The Cold, Bitter End

This article first appeared as the cover story in the January 17, 2018 issue of The Independent Newspaper



Self-taught photographer James Katsipis braves the harshest winters in a location iconically praised during the summer months. He is an ambassador for Montauk Hard Label Whiskey and part of the East Coast Vision Team for A Walk on Water, a foundation that offers surf therapy to special needs children.

His newly released book, The Cold, Bitter End, captures Montauk’s desolate beauty. What others view as “The End” is only this man’s beginning.

Seven years ago, a picturesque series emerged using the hashtag #ColdWaterSurferSeries, showcasing winter surfers from Montauk to Ireland. In 2013 the series landed its own exhibition, which was curated by Scott Bluedorn, at Neoteric Fine Art.

Over four years later, originally published in November 2017, The Cold, Bitter End makes an icy splash as Katsipis’s debut in the publishing world. Portraying cold-water surfers and seemingly abandoned storefronts, these images are making their way from Ditch Plains into the homes, and hearts, of eager page turners.

“This project didn’t start out as a book. It was just me and my camera doing what I do,” Katsipis modestly explained. Admiring the likes of Tom Colla and Matt Clark, the whole book was shot with Canons and AquaTech Water Housings, though he’s recently switched over to Sony mirrorless.


“It’s a fine line between passion and obsession. My mind just always seems to be taking pictures even when I don’t have my camera.”


Each picture promises 100-percent originality with a few minor color enhancements. This may come as a surprise upon flipping to the scene of, what appears to be, someone skinny-dipping into the ocean. “That wasn’t even planned. I happened to be in the ‘wrong’ place at the right time,” Katsipis jocularly noted.

All the people seen throughout the book are the boys from Whalebone magazine, whom he’s known for most of his life. While he tended to reach out a day prior to catch them in action, half of the time the snaps are purely spontaneous.

Clad in a winter suit, 5mm gloves, and locking up the camera, Katsipis swims out to sea for the perfect shot. He situates himself right in the impact zone, ready. In a moment, he captures a single image of exemplary complexity. The full face of a wave, from trough to crest, at a stand-still.


A shot of pure precision, it requires a double-take before realizing it’s not the infamous sandy cliffs but rather their aquatic neighbor. Katsipis recalls, “With a keen eye you can catch brief moments of reprieve from all the beatings.”


Katsipis has remained a lifelong resident of the 11954 zip code. Together with his wife, Bella Ornaf, founder of jewelry line FIN Montauk, their dog Samson and little pig, Mako, the four happily call Montauk home — a place of ever-changing seasons.

As locals, they’re the first to admit some things outsiders simply won’t understand. The most underrated thing about Montauk? Winter, clearly. The most overrated? “Range Rovers, sorry Dylan,” Katsipis laughed. And you’re definitely not from the area if “you don’t know what the green bench is.” As for his personal favorite pathway to explore, Camp Hero.

The 146-page “photographic winter journey in Montauk” is currently sold on Amazon with plans to become available to the local East End community soon. Though there are no expectations for a parallel summer photography series, another book in the works is Mermaids of Montauk, to be released at a later time.

Visit or follow him on @Letstaukgrams and @mermaidsofmontauk for upcoming signings, in addition to some stellar photography.

Follow me on Instagram & Facebook @NikkiOnTheDaily


Check back soon for a story on his wife’s endeavor, FIN Montauk

Daily Fitness: Take a Hike

(This article first appeared in the March 22, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)

With no winter storms in sight, it’s safe to say spring is in the air. As the weather outside slowly transitions from chilly temperatures to brisk breezes, hiking is an ideal way to get outdoors and acclimate to changing conditions.

More than a simple walk in the park, hiking trails are a bit more challenging and offer physical benefits. According to Harvard Health Publications, uneven surfaces during a hiking trail, unlike treadmills or other flat surfaces, are a natural way to engage core muscles and trigger balancing skills. In addition, spending time in nature can naturally relieve stress, lowering blood pressure and risk of heart disease.

Beyond benefits for the body, nature walks can fight depression. A Stanford-led study found hiking in serene settings, not those related to an urban landscape, decreases negative emotions.

With an abundant amount of trails on the East End it’s hard to select only a few to feature. After all, each pathway provides its own unique attributes. So, here are five must visit parks for the 2017 season.

  • Sound View Dunes Park in Southold is a 57-acre location named after the magnificent views of the Long Island Sound along Sound View Avenue. There are two trail options. A beach trail best described as a leisure walk of one third of a mile, takes you through the dunes. A forest trail provides about a mile of dune and wooded landscape. Its hiking skill level is moderate.


  • Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island, also known as the ‘Jewel of the Peconic,’ is a scenic location encompassing around 2100 acres, totaling a third of Shelter Island. With wildlife all around, this hiking only trail makes for a relaxing, undisturbed exercise. Its skill level is easy.


  • Sears Bellows County Park located on Bellows Pond Road in Hampton Bays is situated on 979 acres. A location perfect for families, it offers an array of activities aside from the five-mile hike. Skill level is easy.


  • Camp Hero State Park in Montauk was a former US Air Force Base. It boasts 415 acres of landscape diversity. In addition to the forest trails and Atlantic Ocean beachfront, there are rising bluffs that provide views of Block Island on a clear day. With two trails, the 2.9 mile Point Woods Loop Trail and the 3.6 mile Montauk Point Park Trail, the skill level for both is rated easy.


  • Also in Montauk with historic charm, Theodore Roosevelt County Park is the site of the oldest cattle ranch in the United States with 1126 acres of land. With three and a half miles of nature trails and five miles of bridle paths, enjoy a stroll through time. Skill level is easy.


As we say good-bye, and good riddance, to the cold days of winter, it’s time to welcome sunnier and warmer pathways ahead. With each new step moving toward a healthier, happier life.