Q&A with Jimmy Chin: On Work, Family and Rejuvenation
One of the benefits of working at HANAH is coming into contact with some amazing people. People like Jimmy Chin.
Jimmy is a world-class athlete and photographer whose work regularly appears in National Geographic, The North Face campaigns, Outside Magazine and more. His recent feature length documentary, Meru, raised the bar on climbing movies -- and what the human species is capable of. We've been honored to count Jimmy Chin as both a friend and a part of the HANAH team.
We recently reached out to Jimmy to learn a little more about his work, his play, and where he finds the energy to handle everything he takes on.
Give us a status report. Where in the world have you been recently?
It's been a fairly interesting year so far, for sure. I have bounced between Los Angeles, New York City and Jackson Hole a lot over the last few months. I was in LA working with the Red Bull crew wrapping up Travis Rice’s upcoming snowboard film, The Fourth Phase. There was a trip to China to shoot rock climbers Alex Honnold and Felipe Camargo attempting one of the longest and steepest overhanging roof climbs in the world, as well as some climbing in Yosemite with Alex and Jared Leto.
In between China and Yosemite, I made a stop in NYC to shoot the New York Times Magazine annual New York issue cover from the top of One World Trade Center. I squeezed in a shoot and some surf time in Sayulita, Mexico, as well. There were a few random trips home to Jackson to repack and to get a few days of climbing, running and mountain biking in, too.
You bring incredible energy to everything you do, whether that’s a photoshoot or personal play time. What’s your secret?
When I’m inspired by something or passionate about something, it’s not that hard to put a lot of energy into it. I generally go after things that are interesting to me or mean something to me. I also know that when you put yourself out there and really go after something, you're bound to see returns. That goes for work, play, relationships — you name it. But I wouldn't call that a secret. I also love what I do, and I’m thankful every day.
The importance of recovery and rejuvenation has been in the news a lot recently. What does that look like for Jimmy Chin?
That can depend on where I am and what kind of window we're talking about. Home is definitely where I find time to recover from travel and work. If I'm home I'll find time to play in the mountains, so hiking, climbing, running or skiing. I love spending time in the ocean. I have a place down in Mexico where I go to chill and surf. It’s especially nice after long, cold winters.
What elements do you find most important in recovery? What role does diet, exercise, reading, etc., play for you?
If you're good about maintaining your fitness on the road and balancing work, travel and play, there's not as great a need for long recovery periods. Getting out and connecting with friends for a quick run, or half-day of surfing or climbing is key to my survival. I’ll go do hot laps at a climbing gym, go for a run or do yoga in my hotel room. Whatever it takes to get my blood flowing once a day and to maintain sanity.
Diet is definitely key as well. It’s tough on the road, but I bring some key supplements on the road like HANAH ONE, maca, cordyceps powder and a few other things to throw into smoothies in the morning. I generally pick up some berries, yogurt, bananas and almond milk wherever I am and make a fat smoothie in the morning. That keeps me going for a good part of the day and feeling good. If I can manage it, I’ll make a midday HANAH ONE coffee mix, with coconut butter, almond milk, maca, cordyceps and cacao.
Fitting in quality sleep where you can is vital too. Easier said than done, but I try to make sure I’m getting quality sleep.
You split time between Jackson and NYC. Each must recharge your energy and creativity very differently. What do you get from each of those places?
The two places have very different energy.
In Jackson, it's about the getting into the mountains and tapping into the high-energy Jackson community. There are tons of motivated people who charge out there. Having the Tetons for ski mountaineering, the resort for hot laps and the pass for epic pow runs makes it a pretty awesome place to live in the winter. Summers are incredible too for trail running, climbing and mountain biking. I call it the “staycation” when I’m home.
And NYC is NYC. It's hard not to get a buzz just from all the bodies in motion, the creativity, talent and culture there. You can go to the Met one day, and the next day go see Hamilton, an art show, an underground boxing match or whatever you can think of. It’s also just really diverse. It’s a mixing pot. I like the anonymity of the city too. So many people at the top of their game doing so many amazing things. Of course, there is the food too…
Tell us about your morning routine. What does the perfect start to your day look like?
If it’s a work morning at home, I’ll get up, meditate for 15-20 minutes, make a smoothie, read the NY Times online and start firing emails and making calls. In the summer, mornings can start with a run up the tram at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort or in the winter it might be a lap or two on Teton Pass. If it’s been snowing, I’ll get in a few tram laps in the morning before starting my work day.
We hear that you’ve spent some time surfing in Sayulita with the team from HANAH recently. What is it about surfing that draws you in?
It’s hard to put a finger on one thing. I get a lot of the same things from surfing that I get from skiing and climbing. It’s an endless pursuit of learning and perfecting. I love the focus, learning about the ocean and chasing storms or swell, the feel of a bottom turn gives the same buzz as arcing big pow turns. I like the energy and speed, the physicality of it, the timing and, of course, hanging with your friends having fun outside in the elements. It’s also humbling, which is always good to keep yourself in check.
You've got two weeks off with nowhere to be and no one to answer to. Where do you go and what are you doing there?
Skiing, climbing or surfing!
In an ideal world, how many times a year would you get some "me" time?
Well with a family "me" becomes "we," and you're always thinking about them and looking forward to time together. In general, I try to have some “me” time every day. I also love what I do and I try to appreciate every day for what it is.
These photoshoots you do in mountain environments like the Tetons or the Himalayas are physically grueling efforts. How do you prepare yourself for something like that?
The benefit of doing so many shoots in mountain environments is that you're always in mountain environments. There's not much time where you can get out of shape. If I have a big expedition coming up, I’ll train a bit more seriously. Living in Jackson is great for that. Doing laps on the Grand Teton gets you in shape pretty quick.
Finish the sentence: "My next assignment is ____".
Shooting with Alex Honnold in the high Sierra for The North Face.
Meru was by all accounts a huge success and raised the bar on climbing and adventure documentaries. Do you have a next big project lined up?
I’m working on a National Geographic story as well as another feature documentary. They are all under wraps for now, but stay tuned….
Interview by: Ben Hardy/INKWELL
- HANAH Life