Can you recommend some iconic surf shooters for us to check out if we’re looking for surf photo inspiration?
For me, the number one guy will always be Larry “Flame” Moore. He’s the photo editor that I worked with. He taught me how to shoot. He taught a lot of the guys I look up to how to photograph surfing. He was one of the guys that really pushed surf photography the most. He was the photo editor of the magazine for more than 30 years. He’s the godfather for me forever.
’s work is unbelievable. Don King
is the first guy that took a fisheye and put it in a housing and swam out in big waves. Scott Aichner
is great. Tom Servais
and Brian Bielmann
are godfathers, too. Art Brewe
r is the same, too. There’s a skate photographer that I think is the most iconic and that’s Daniel Harold Sturt. Every time you see one of his photos, you know it in a second. Those are the guys I’ve always looked up to.
Where are some good places if people are looking to try surf photography?
Hawaii is amazing. The problem with Hawaii is that if you go there and the waves are good, you’re going to be standing on beach, side by side with anywhere from 30 to 200 other photographers on the beach. The North Shore of Oahu is really amazing. A lot of the best spots, you have to be dialed in. You have to have a ski or they’re best from the water.
Black’s Beach in San Diego. That’s one of those spots where you can show up with a crappy lens and get an amazing photo if you’re there on the right day. Mavericks and Ocean Beach (San Francisco) up in Northern California are the same way.
Are surfing contests a good place to try?
It’s a great place to start. If you’re just trying to wrap your head around it, you’lll have professional surfers hitting a specified spot, which makes it really easy. You don’t ahve to paddle up and down a huge area. You can go and start trying to tune into the whole thing and workout the whole system. The best part about it is that the surfer isn’t gping to call you that night and ask you how the photos came out. (laughs). You can go and screw things up and try new things without ruining your reputation.
There is a contest in Hawaii at Pipeline. There’s no way you’re going to be able to photograph amazing Pipeline with only four surfers unless it’s a contest.
Some surfers have been known to employ a “locals only” policy to prevent outsiders from coming into their surf spots. Is that something people should really be aware of or just something from the movies?
It depends on where you are, but you should very much be aware of it. Certain waves have been guarded by groups of people that want to keep them secret. The spots in Southern California where I live, it’s always crowded. There are guys all over the world who are really dedicated to protecting their spot from becoming blown up. The very nature of what we do is exposing these places and showing how amazing they are. But some spots aren’t ready. They may never be ready to be known to the public. It’s out of respect to the guys who have dedicated so much time to it. That that still exists is such a cool thing. You can get on the internet and zoom in on anywhere in the world and these people still have these perfect waves that nobody knows about is incrdible.
Have you had any bad experiences like that?
I don’t have a perfect record. I’ve probably crossed a few boundaries. It is good to be conscienscious of that, though. Even out in Hawaii. You can go to the beach in the North Shore and no one will say a word. It’s the most photographed surf spot on the planet. But you might go to a different island, and if you pull a camera out you might get punched. You could literally get beat up.
What’s the best way to avoid that kind of ugliness?
You can ask somebody, and do it in a way that shows you don’t want to show any disrespect, it might help. You ask the wrong person, though, and they might still freak out. Still, doing research about the area you’re in can help. And you need to feel it out. Relying on your intuition is a good one. Certain general areas are just trouble. Kawai doesn’t have many places where you won’t get hassled. Central and Northern California are like the most famously localized spots. Even certain spots in LA. It’s one of the most populated cities in the country and you can still get beat up if you show up at the wrong beach with a camera. But, if there’s still a secret spot in LA? Those guys have fought hard to keep that thing out of the spotlight. Certain waves aren’t meant to be photographed and that’s just a fact.