs that's best left to the experienced surfer with a safety crew. Anyway, capturing all you see throughout is Vilmos Misota, aka Arms of Ocean. Originally from Hungary, Vilmos now calls Scotland home and has made it his mission to document those swells that pump into the country. We tapped him up for a bit of insight into all that Scotland has to offer.
So, where in rugged, rural Scotland are you based?
I live on the Scottish coastline where conditions can be...challenging. The fickle weather system of the North Sea is tricky but when all the elements come together it's really an incredible place to be.
You're from Hungary originally, how’d you get into surf photography?
Yeah, I wanted to see the world and experience different cultures, so I moved away. Having visited loads of places I realised how important it is for me to live close by the sea.
I was torn between New Zealand and Scotland. Scotland is closer to Europe and easier to get to, so I ended up staying here. It is a beautiful country and I'm grateful to be here. I've been doing photography for a long time now and began shooting the coastline.
Since I love surfing and love photography I figured why not combine the two. Then I randomly met two really talented surfers, Jacob Mellish and Sebastian Jimenez. We became friends while driving around on the coast, east to west and west to north, chasing swells. They rip, and I try to capture it through the lens and create stunning images that illustrate the moment.
Do you surf as well?
Yep, I love surfing. Unfortunately, I got into it quite late but I enjoy every moment that I can spend in the water with my board. It is super challenging and it can add some positive value to life. Switch off and appreciate nature.
What is it about Scotland that makes it so special?
You are never too far from the outdoors. It is important to see that our life is surrounded by some level of delusions and one of the places where you can experience real things is in nature. The sea, the ocean, the mountains, the rivers, the lochs and the trees... they're all out there and accessible to anyone.
What kind of waves are there in the UK's far north?
The north coast is what the Scottish surf scenery is known for. I definitely want to spend more time there next winter... if my wife lets me.
It's got such a rugged coastline, stuffed with sick waves from dry slabs to fun beachbreaks, it's an incredible part of the land.
What kind of conditions do you look for?
When it comes to photography, I set my goals high. I like shooting during the golden light with a nice swell, offshore wind, get a surfer in there pulling airs and turns with an interesting backdrop, that's the shot.
However, some of these factors are out of my control so I have to take what I am given. It often gets cloudy here and no colours at all, so I have to go with black and white. There are locations where I don't want to include any landmarks so I end up creating a minimalist image. Or I'm just alone on the coast, trying to capture one interesting moment. I'm experimenting with different styles and I've got a lot to learn but so far I enjoy this journey and I'm stoked to see where it takes me.
These images are from over the winter, right? How was the winter in Scotland?
Yes, they are. Not having a 9-5 job gave me the opportunity to be out there when the swell arrives. I think this winter was great. Loads of epic sessions all around the coast. The surf isn't as consistent here, but the lack of perfect conditions gives a unique beauty to the place.
When everything lines up, you welcome it more. So, I don't really think there'll be a boost in surf tourism here that could ruin the vibe. Patience, flexibility and the ability to find beauty in imperfection are key to surfing around here.