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Small Bus, Big Dreams

The manual transmission grated in protest as I struggled to find second gear during my first attempt at learning to drive a stick shift. I was a sophomore in high school and my father patiently supervised my maiden voyage from the passenger seat of the green 1972 VW Bus I had purchased—my dream car at the time. Little did I know as I lurched though an empty parking lot at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds in Sonoma County, California, that The Bus one day would become a cultural icon, immortalized in the pages of Surfer Magazine.

Fast forward to the end of my college years, by which time I had finally figured out how to get The Bus out of first gear (among other things) and landed an internship at Surfer—a position I managed to parlay into a full-time career as a photojournalist at the fabled magazine. After about five years of working my way up the ranks at Surfer, I started a man-on-the-street column called Curious Gabe, where every month I posed a different surf-related question to a new set of surfers, both at local beaches in California and at surf spots as far away as Tel Aviv and Uluwatu.

Each column featured a photo of me and The Bus at the location I was doing the interviews that month. Looking back, one of the most delightful aspects of the whole experience was seeing people light up when I’d ask to interview and photograph them for the magazine. But after doing the column for 18 years straight I decided to take a break, and for the last five years I’ve been on a hiatus. During this time, I’ve enjoyed working on numerous projects in collaboration with Men’s File Magazine (a UK based men’s heritage-style magazine), along with creating content in partnership with many extraordinary brands and artists.

However, recently several of my regular clients all hit the pause button on engaging my services, and as uncomfortable as that feels, it’s also been an incredible motivator and opportunity for me to take stock of my experience, skills, and passion and make the best of what I have. 

I still have The Bus. 

I still have my craft and my cameras. 

I still have my connections with thousands of people I've interviewed, photographed and collaborated on projects with over the years.

So instead of rushing back out to book myself solid again, helping other people make their dreams a reality, I decided to invest some of that time and energy into building—or, shall I say, rebuilding—my dream.

The Bus (or Busie, as my nine-year-old-son and I now affectionately refer to our venerable vehicle) has served us well. It still puts a smile on my face each time I get behind the wheel and head out for a new adventure, whether in search of waves along the Southern California coast, a road-less-traveled-by through the Sonoran desert, or a pristine campsite somewhere in the High Sierra.

My hope is to imbue this initial collection of limited edition fine art prints, premium tees, and home + travel goods with the spirit of freedom and joy, adventure and whimsy that The Bus represents.

Gabe Sullivan

Laguna Beach, California